(Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management)

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is issuing “categorical exclusions” for some drilling permits, meaning an environmental assessment for the applications are waived.

“BLM officials are issuing such exemptions frequently in the Powder River Basin, where much of the oil development in Wyoming is centered today,” the Casper Star Tribune reported

The Casper (Wyoming) BLM office issued 111 exclusions in 2013, compared with seven environmental assessments, the report said.

Through the first four months of 2014, the Casper office has issued 53 exemptions and two environmental assessments.

The Buffalo (Wyoming) field office’s register found 39 exemptions and two environmental issued since November.

Environmentalists say the exemptions ignore the potential adverse impacts of drilling and deny landowners the right to comment on wells  near their property.

“Industry officials argue that the exemptions streamline permitting and reduce assessment redundancy in the permitting process,” the Casper Star Tribune said.

Categorical exclusions were created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

They’re intended to streamline oil and gas permits on federal land.

“By the GAO’s count, 6,900 exemptions were issued for oil- and gas-related activities between fiscal years 2006 and 2008,” the report said.

A federal judge in Wyoming allowed the categorical exclusions to be used even after the Obama administration tried to slow them down.

The exclusions are most commonly used where a well has been drilled in the previous five years or in an area where the environmental impact of drilling has been studied in the past five years, the Casper Star Tribune said.


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