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Bureau of Land Management

The BLM has jurisdiction over onshore leasing, exploration, development, and production of oil and gas on federal lands in the United States.7 Certain contractual property rights and responsibilities governing resource development are created when BLM issues a lease to extract oil and gas resources or geothermal energy from federal lands (NRC, 2010). The BLM regulatory framework governing oil and gas extraction operations for federal and tribal lands is contained in 43 CFR Part 3160 (Onshore Oil and Gas Operations).8 In the process of underground injection, the BLM normally has the role of a surface owner with jurisdiction over surface facilities and surface impacts. (For example, the BLM is required to take National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] provisions in its management of surface resources.) Permitting and construction considerations for these wells are reviewed and approved by the EPA or the appropriate state regulatory agency. The permitting and oversight of geothermal wells, however, can be an exception. The “Geothermal Steam Act” (43 CFR Parts 3200, 3210, 3220, 3240, 3250, and 3260) gives the BLM authority to regulate geothermal resources on federal lands administered by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, where geothermal resources were reserved to the United States. In these cases the BLM permits, approves, and regulates the development of geothermal resources (Box 4.1).

U.S. Forest Service

The USFS is primarily responsible for managing surface resources on national forest lands. The USFS cooperates with the Department of the Interior in administering exploration and development of leasable minerals, including the review of permit and lease applications and making recommendations to protect surface resources (USFS, 1994). As is the case with BLM, the USFS takes the role of surface owner in injection activities and exercises jurisdiction over surface facilities and surface impacts that are associated with injection operations. The USFS is also required to take into account NEPA provisions in its management of surface resources. The actual permitting and oversight of injection activities is exercised by the EPA, local state agencies, or the BLM.


7 BLM is primarily responsible for the regulation and development of federal oil and gas mineral resources under the following acts: the Mining Leasing Act of 1920 (41 Stat. 437; see BLM, 2007); the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 USC 1701-1782; see BLM, 2001); the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 (101 Stat. 1330-256, an amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920); the National Forest Management Act (16 USC 1600-1604); and the National Materials and Minerals Policy, Research, and Development Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-479; 30 USC 1601-1605). Many of these acts are summarized in NRC (1989).

8 The BLM and USFS jointly prepared a manual, The Gold Book, which summarized surface operating standards and guidelines for oil and gas exploration and development (BLM and USFS, 2007).

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