BILLINGS — Montana has fewer than 100 delayed oil and gas drillings applications on federal land within the state, and the Bureau of Land Management is not the cause of delays in the state, a BLM official said.
“In Montana, there were 84 pending applications and of those, 82 of them are in a pending status. There’s no way of acting on them because they’re in the Interior Board of Land Appeals,” said Scott Haight, a field manager with the BLM in Montana.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has called on the BLM to reduce a backlog of the oil and gas permits around the nation.
Haight told The Billings Gazette that in Montana some permits were being slowed either by public objections over project conditions or myriad other reasons. Either another government agency hadn’t signed off, or an oil and gas company hadn’t supplied all the necessary information to move ahead.
Environmentalists say poor market prices for fossil fuels, combined with federal policy that allows awarded leases to go undeveloped, has gummed up the program.
“We all know what drives this is the market,” said Jayson O’Neill of the Western Values Project in Whitefish. “Market prices for oil aren’t setting any records right now.”
Energy advocates say the BLM delays are real and are hurting fossil fuel development in the West.
“The big kicker is even on a Bakken well, with the state, we can get a permit in 30 days for a horizontal well 10 days for vertical well,” Alan Olson, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association, said. “The BLM, for reasons I don’t understand, can take 18 months to two years.”