BLM permit streamlining legislation passes Senate, heads to House

On September 16, 2014, the United States Senate passed by unanimous consent Senate Bill 2440 to permanently extend the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) permit streamlining program established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is set to expire next year.

The 2005 pilot program directed BLM to open new offices in Western states and to use a portion of lease revenues in an effort to reduce the permitting backlog and speed up oil and gas development on federal lands. The director of the BLM says the program has led to faster permitting and better interagency consultation, but that the pending expiration of the program has created uncertainty in BLM’s hiring program and threatened to eliminate 200 current positions.

Senate Bill 2440, sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall (D – NM) and John Barrasso (R – WY), would make the program permanent and give BLM greater flexibility in opening new offices to meet shifting industry demand. The bill would also raise the fee for each drilling application from $6,500 to $9,500 and index the fee to inflation. BLM would not otherwise be able to raise the fee until 2026.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives where supporters, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the American Petroleum Institute, the Western Energy Alliance, and the Western Governors’ Association, hope to see it passed prior to the end of the 113th Congress.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) and Michael Gaetani ( or 724 416 0400) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.