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Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on the development of energy from Federal lands, and on the
This July, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the BLM, which was established in 1946 when
The BLM manages approximately 245 million surface acres, located primarily in 12 western states, as well as 30 percent of the nation's onshore mineral resources across 700 million subsurface acres, overlain by properties managed by other Federal agencies such as the
Under the BLM's multiple use mandate, the BLM manages public lands for a broad range of uses, such as renewable and conventional energy development, livestock grazing, timber production, hunting and fishing, recreation, and conservation - including protecting cultural and historic resources. Lands managed by the BLM also provide vital habitat for more than 3,000 species of wildlife and support fisheries of exceptional regional and national value. Of particular note, last year, BLM-managed lands supported more than 73 million recreational visits.
BLM-managed public lands provide energy from diverse sources - including renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal; as well as from nonrenewable sources such as coal, oil, and gas. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the BLM permitted 2,148 megawatts (MWs) of new electricity generation capacity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources on public lands and is on-track to permit another 3,000 MWs in FY 2021. Production from Federal lands also included 252 million metric tons of coal, as well as about 416.1 million barrels of oil, and 3,686 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Overall, the Department estimates that commercial activities on public lands generated more than
It is important to reiterate that we manage these lands and their uses for all Americans. As Secretary Haaland has stated, fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. However, this is just one of the multiple uses for which the BLM manages public lands. Too often, the extraction of resources has been rushed at the expense of people, wildlife, and other uses. During the past four years, the
Executive Order 14008
Section 207 of EO 14008 sets ambitious renewable energy goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution. The EO further directs the Secretary to review siting and permitting processes on public lands and in offshore waters to identify ways we can increase renewable energy production. Section 208, meanwhile, directs the Secretary to pause new oil and gas leasing on public lands and in offshore waters pending the completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices. To ensure the oil and gas program continues to serve the public interest, the Department will evaluate royalty rates and fiscal terms in the context of our obligations to taxpayers, as well as the climate impacts of the program.
The BLM has identified more than 19 million acres of public lands with excellent solar energy potential in six southwestern states:
In addition to EO 14008, the Energy Act of 2020 (P.L. 116-260) directed the BLM to create Renewable Energy Coordination Offices (RECOs), and set national goals for wind, solar, and geothermal energy production on Federal lands. The EO and Congressional direction provides the BLM a clear mandate to support and prioritize expanding renewable energy development on public lands. As of
In our initial efforts to achieve the President's renewable energy goals, the BLM has assessed staffing levels related to our renewable energy program and developed a proposal for the establishment of the RECOs as directed by
Under the authority of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA), the BLM also is responsible for leasing the Federal coal mineral estate on approximately 570 million acres. In FY 2020, coal generated 19.3 percent of the nation's electricity, and over 32 percent of the nation's coal was produced from Federal lands. At the end of FY 2020, there were a total of 286 Federal coal leases with 436,719 acres under lease. In FY 2020, approximately 252 million metric tons of produced Federal coal generated
BLM coal lease sales traditionally occur based on industry interest, and in FY 2020 the BLM did not hold any coal lease sales. To date in FY 2021, the BLM has held 2 coal lease sales - in
Each year, the BLM processes thousands of applications for rights-of-way (ROW) grants on public lands - authorizations to use public lands in support of infrastructure projects across the country. These include renewable energy projects, electric transmission lines, communication sites, broadband deployment, highways, trails, railroads, canals, pipelines, and other facilities or systems which are in the public interest. Over half (59,000) of the total 118,000 ROW grants the BLM manages are for energy-related infrastructure and facilities. The BLM prioritizes ROW actions to support renewable energy and electric transmission, promote broadband access, encourage economic development, and promote public health and safety.
As the largest Federal land manager in the west, the BLM plays a key role in planning critical energy corridors and siting transmission facilities. In accordance with the requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the BLM designated approximately 5,000 miles of energy corridors on public lands in 11 western states. These corridors, also known as "West-wide" or "Section 368" energy corridors, are intended for expedited permitting of electric transmission and distribution lines and for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines. The BLM continues to work closely with utility companies to develop collaborative ways to use these corridors and other ROWs to best serve communities, enhance energy reliability, strengthen the security of the electric grid, and reduce wildfire risk.
