By Matthew Simone
On January 6, 2010, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced plans to reform the nation’s policy on oil and gas development in an effort to shift from the Bush Administration’s “anywhere, anyhow” policy. The goals of this reform are to improve environmental protection and to reduce costly litigation and protests. Under the reformed policy, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will provide more detailed environmental review prior to leasing oil and natural gas resources. Secondly, the BLM will make forums available for public involvement in the development of Master Leasing and Development Plans prior to leasing areas where intensive new oil and gas development is anticipated. The new policy will also include a comprehensive parcel review process taking a site-specific approach to individual lease sales, which will include public participation, interdisciplinary review of available information, and visits to parcels when necessary to supplement or validate existing data. Lastly, Secretary Salazar’s reforms will provide guidance regarding the use of categorical exclusions (CXs) established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which allows the BLM to streamline the environmental review process for certain oil and gas exploration and development activities. The new policy will require more extensive environmental review on CXs when the BLM is presented with “extraordinary circumstances.” Secretary Salazar also created the Energy Reform Team which is charged with implementing the new policies and helping other agencies to coordinate and manage public energy resources in the future.
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