The Department of the Interior (DOI) has released its Final Report on a review of agency actions that are potentially burdensome to domestic energy production, in accordance with an executive order issued from President Donald Trump in March.
Executive Order 13783 charged each department of the executive branch to review these burdensome actions, with “burden” meaning “to unnecessarily obstruct, delay, curtail, or otherwise impose significant costs on the siting, permitting, production, utilization, transmission, or delivery of energy resources.”
Agencies of DOI oversee the 19 percent of the United States’ total energy supply which is produced on federal lands and waters and generates $10 billion in revenue annually. The 43-page report details the nine DOI bureaus with energy “programs and responsibilities,” the actions of each bureau they consider to be burdensome, as well as actions DOI has undertaken, or will undertake, to undo these impediments.
Essentially, the Final Report makes clear that virtually all federal energy policies are in the process of a much-needed overhaul. The goals of President Trump’s America First Energy Plan are nothing short of U.S. energy dominance, something not inconceivable given America’s wealth of natural resources. The report aims to push DOI firmly behind Trump’s plan, while simultaneously keeping the agency’s duties regarding environmental stewardship and conservation front-and-center.
“Developing our energy resources to grow our economy and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. However, while conducting the review outlined in the Executive Order, we found that several costly and burdensome regulations from the past threaten that balance by hampering the production or transmission of our domestic energy,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, in a press release accompanying the report. “Our public lands are meant to be managed for the benefit of the people. That means a multiple-use approach where appropriate and making sure that multiple-use includes energy development under reasonable regulations. Following President Trump’s leadership, Interior is fostering domestic energy production by streamlining permitting and revising and repealing Obama-era job killing regulations – all while doing so in an environmentally responsible way.”
Some of this “streamlining, permitting, and revising” includes:
- Secretarial Order 3348, which repealed the moratorium on new coal leases on federal land instituted by the Obama Administration.
- Secretarial Order 3349, which led to the repeal of an existing Bureau of Land Management rule on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal and Indian land, finding its compliance costs “unjustified.” This order also led to the suspension of BLM’s “Venting and Flaring Rule,” and the revoking of DOI’s “Compensatory Mitigation” policy, which had “reduced predictability, created conflicts, and unnecessarily increased permitting/authorization timelines.”
- Secretarial Order 3350, which directed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop a new 5-Year Program for offshore oil and gas exploration. This program will replace the previous 5-Year Program put in place by the Obama Administration, which put 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off-limits to exploration leasing.
- Secretarial Order 3351, which established the position of “Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy,” to “ensure deliberate and active coordination of energy policy in the Department.” Vincent DeVito, former assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the Department of Energy under the George W. Bush Administration, was appointed to this position.
- Secretarial Order 3352, which will expedite energy production in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A), the largest block of federally-managed land in the United States. The United States Geological Survey has estimated NPR-A contains roughly 895 million barrels of recoverable oil and another 52.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
- Secretarial Order 3353, which established an internal review team to review both federal and state greater sage-grouse plans under the Endangered Species Act to ensure their complementarity, making sure to consider both “local economic growth and job creation.” (The greater sage-grouse is an endangered bird with habitats in many western states.) These plans have had “far-reaching negative impacts on energy production and transmission as well as on critical infrastructure projects. ESA abuses have led to increased costs and delays on projects.”
- Secretarial Order 3354, which tackles permitting backlogs and delays with BLM, which had 2,802 Applications to for Permit to Drill (APDs) pending at the end of January 2017, along with 92 vacancies “in key positions related to the permitting process.” Statute requires BLM to process an APD review within 30 days, but the average process time for a review in Fiscal Year 2016 was 257 days. So far in FY17, BLM has reduced its process time for APD’s by an average of 46 days.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is very compelling and does show the breadth and depth of actions taken by DOI and Secretary Zinke since Trump’s inauguration to chip away at the stone placed around the neck of the fossil fuels industries by the Obama White House.