Oil & Gas
The BLM's land use planning process, through the creation of Resource Management Plans (RMPs), provides a standardized procedure for continued analysis of the appropriate opportunities for multiple use of our public lands, while also ensuring that such development is done in a way that minimizes environmental impacts and considers the public interest. For purposes of oil and gas leasing, lands within a planning area are identified as fitting into one of three categories - lands open under standard lease terms, lands open with restrictions, and lands closed to leasing.
While the RMPs identify appropriate uses of public lands, generally it is industry who will nominate lands for leasing in the form of expressions of interest (EOIs). Upon receipt of an EOI, the BLM determines where lands are eligible for leasing under the governing RMP. The BLM holds competitive lease sales on nominated and eligible lands in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. After a lease sale is held, protests are resolved, and the lease is issued, an operator may then submit an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) for a specific area within its lease and begin working with the BLM on final surface use and downhole drilling plans. Operators assess their drilling targets based on ongoing analysis of resource potential and business model decisions.
The BLM also works together with the
Federal Oil & Gas Statistics
The BLM manages 37,496 Federal oil and gas leases covering 26.6 million acres with nearly 96,100 wells. Federal onshore oil and gas production accounts for approximately seven percent of domestically produced oil and eight percent of domestically produced natural gas. In FY 2020, Federal onshore oil and gas development provided over
DOI's Fossil Fuel Program Review
Over the years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified the Federal oil and gas programs as "high risk" to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The GAO has also issued a series of other reports with recommended improvements for various aspects of the program, including those related to bonding, rental and royalty rates, competitive leasing, permit processing, and ensuring a fair return to the
Pursuant to EO 14008, the Department is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of our oil and gas program and engaging stakeholders to evaluate whether the program best serves the public interest. On
An essential question that the BLM is considering under our review is whether the taxpayer is receiving a fair return for the use of our shared public lands. In a
For oil and gas leases, rent is owed until the lease has production of oil or gas in paying quantities. This rent is at a rate of
The MLA requires operators to provide an adequate bond to the BLM before they begin preparing land for drilling operations. The bond is meant to ensure complete and timely reclamation of the land after operations have ceased. As established in 1960 - 61 years ago - an operator must provide the BLM a bond of at least
In the preliminary assessment of the current program, through FY 2020, of the nearly 37,500 Federal leases covering 26.6 million acres, only about 23,800 leases and 12.7 million acres are in producing status. Further, operators currently have 7,895 approved Federal APDs available to drill today. The BLM notes that the GAO (GAO-20-239) found that operators applying for APDs that go unused create additional demands on the BLM's staff, interfering with our ability to fulfill other program responsibilities, such as conducting well inspections. Given the number of non-producing leases and approved but unused APDs in its possession, even with the pause of new leasing, industry is still able to continue to produce from existing operations while continuing to submit new APDs. These actions will continue to provide royalties to both the Federal treasury and states.
Due to these important considerations, the pause on new leasing is not only prudent, but necessary. We must consider our management of the lands in a manner that benefits the greatest number Americans and allows us to tackle the climate crisis. Continuing a policy that focused on reducing perceived burdens on industry at time when Americans are experiencing the burdens of a rapidly changing climate, not only prioritizes one specific user over all of the others, but is a detriment to the very people for whom we manage these lands. The review will give the Department time to consider the other important uses of these lands - outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat and landscape conservation - while meeting the goals that have been set by the President regarding renewable energy development and helping to conserve 30 percent of
While we can look back with pride on the evolution of Federal land management over the last 75 years, we simply cannot continue doing business as we have in the past. We are at a crossroads as a nation and as a Bureau. It's incumbent on us to look forward and reimagine how we manage our public lands - adapting to the changing landscapes, climate, environment, and technology. Every American has a stake in the management of our public lands and a voice in how we implement our multiple use mission for today and for future generations. Together, we need to determine how we manage these lands effectively and sustainably, while addressing climate challenges that are increasing in scope, scale, and complexity across Federal, state, and private landscapes. The work that the BLM is doing under EO 14008, including the report on the oil and gas program we plan to release early this summer, are part of this effort.