Representatives from 11 states want U.S. Interior Department to explain why number of new federal leases issued has fallen by 57% in the past 8 years
On Dec. 16, 15 U.S. congressmen delivered a letter to Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior, expressing serious concerns with the Bureau of Land Management’s repeated postponement of lease sales. In particular, the members raised concerns about the appearance of significant influence from special interest and environmental groups, which prompted the BLM to postpone oil and gas lease sales in Arkansas and Michigan until March 2016, and sales in Utah until February 2016.
“These latest postponements are troubling; particularly since the total number of new leases issued each year has fallen by 57% since 2008,” the congressmen stated in their letter to the Secretary.
“These postponements raise serious doubts about the BLM’s ability to conduct its statutory mandate. Furthermore, your recent statement to the media about the BLM’s legal obligations regarding mineral leasing as ‘something we’re sorting through’ raises questions as to whether the BLM is committed to its straight-forward obligations under federal law,” the letter stated.
The Congressmen pointed the Secretary to U.S. law: “The Mineral Leasing Act requires the BLM to hold ‘lease sales…for each state where eligible lands are available at least quarterly and more frequently if the Secretary of the Interior determines such sales are necessary’.”
The Congressmen requested a written response to their concerns from the Secretary no later than January 5, 2016.
The letter was signed by House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Vice-chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Paul Cook (R-CA), Rick Crawford (R-AR), John Fleming (R-LA), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Christ Stewart (R-UT), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT).
Click here to read the full letter from the U.S. Congressmen with all their requests and stipulations to the Secretary.
Secretary Schneider oversees four Interior Department agencies – the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, 12,000 employees and a budget of $1.5 billion. She guides the Department’s management and use of federal lands and waters and their associated mineral and non-mineral resources on about 245 million acres of federal surface lands, 700 million acres of federal mineral interests and the 1.7 billion acre Outer Continental Shelf, according to the DOI website.