Last Wednesday (Jan. 31), the Bureau of Land Management announced an end to Obama-era rules originally developed to give local communities more input on energy development projects.
The changes came in an official memo from the BLM. The rules were originally implemented in 2010 and were meant to bring stakeholders to the same table to better plan energy projects on land owned by the federal government, much of it in the West.
While the memo says the reasoning for the changes are to simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary "impediments and burdens" surrounding oil and gas leases, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, called the regulatory changes abrupt and said the rollbacks shuts out public comments.
"Local communities, Pueblos and tribes should have a say when development is proposed in their backyards or near sacred or culturally sensitive land. The BLM's decision to shut out public input and to dramatically weaken the review process is part of a pattern of dangerous behavior from the Trump administration, where the interests of industry are prioritized ahead of everyone else," Udall said in a Feb. 2 press release.
Similarly, Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization often in favor of stricter federal environmental regulations, blasted the BLM's decision. "This move clearly established oil and gas development as the priority use of public lands for this administration."
An auction of over 4,000 acres in the Greater Chaco landscape is planned for March despite an ongoing update to the overall land planning document for the Farmington District Office of the BLM. The completion of that planning document is being accelerated by the Farmington office because of official direction from the Department of Interior to shorten the turnaround time on environmental reviews of energy projects.
The memo came out on the second day of a meeting of a citizens council in Farmington, where several people from the Farmington area and Navajo Nation implored the BLM to slow down its review of oil and gas leasing to better protect community health and culturally important landscapes.