Interior moves to standardize oil and gas permits on federal lands

The Interior Department released a strategy document Thursday that it said will create certainty and predictability for oil, natural gas and other energy developers using federal land while taking a “landscape-scale” approach to mitigating impacts.

The strategy emphasizes siting and design features in development to mitigate the impacts to federal lands, while seeking to protect or restore resources that must be harmed. It comes as energy development is increasing rapidly on federal property, and the Obama administration is under constant pressure to allow more.

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“This strategy outlines the key principles and actions we need to take to successfully shift from a reactive, project-by-project approach to more predictable and effective management of the lands and resources that we manage on behalf of the American public,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Through advances in science and technology, advance planning and collaboration with stakeholders, we know that development and conservation can both benefit — and that’s the win-win this mitigation strategy sets out to achieve.”

Going forward, Interior said its policies with development will focus on four areas to determine the impacts to resources: geospatial assessments, landscape-level strategies, mitigation programs that compensate for impacts; and monitoring and evaluating projects as they proceed.

Jewell asked for Interior to write the strategy in October, her first order as secretary.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) welcomed Interior’s new strategy.

“Secretary Jewell’s announcement today is another step toward providing much-needed reforms and modernizations to a federal oil and gas program that is well behind the times,” Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at CAP, said in a statement. “Establishing a clear plan for reducing and mitigating the impacts of energy development on public lands is critical to ensuring the sustainability of the current energy boom and the long-term health of America’s lands and forests.”