Possible Ways To Streamline Existing Federal Energy Mineral Leasing Rules

EMD-81-44: Published: Jan 21, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1981.

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GAO was asked to provide information to assist in preparing possible new legislation to reduce regulatory impediments in Federal energy mineral leasing rules. Additionally, GAO was asked to identify impediments stemming from present leasing rules that might be conducive to streamlining and to evaluate changes or modifications that might be implemented.

In developing this information, GAO found that Federal mineral leasing practices differ considerably from one mineral to the next with respect to such provisions as diligence, rents, and royalties. Some minerals, such as coal and offshore oil and gas, have specific legislative provisions dictating how leasing will be handled. At the other extreme, such as for oil shale and tar sands, most leasing provisions are left entirely to the discretion of the Department of the Interior. It is understandable that some leasing provisions, such as lease size and acreage limitations, might differ among minerals since the size of desired exploratory units and economies of scale vary. However, for others, the reasons for differences are not so clear, and there may be opportunities to apply desirable provisions in one mineral leasing program to another. GAO also believes that regulatory reduction could be enhanced by a clearer statement by policymakers of what objectives will be sought through Federal leasing in the years ahead, and by down-to-earth guidance on how often inconsistent and competing policies and objectives will be balanced. This should be a priority area of study leading to clarified objectives of what is being sought through Federal leasing.

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