Hoeven Outlines Efforts to Address Oil & Gas Permit Backlog on Dakota Prairie Grasslands

Senator Invited USDA Under Secretary to North Dakota, Builds on Work to Fill Vacant USFS Positions

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today discussed the importance of ensuring access to federal lands for multiple uses, including energy development, and outlined his efforts to address the backlog of oil and gas leasing permit requests on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. Hoeven made the remarks at a roundtable with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment James Hubbard, North Dakota energy producers and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials. Hoeven invited Hubbard, who oversees the USFS, to visit the state during his confirmation process in 2018, and today’s event builds on a meeting the senator Hoeven hosted with USFS Chief Vicki Christianson in North Dakota last year.

Specifically, Hoeven has been working as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee to fill vacant USFS positions at the Dakota Prairie Grasslands offices in order to more quickly process Surface Use Plans of Operations (SUPO):

  • Hoeven secured language in the FY2020 appropriations bill to prioritize hiring staff and filling vacant positions responsible for reviewing and issuing permits on the National Grasslands.
  • Following his meeting with the USFS Chief, the agency implemented a 10 percent group retention incentive for all Forest Service employees in Bismarck, Dickinson and Watford City.
  • As the USFS works to fill vacant positions, it is receiving assistance from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource specialists to help process permit requests.

“Energy development on federal lands, including the National Grasslands, is a significant source of revenue for federal and state governments, helping us to invest in our priorities while also supporting good jobs for our residents,” Hoeven said. “Permitting delays create unnecessary costs for producers and hamper local economies, and I appreciate the Forest Service for working with us to address their staffing shortage and reduce the backlog in permit requests. These efforts, combined with updated management plans for the grasslands, are an important part of maintaining our nation’s energy security and will help ensure we can continue growing our state’s leadership in energy production.”

In addition, the USFS recently released an updated management plan for development on Forest Service lands in the Bakken, which is under public review until October 1, and is working to update its oil and gas leasing guidance for the Little Missouri National Grassland. This could expand energy development to an additional 216,000 acres of Forest Service land.

Today’s roundtable aligns with Hoeven’s efforts to streamline the federal approval process for energy and infrastructure development, including his: 

  • BLM Mineral Spacing Act, which would waive the requirement for a federal permit when less than 50 percent of subsurface minerals are owned or held in trust by the federal government and there is no federal surface land. 
    • Hoeven’s BLM legislation is also included in the ONSHORE Act, a bill he introduced with Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to empower states with the authority to manage oil and gas permitting on federal lands within their borders.
  • Work with the Department of State to streamline the permitting process for important energy infrastructure projects like pipelines and electrical transmission lines that cross the national boundaries between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico, similar to his North American Energy Infrastructure Act, which he introduced in the last Congress.