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BLM finalizes new rules governing oil and gas drilling on public lands

BLM staff checking on oil and gas development site on Bureau of Land Management lands in Colorado.
Bob Wick
Courtesy of BLM
BLM staff checking on oil and gas development site on Bureau of Land Management lands in Colorado.

On April 12, the BLM announced new rules around oil and gas drilling on public lands.

One part of the new rules is the minimum bond for drilling, which has now increased from $10,000 to $150,000.

Suzanne O’Neill, the Executive Director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, says environmental groups have been calling for this change for years to cover the cost of cleanup of abandoned wells and pipelines.

“We have quite a few orphan wells, which means wells that are abandoned and the owners can't even be found or out of business, which means taxpayers and the government have to pick up pretty hefty bills for cleanup and remediation,” explained O’Neill.

The new rules also mean the BLM will focus on oil and gas leasing in areas that have the highest potential for development, and the least conflict with other uses.

“Because, in the past, some areas have been in the quarterly lease sales that have little to no oil and gas development potential," said O'Neill.

"But they are squarely located within high-priority habitats. In those cases, we have always urged BLM not to lease those parcel. We're talking about severe elk and deer winter range, bighorn sheep winter range, migration corridors, birthing areas, you know, important habitats like that."

O’Neill says overall, the new rules rebalance the work of the Bureau of Land Management so public lands will benefit all users, not just oil and gas companies.

“In the past administration, the focus was on energy predominance. We're back at a balance now because there are many other competing uses for our public lands: wildlife, critical wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation, attention to cultural resources, attention to grazing. So, managing these lands for the number of public uses is important for everybody,” O’Neill said.

The new rules also include royalty-rate increases for oil and gas companies. The BLM says this is the first increase in more than 100 years.

Copyright 2024 Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

That story was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Maeve Conran has been working in public and community radio in Colorado for more than 15 years. She served as the news director at KGNU in Boulder/Denver until 2020 and has since been working as the Program Director at Free Speech TV based in Denver, as well as host/producer of the Radio Bookclub podcast and radio show which is a collaboration with the Boulder Bookstore.