Bureau Of Land Management Responds To Changes In Public Comment Process
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Arizona is responding to statements issued by environmental groups accusing the agency of skipping environmental and public review for upcoming oil and gas lease sales in the state.
BLM has received a handful of what are called “expressions of interest” for oil and gas leases in the state, according to Adam Eggers, spokesman for the agency in Arizona.
"The lands themselves are not actually being sold," he said. "What is being sold is the leases for minerals or basically a ten year lease for the ability to get what’s underneath the surface area. There will be no homes developed in there. It’s not the surface of the land that’s being made available."
Eggers contended that recent changes to the public protest process at the federal level will not affect the environmental due diligence required by BLM, should a permit to drill on leased lands be requested.
"The public protest period and the environmental analysis has shifted from the very beginning of the process toward the end, once we actually receive an application for a permit to drill," Eggers said. "And I think as a taxpayer and federal employee, us [BLM] moving to be more efficient and not wasteful with our time and taxpayer dollars is what we should be striving for."
Because there is never a guaranteed buyer of a lease, Eggers said the new process makes more financial sense. Currently, there are four mineral leases that have been purchased north of Flagstaff, but owners have not expressed an interest to drill to date.