BLM cuts process time; makes e-filing the rule

Composite stock images, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The Bureau of Land Management has taken a significant step in its multi-year effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of the permitting process for oil and gas drilling by moving away from paper applications.

With the final revision to Onshore Order 1, the agency is making online filing the default method of filing Applications for Permit to Drill and Notices of Staking.

Today’s rule concludes another key element of our oil and gas modernization program by moving BLM away from the hard copy application process,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “This Administration has updated a number of business processes in the oil and gas program that will result in a better and more efficient experience for both industry and the BLM.”

Since the BLM began developing the new online permitting system, almost 500 operators representing 70 different companies have provided valuable feedback and taken part in training. To date, about 200 permits have been reviewed and approved in the system and another 1,300 are currently being processed, the BLM said in a statement.

The shift toward e-filing is part of an ongoing effort by the BLM to increase efficiency and transparency of the drilling permit review and approval process. This regulatory effort complements the BLM’s recent upgrades to its permit processing system.

That new system automates aspects of the process, allows operators to receive real-time feedback on their permits, makes the process more transparent, and enhances the BLM’s ability to manage workflows.

This new system, which was rolled out earlier this year, is expected to reduce Applications for Permit to Drill processing times by as much as 50 percent.

The current average processing time for permits is 220 days; the BLM estimates that with the new rule, 90 percent of permits will be processed within 115 days. In addition, the new system increases transparency by allowing operators to see where their application is in the approval process.

By making e-filing the default means of submittal, as opposed to hard copies, the new rule maximizes the opportunities presented by the new permit processing system. Recognizing that e-filing may not always be possible, the rule allows operators to request a waiver from the e-filing requirement in certain circumstances.

This new e-filing system is part of the BLM’s upgraded Automated Fluid Mineral’s Support System. Ultimately that system will track and organize information regarding oil and gas operations on federal lands. When completely built out, the Automated Fluid Mineral’s Support System will contain all of the relevant documents about a well, from the time the Applications for Permit to Drill is submitted to when the well is shut-in.

The prepublication version of the rule is available here.

About the BLM

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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