December 12, 2014

Udall, Barrasso Energy Bill Passes Senate, Heads to President’s Desk

Bipartisan bill included in NDAA will streamline oil and gas permitting on federal lands, strengthen environmental compliance

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Barrasso (R-WY) welcomed the Senate's passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included their bill to permanently reauthorize and reform a pilot program that has helped the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) balance complex demands, including oil and gas permitting and environmental management, in New Mexico, Wyoming and other parts of the West.

The bipartisan BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014 (S. 2440), which passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 16, 2014, was subsequently included as section 3021 of the NDAA. The Act extends a pilot program from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which has helped the BLM reduce a backlog of oil and gas permit applications and streamline the permitting process in BLM offices in Farmington and Carlsbad, N.M., and Rawlins and Casper, WY, and other states.

The NDAA passed the House of Representatives on December 4, and following today's vote, is headed to the President's desk for his signature.

"The BLM permit processing bill is good for New Mexico, which relies on the revenue associated with oil and gas development to support our economy and create jobs," Udall said. "By providing the resources for environmentally responsible development, this section will provide certainty to industry and the BLM, support our nation's energy independence, and promote a ‘do it all, do it right' energy policy. Senator Barrasso, Senator Heinrich, and our bipartisan group of cosponsors have been great partners in moving these provisions forward, and I look forward to seeing the President sign this bill."

"Our local BLM offices play a vital role in making sure Wyoming remains a leading energy producing state. With today's vote, these offices will now have the resources they need to ensure oil and gas permits are processed in a timely manner," said Barrasso. "Our bipartisan bill will help increase energy production on federal lands, create good-paying jobs and help support local economies throughout Wyoming and the West. I'd like to thank Senator Tom Udall and our bipartisan group of co-sponsors for working together to get this legislation across the finish line and on its way to the President."

Authorization and funding for the pilot program is set to expire next year on September 30, 2015. The BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act permanently reauthorizes the pilot program and provides the Interior Secretary with greater flexibility to designate additional pilot offices based on shifting oil and gas production trends. In addition, the Act sets a $9,500 fee (indexed to inflation), to take effect in FY 2016, for applications for permits to drill (APDs) and mandates that at least 75 percent of revenues collected from the APD fees remain with the BLM offices in the states where the APDs were submitted. Finally, the Act prohibits the Secretary from raising the APD fee through a rulemaking.

The BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act was cosponsored by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.); Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.); John Hoeven (R-N.D.); Mike Enzi (R-WY); Mark Udall (D-CO); Dean Heller (R-NV); John Walsh (D-MT); James Inhofe (R-OK); Jon Tester (D-MT); Mike Lee (R-UT); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Independent Petroleum Association of America, American Petroleum Institute, Western Energy Alliance, Western Governors' Association, National Association of Counties, and numerous municipalities, trade associations, and oil and gas companies. In a July 29 hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Western Energy Alliance, Concho Resources, Campbell County (Wyoming) Board of Commissioners, and Bureau of Land Management all testified in strong support of the legislation.