Agencies collaborate to manage drilling on public lands

In a unusual bid to improve energy security while safeguarding air quality, three federal agencies have signed a memorandum of understanding to streamline the process of mitigating the environmental impact of oil and gas drilling on public lands.

The Environmental Protection Agency along with the Agriculture and Interior departments committed on June 24 to "a clearly defined efficient approach to compliance" with the National Environmental Policy Act to balance air quality, humans and the environment with national energy needs.

The plan for interagency cooperation, inspired by an approach taken earlier this year at the Greater Natural Buttes gas project in Utah, includes "common procedures for determining what type of air quality analyses are appropriate and when air modeling is necessary; specific provisions for analyzing and discussing impacts to air quality and for mitigating such impacts; and a dispute resolution process to facilitate timely resolution of differences among agencies."

Experience has shown that project approvals often were delayed because of differing agency protocols on such tasks as measuring air quality and granting permits.

"Working with our federal partners, we are committed to delivering an environmental review process that is both transparent and comprehensive, supporting responsible domestic energy production on federal lands while ensuring environmental protection," EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe said.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes added the agencies "want to build on lessons learned to establish clearer lines of communication and a predictable, common-sense process for ensuring prompt and thorough reviews of proposed oil and gas projects."

The memo is "a good example of what the president called for in his State of the Union address to find creative and innovative ways for government to work better together," said Kathleen Merrigan, Agriculture deputy secretary.

Bobby McEnaney, senior public lands analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted the initiative is unique. "I'm encouraged by the kind of energy and thinking the EPA and [Interior's Bureau of Land Management] put into this," he said. "Rather than resting on their regulatory laurels, they really looked at the outstanding issues, such as pollution and time to permit so that every interest is fully represented in a more expedient manner."

The American Petroleum Institute also praised the effort. "We welcome any attempt to streamline the permit process and hope this will move us in that direction," said Carlton Carroll, media relations representative.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.