Public Comments Sought in Proposed New BLM Rules to Apply in Oklahoma

Revisions are being proposed by the Interior Department to land-use planning procedures and environmental reviews like those used in a controversial Osage County legal case handled this week by the Denver federal appeals court.

The Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment on revisions of the environmental steps required by the National Environmental Policy Act. It was NEPA that was the focus of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reported by OK Energy Today.

In the case, the court upheld the BIA’s decision to use new NEPA analyses of the environmental impact of oil and gas leases and drilling permits in Osage County.

Now the Trump administration’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed the BLM to identify and implement revisions of the NEPA standards. And this week’s request gave the public 21 days through July 24 to make comments about the proposed changes.

The request is also the first step to replace what is known as the Planning 2.0 rule which was repealed by Congress in March and marked the first time in three decades that the BLM’s land-use planning process was being revised.

Zinke wants the BLM to submit a report to him by the end of September. He has said he wants to avoid delays caused by appeals and litigation and development of what he calls the “right size” environmental review documents. Zinke said he does not want the agency to default to preparing an Environmental Impact Statement when such a document is not needed.

An Environmental Impact Statement was part of the litigation in the federal lawsuit filed over the Osage County drilling operations. The acting head of the BLM, Mike Nedd says his agency is working with the Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties to develop new land-use planning steps.