Short staffing at BLM makes permit approvals lag

Gillette, WY – High staff turnover at U.S. Bureau of Land Management offices in northeastern Wyoming is contributing to delays in acting on permit applications to drill for coal-bed methane in the Powder River Basin.
Chris Hanson is manager of the BLM's office in Buffalo. He says staff in his office has seen a 17-percent turnover this year.
Hanson says the BLM is having a hard time keeping up with salaries offered by private industry for petroleum engineers and other jobs. He also notes that housing prices in Buffalo and other towns in the area have increased sharply.
On industry spokesman says that they've seen the average time to get a drilling permit approved by BLM increase from 200 days to 300 on average over the past year.
The BLM's Buffalo office issued nearly 3,000 permits last year, but only 195 of them were drilled.
The gas industry in the area has faced drilling restrictions because of wildlife concerns and because of weather conditions. Officials say that lower natural gas prices and high development costs have also contributed to a general slowing of energy development