The Interior Department wants to speed up permits for drilling on public lands under a new policy issued Thursday.
The department issued a memorandum that looks to streamline oil and natural gas permits on public lands, including the elimination of an Obama-era policy of requiring Master Lease Plans that call for more environmental reviews.
The new policy would apply to federal minerals under the jurisdiction of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, "to simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease," according to the memorandum.
The memorandum would ensure that "quarterly oil and gas lease sales" are consistent with current law governing energy leases under the Mineral Leasing Act and President Trump's March 2017 executive order promoting energy independence and economic growth, it reads.
The new memorandum also "supersedes existing policy" on oil and natural gas leases on federal land implemented under the Obama administration in 2010, calling it a "conflicting guidance."
That would change the Master Lease Plans that were developed under the Obama administration, which placed strict limits on the types of activities allowed on public lands.
The Bureau of Land Management conducted a review under Trump's energy independence order and found that the plans "have created duplicative layers" of environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.
"This policy, therefore, eliminates the use of MLPs," the new memorandum reads. "The BLM will not initiate any new MLPs or complete ongoing MLPs under consideration as land use plan amendments."
Conservation groups and climate activists said the elimination of the plans would erode the public's input on activity at national parks and other federal public lands.
The plans "ensured that everyone who cares about public lands — from county commissioners to drillers to sportsmen to tribal and cultural interests — had a say before lands were leased," said Nicholas Lund, senior manager for the National Parks Conservation Association’s landscape conservation program.
“This sweeping rollback of the public’s role in how we protect of our national parks and public lands will only put those places in danger of irrevocable damage," Lund said.