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Highlights

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was enacted in part to expedite domestic oil and gas development. Section 390 of the act authorized the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to use categorical exclusions to streamline the environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) when approving certain oil and gas activities. Numerous questions have been raised about how and when BLM should use these section 390 categorical exclusions. In September 2009, GAO reported on BLM's first 3 years of experience-- fiscal years 2006 through 2008--using section 390 categorical exclusions. This testimony is based on GAO's September 2009 report (GAO-09-872) and updated with information on court decisions that have been reached since the report was issued. The testimony focuses on (1) the extent to which BLM used section 390 categorical exclusions and the benefits, if any, associated with their use; (2) the extent to which BLM complied with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and agency guidance; (3) key concerns, if any, associated with section 390 categorical exclusions; and (4) how BLM has responded to GAO's recommendations and other recent developments. For its September 2009 report, GAO analyzed a nongeneralizable random sample of 215 section 390 categorical exclusion decision documents from all BLM field offices that used section 390 categorical exclusions and interviewed agency officials and others.

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