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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is promulgating a final rule (2017 final delay rule) to temporarily suspend or delay certain requirements contained in the rule published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2016, entitled, “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” (2016 final rule) until January 17, 2019. The BLM has concerns regarding the statutory authority, cost, complexity, feasibility, and other implications of the 2016 final rule, and therefore intends to avoid imposing likely considerable and immediate compliance costs on operators for requirements that may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future. The 2017 final delay rule does not substantively change the 2016 final rule, but simply postpones implementation of the compliance requirements for certain provisions of the 2016 final rule for 1 year.


The BLM's onshore oil and gas management program is a major contributor to our nation's oil and gas production. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of Federal land and 700 million acres of subsurface estate, making up nearly a third of the nation's mineral estate. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, sales volumes from Federal onshore production lands accounted for 9 percent of domestic natural gas production, and 5 percent of total U.S. oil production. Over $1.9 billion in royalties were collected from all oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids transactions in FY 2016 on Federal and Indian lands. Royalties from Federal lands are shared with States. Royalties from Indian lands are collected for the benefit of the Indian owners.


In response to oversight reviews and a recognition of increased flaring from Federal and Indian leases, the BLM developed the 2016 final rule entitled, “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation,” which was published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2016. See 81 FR 83008 (Nov. 18, 2016). The rule replaced the BLM's existing policy at that time, Notice to Lessees and Operators of Onshore Federal and Indian Oil and Gas Leases, Royalty or Compensation for Oil and Gas Lost (NTL-4A). The 2016 final rule was intended to: Reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring, and leaks during oil and natural gas production activities on onshore Federal and Indian leases; clarify when produced gas lost through venting, flaring, or leaks is subject to royalties; and clarify when oil and gas production may be used royalty free on-site. The 2016 final rule became effective on January 17, 2017. Many of the 2016 final rule's provisions are to be phased in over time, and are to become operative on January 17, 2018.


Since late January 2017, the President has issued several Executive Orders that necessitate a review of the 2016 final rule by the Department. On January 30, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13771, entitled, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” which requires Federal agencies to take proactive measures to reduce the costs associated with complying with Federal regulations. In addition, on March 28, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13783, entitled, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” Section 7(b) of Executive Order 13783 directs the Secretary of the Interior to review four specific rules, including the 2016 final rule, for consistency with the policy articulated in section 1 of the Order and, “if appropriate,” to publish proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules. Among other things, section 1 of Executive Order 13783 states that “[i]t is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation's vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”