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Interior Secretary Immediately Implements President’s Executive Order on Energy and Climate

New Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wasted no time implementing the mandates of the Trump Administration’s most recent Executive Order (EO), “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which was issued on March 28. On March 29, the Secretary issued two Secretarial Orders (SO) implementing the March 28 Order, and took additional administrative action consistent with its mandates. Separately, the Secretary has reinstated a public-private advisory committee to address royalty issues.

The first Order, SO 3348, overturns the Obama Administration’s 2016 moratorium on federal coal leasing, and terminates the programmatic environmental impact statement process under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would have re-evaluated the environmental impacts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) coal leasing program.  Hours after this SO was issued, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Department in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana challenging the decision to lift the moratorium and resume federal coal leasing without first completing the NEPA process.  

The second Order, SO 3349, implements the agency review provisions of the March 28 EO directed to the Department of the Interior.  Specifically, SO 3349:

  1. revokes SO 3330, “Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior,” which was a prior Department-wide directive to adopt more landscape-level mitigation strategies and more rigorous compensatory mitigation criteria;

  2. directs each bureau to review all regulations, orders, and policies that could hamper energy development and, where permissible, rescind, revoke or suspend such regulations, orders, and policies;

  3. directs review of Departmental actions impacting energy development, including re-evaluation of BLM’s “venting and flaring rule” for oil and gas leases, for consistency with the policies set forth in the March 28 EO;

  4. directs BLM to “expeditiously proceed” with a proposal to rescind its 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule, which was invalidated by a federal district court and is now on appeal to the Tenth Circuit; and

  5. directs each bureau and office to identify other existing actions that could potentially burden the development of domestic energy resources, particularly oil, gas, coal, and nuclear resources.   

The SO affords the Interior agencies little time to accomplish this work. Deadlines fall within the next 90 days, including as soon as 14 days.

Finally, Secretary Zinke signed a charter re-establishing a Royalty Policy Committee (RPC).  As it had done in prior years, the RPC will operate as a Federal Advisory Committee Act body providing regular advice to the Secretary on fair market value and collection of revenue from federal and Indian mineral and energy leases, including renewable energy leases.  The group will consist of up to 28 federal, local, Tribal, state, and other stakeholders, and will also advise on royalty-related regulatory matters.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 89


About this Author

James M. Auslander Natural Resources & Project Development Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

James (Jamie) M. Auslander's legal practice focuses on project development, natural resources, and administrative law and litigation.

Mr. Auslander co-chairs Beveridge & Diamond’s Natural Resources and Project Development Practice Group, including its Energy Practice. He focuses on complex legal issues surrounding the development of oil and gas, hard rock minerals, renewable energy, and other natural resources on public lands onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf. He frequently litigates appeals before federal courts and administrative bodies regarding rulemakings, permits...

Peter J. Schaumberg Energy & Mineral Resources Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Peter's practice focuses on issues related to the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands offshore and onshore. 

He counsels major multinational corporations, domestic companies, and leading industry trade associations regarding development and operations on the Outer Continental Shelf and on federally-managed lands onshore, including oil & gas, solar, wind, and geothermal resources. Peter also advises mining company and trade association clients on matters related to the development of hard-rock mineral resources on public lands. He is a highly recognized authority with respect to royalty reporting and payment issues for federal mineral leases offshore and onshore, and for Indian leases. Peter has successfully represented numerous clients in administrative proceedings before the United States Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals.

Peter joined Beveridge & Diamond in 2006 after 25 years with the Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior. He was the Deputy Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources, the senior career attorney responsible for providing legal advice to the energy, minerals, and royalty programs of the Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue) and the Bureau of Land Management. He also provided legal advice to other Departmental agencies including the Office of Surface Mining, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Peter has written and lectured on a wide range of legal topics relating to federal mineral royalties and development of oil & gas, coal, hard-rock minerals, and alternative energy on federally-managed lands. He has received numerous awards including the Presidential Rank Senior Executive Meritorious Service Award and the Secretary of the Interior Meritorious Service Award for his outstanding work in the Office of the Solicitor.

John Cossa, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge and Diamond Law Firm

John Cossa’s practice focuses on issues related to the development of energy and mineral resources on federally-managed lands. He advises clients on matters related to the leasing and development of oil and gas, wind, solar, and mineral resources both onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf. Mr. Cossa also counsels clients on compliance with applicable operations, environmental, and safety regulations, agency notices and orders.

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