Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday ordered the agency to resolve a backlog of more than 2,000 oil and natural gas permit applications for drilling on public lands.
"There's a reason why our energy revolution from 2008 forward has been primarily on private lands and state lands, and not federal lands," Zinke said on a call with reporters. "We have been particularly, I think, punitive in some ways."
The permit applications have accumulated over the last decade within the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management and have been a priority for lawmakers and the Trump administration to see fixed.
The number of applications for drilling permits reached 2,802 as of Jan. 31, according to the Interior Department.
Zinke also ordered the Bureau of Land Management to take no longer than 30 days to decide on permit applications, which is in line with the existing law.
Zinke said the announcement is part of the Trump administration's "energy dominance" agenda to provide for the energy needs of the country while supporting exports.
"Oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of revenue and job growth in rural America, but it is hard to envision increased investment on federal lands when a federal permit can take the better part of a year or more in some cases," Zinke said.
"This is just good government and will further support the president's goal of American energy dominance," he said.
Zinke also is ordering the bureau to conduct quarterly lease sales and address permitting issues. "We are also looking at opportunities to bring support to our front line offices who are facing the brunt of this workload," he said.
The order came one week after President Trump and Zinke began the process to redo the Obama administration's five-year plan for offshore oil and gas drilling leases.
The administration initiated the process of reviewing the current 2017-2022 leasing plan with the intention of expanding access to fossil fuel development on all coasts.
Conservationists criticized Zinke's order as another example of the Trump administration selling out the nation's public lands to the oil and gas industry.
"The oil and gas industry has been sitting on thousands of approved permits on their millions of acres of leased land for years now. The real problem here is this administration's obsession with selling out more of our public lands to the oil and gas industry at the expense of the American people," said Nada Culver, senior policy director at the Wilderness Society.