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Policy: Environment & Energy

Government is why drilling permit approvals are slower than molasses, IG says

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Watchdog,Interior,Kelly Cohen,Inspectors General,Accountability,Energy and Environment,BLM,Oil

In other shocking news: The federal government is impeding productivity.

The Bureau of Land Management is taking its time to approve oil and gas drilling permits on federal and Indian lands, according to new report from the Department of the Interior's inspector general.

Though federal law says the government must approve or disapprove these types of permits within 30 days, BLM takes an average of 228 days or longer to do so, according to the IG.

Not prioritizing faster processing of permits — known as applications for permits to drill, or APDs — is to blame, according to the IG.

The report also found that while the drilling applicants can be at fault for not presenting all the information required for a permit, BLM failed to manage its staff overseeing the process correctly as well.

“Target dates for completion of individual APDs are rarely set and enforced, and consequently, the review may continue indefinitely," the report said. “The process is essentially open-ended.”

By delaying the permits and thus the drilling, the government, as well as Indian mineral rights owners, may lose future money and royalties.

"Delays also negatively affect developing the nation's domestic energy resources," the report said.

While BLM told the IG it has a backlog of nearly 3,500 permit requests, it also said it has no immediate plans to process them.

Though it approves 99 percent of requests received, only six percent are approved within the 30-day requirement.

The IG recommended the Interior Department appoint a field-office level project manager to oversee and streamline the permit approval process, as well as move toward more efficient and electronic processing methods.

Since 2011, royalties from the wells resulting from the permits have averaged $3 billion annually to the U.S. Treasury.

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