Federal agency looks into BLM gas well approvals | PostIndependent.com

Federal agency looks into BLM gas well approvals

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) ” A congressional watchdog agency is investigating the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of oil and gas wells without rigorous environmental reviews.

The Government Accountability Office will visit BLM offices that make the most use of so-called categorical exclusions, which allow drilling without a full-blown environmental impact statement.

President Bush and Congress authorized the use of the exclusions as part of the 2005 Energy Act.

The GAO says it just got to work about two weeks ago and doesn’t know when it will finish the investigation.

The GAO got the request from the House Natural Resources Committee and its Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

The BLM’s Glenwood Springs field office, which issues the largest amount of drilling permits for federal leases in Colorado, approved 65 categorical exclusions in its 2008 fiscal year. The year before, the agency approved 107 such exclusions. In 2006, the agency signed off on 72 categorical exclusions.

David Boyd, a spokesman for the BLM, said the agency mostly uses those categorical exclusions for approving additional wells at a wellpad in an area that has already undergone an environmental analysis.

Boyd said the GAO hadn’t contacted the Glenwood Springs field office as of late Tuesday. For more details about categorical exclusions used in the area go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/ BLM_Information/nepa/gsfo/2008.html.

Staff writer Phillip Yates contributed to this report.

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