Associations list concerns with BLM’s regulatory reform proposals

Three major trade associations representing US oil and gas producers urged the Bureau of Land Management to reconsider proposals aimed at revising and improving three of its Onshore Oil and Gas Orders (OGJ Online, Nov. 23, 2015), and work more closely with the industry to develop a more workable approach.

BLM inappropriately restricted comments to issues it identified as appropriate instead of broader issues in the overall approach which is too prescriptive and does not allow enough time for compliance, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, American Petroleum Institute, and Western Energy Alliance said in comments about Proposed Onshore Order No. 4 they jointly submitted on Dec. 14.

The groups also questioned BLM’s plan in Proposed Onshore Order No. 5 as well as No. 4 to remove critical standard-setting and adjudicatory functions from the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and place them in the hands of a BLM–appointed “Production Measurement Team” or leave standard-setting to the US Department of the Interior agency’s discretion.

Both comments also indicated that BLM seems reluctant to recognize its obligation to adopt properly established industry standards, and appears ready to base future enforcement on as-yet unseen internal “guidance documents” instead of published regulations.

“In light of these issues, BLM should withdraw the proposed rule, and simultaneously repropose the entire amended suite of regulations for comment at the appropriate time,” the associations urged.

The groups also made specific comments covering BLM’s proposed changes in Onshore Orders No. 4 and No. 5. IPAA and WEA also submitted additional comments regarding proposed changes to Onshore Order No. 3 in additional to initial comments they filed in October.

“As they currently stand, the federal government’s proposed changes to its Onshore Orders are counterproductive and do not account for innovative new technologies,” said Daniel T. Naatz, IPAA vice-president, federal resources and political affairs. Upstream independents already have strong incentives to innovate and find new ways to capture and deliver more of their products to meet consumer demands, regardless of this proposal, he said.

“A collaborative approach will bring a greater return on investment and more quickly than new and burdensome regulations,” Naatz continued. “Instead of proposing overly prescriptive rulemakings, which do not account for new technologies that could improve operations nor have demonstrated a benefit to the public, BLM should work with industry stakeholders in developing sensible, performance-based rules, and should not apply them retroactively.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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