Schneider tries to reassure industry about DOI’s regulatory plans

The US Department of the Interior is committed to developing federal oil and gas resources and wants to engage producers more aggressively to determine the best ways to do this, Asst. Sec. for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider said on Mar. 31.

“We’re working hard to improve access with reforms like master leasing plans which help reduce post-sale conflicts,” she said in remarks to the American Gas Association’s Natural Gas Roundtable. Gains made with environmental protections will provide certainty for the industry by building public confidence, she said.

“We want to understand better the work that the industry has already done,” Schneider said. “We don’t want to simply regulate, but have a dialogue with industry and other stakeholders.”

Her remarks came soon after the US Bureau of Land Management issued final regulations for hydraulic fracturing on onshore public and Indian tribal lands (OGJ Online, Mar. 20, 2013), and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management closed its public comment period on its draft proposed 2017-22 Outer Continental Shelf management program.

“We received a lot of comments,” Schneider said. “Almost all of them dealt with the Atlantic OCS. We’re working hard with [the US Department of Defense] and all Mid-Atlantic stakeholders leading up to a 2021 lease sale.

“The Arctic Offshore received the second highest number,” she said. “There’s a lot of opposition to any sort of drilling up there, but we’re committed to studying the issue and possibly moving forward.”

Schneider said BLM is working very closely with the US Environmental Protection Agency so it will not unwittingly duplicate EPA’s regulations. “Our rule at BLM will focus on waste and emissions management, which is outside what EPA and the states have been doing,” she said. “The thrust will be to reduce waste at the production level, where BLM believes it has jurisdiction.”

She said DOI also is preparing a notice of possible rulemaking on modernizing outdated royalty and bonding regulations. “When existing rules haven’t kept up with today’s world, we need to consider making changes,” Schneider said. “We’re open to talking to folks about what we can do. We’ve had a lot of questions from industry about lease suspensions, and may be willing to take a look at that.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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