Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Managing Federal Lands: Does "Multiple Use" Include Energy?

Nearly 30 percent of Montana is owned by the federal government. Naturally, when development of energy resources is at issue, the topic of production on federal lands is a central concern. Stories abound on all sides of the issue – permitting delays that last months or even years, environmental damage that takes years to restore, economic investment delayed or lost. But what is the real story? What does it really mean to produce energy – be it oil, gas or coal – on federal lands in Montana? Who is looking out for the public interest, and is it really a regulatory nightmare to work with the federal agencies? Producers routinely complain that the federal agencies, primarily the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), operate too slowly to encourage investment and that agency processes are often unreasonably delayed by public protests and lawsuits. Producers also suggest that uncertainty related to the regulatory environment and unnecessary rules, such as the currently pending federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, create excessive obstacles. “I can’t wait these things out. I have to feed my family,” said Tom Hauptman, an independent petroleum producer in Billings, Mont. According to the Congressional Research Service, concerns about delays and regulatory hurdles are starting to have an impact. From 2007 to 2012, total U.S. oil production increased by 1.1 million barrels per day – all of which was produced on nonfederal lands. The overall share of crude oil production on federal lands has dropped by seven percent and by 23 percent for natural gas. BLM representatives counter that they have a statutory obligation to engage the public extensively, in order to resolve competing land use desires...more

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