Bureau of Land Management Still Accepting New Oil and Gas Drilling Permit Applications During Government Shutdown

For Immediate Release, January 7, 2019

Contact: Kelly Fuller, (928) 322-8449, kfuller@westernwatersheds.org

NEWPORT, Ore. — Despite the government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has continued to accept new drilling permit applications and requests for site inspection at proposed oil and gas wells. Since December 22, when the shutdown began, a BLM database has posted notice of new proposed oil and gas wells in Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

“BLM has locked the public out of bathrooms, visitor centers, and at least one lighthouse because of the government shutdown,” said Kelly Fuller, Energy and Mining Campaign Director at Western Watersheds Project. “Why isn’t the oil and gas industry locked out too?”

A legal time clock starts when the BLM receives an oil and gas drilling permit application. The Mineral Leasing Act and its implementing regulations require the BLM to respond to the applicant within 10 days, telling them whether their application is complete and if not, what is needed to make it complete. Within those same 10 days, the BLM must also schedule an onsite inspection. Once the application is deemed complete, the BLM has 30 days to tell the applicant whether it will approve the drilling permit, defer taking action, or deny the permit.

The industry can also ask the BLM or Forest Service for a site inspection before filing a drilling permit application. When that request is made (Notice of Staking), the federal agencies have 10 days to review it and schedule an inspection.

“The BLM needs to stop accepting and approving drilling permit applications and inspection requests right now,” added Fuller. “The BLM has no business serving the oil and gas industry when it is not serving the public.”

Companies that have submitted drilling permit applications and site inspection requests during the shutdown include Conoco Philips Alaska, EOG Resources, Novo Oil and Gas, Slawson Exploration Company, and Stephens Production Company.

One example of BLM facilities that have been shuttered is the popular Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon. Its historic lighthouse, visitor center, bathrooms, and parking lots are all closed to the public due to the shutdown. BLM shutdown signs direct the public to park at an adjacent State of Oregon wayside, which on January 6 had all its toilets clogged with paper and human waste. Cars parked just outside the BLM property displayed license plates from many states including Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.

Upon request, WWP can provide BLM reports showing new drilling permit applications and requests for site inspection that BLM has received during the shutdown, as well as additional photos of Yaquina Head and the adjacent state wayside bathrooms.

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