BLM’s “Public Lands Rule” Exceeds BLM’s Authority and Could Restrict Domestic Oil and Gas Production  

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an Agency within the Interior Department, recently released a proposed rule to amend current law that could make it harder for the American people to utilize the public land that BLM oversees.   

American oil and gas producers strongly support conservation and being responsible stewards of lands within our care. However, we are concerned that the BLM Public Lands Rule, if finalized without changes, will act as a restriction to the productive uses of the public lands that Congress expressly designated for such purpose, including the development of oil and natural gas resources. Among other concerns, productive uses on public lands takes an unnecessarily narrow view on how best to achieve conservation goals on the landscape, while also hurting our ability to utilize domestic resources efficiently raising costs to everyday Americans.  

Restrictions that would reduce oil and natural gas production on BLM managed lands could have a profoundly negative impact on the economy and curtail the $4.2 billion in annual revenue from royalty payments, bonuses, interest payments on leases, and application fees that comes from this production – and directly benefits the American people.   

Deeper Dive into the BLM Public Lands Rule and Federal Lands: 

As part of the Agency’s Congressional mandate, BLM oversees 245 million acres – land that belongs to the American people – including managing uses and activities on the land that benefit the American people, including: recreation, grazing, mining, and oil and gas production.  But this new rule attempts to expand BLM’s authority and rewrite, through regulation, congressional direction and prioritization.  If finalized as proposed, the rule would frustrate the very activities that often fund nearby communities and conservation partnerships and instead be used to circumvent Congress in order to set additional lands aside from multiple uses.    

Energy production on public lands provides enormous value for the nation. According to the Congressional Research Service, production of oil and natural gas from onshore federal lands represents about 10 percent of total domestic oil production and about 10 percent of domestic natural gas production.   

Production of oil and natural gas is critical to our energy security.  While a lot of oil and natural gas is produced on state or private lands, the amount produced on federal lands is significant; we produce more just on federal lands than many countries that are known for their oil or gas production.   

In fact, if our federal lands were a “country” they would be the 17th largest oil producer in the world and the 11th largest natural gas producer.  We produce more oil on federal lands than the UK, Venezuela, Oman, and Libya.  And we produce more natural gas on federal lands than Egypt, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, and the UAE.   

This production provides us with energy security and gives America a geopolitical benefit.  

This rule represents a radical shift in the way public lands will be managed and could fundamentally alter the management guidelines that Congress directed BLM to apply. Through several laws, Congress directed BLM to manage public lands in a way to facilitate and prioritize certain productive uses and gave the Agency mechanisms to ensure that public lands can also be responsibly conserved. Congress also created additional agencies to set aside other public lands and the preservation of untouched landscapes, such as the National Park Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. This means that these untouched landscapes and national parks are already protected from energy development.   

Legally, agencies are only to act consistent with laws passed by Congress. In contrast, the BLM rule would apply an entirely different management structure than what Congress decreed and circumvents Congressional intent and statutory directives. It tries to redesign, through regulation, the national public lands management framework that Congress selected and only Congress can revise – meaning that the rule exceeds the authority that Congress granted BLM.    


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