News Release

National Park Service Updates Non-federal Oil and Gas Regulations

Series of photos showing oil and gas operations including oil wells, fields, and trucks
Oil and gas operations currently take place in 12 of the 413 parks nationwide.

NPS Photos

News Release Date: November 3, 2016

Contact: Jeffrey Olson, 202-208-6843

Changes to 37-Year-Old Rule Protect Park Resources and Values

WASHINGTON – The National Park Service (NPS) today announced the release of updated regulations that govern private and state-owned oil and gas rights in the National Park System. The Record of Decision and Final Rule for regulating these limited oil and gas operations, called the 9B regulations, will be published in the Federal Register on Friday. The regulations were issued more than 37 years ago and had not been updated.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to conserve park resources and the values for which these parks are created for the enjoyment of future generations,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “The changes we made to this rule bring more than 300 previously exempt oil and gas operations in parks under NPS regulations. The rule clarifies the process for oil and gas development in the small group of parks where current operations exist, and for parks that may have to manage oil and gas operations in the future.”

Currently, oil and gas operations exist in 12 of 413 parks in the National Park System. Non-federal oil and gas rights exist within the National Park System in situations where the United States does not own the oil and gas interest, either because the U.S. acquired the property from a grantor that did not own the oil and gas interest or from a grantor that reserved the oil and gas interest.  

The modernized regulations address gaps in the previous regulations that limited the NPS’ ability to adequately protect park resources and values and visitor health and safety, including:

  • 60% of operations (319 operations) were exempt from complying with the 9B regulations.
  • A cap on financial assurance (“bonding” – set at $200,000 per operator, regardless of the number of operations) resulted in inadequate coverage to ensure proper site reclamation.
  • Lack of an effective enforcement tool to address minor acts of noncompliance.
  • No authority to require compensation for operators’ new use of federally owned land outside of their oil and gas right.

Key updates to the rule include:

  • Elimination of two regulatory provisions that exempted 60% of the oil and gas operations in units of the National Park System. All operators in units of the National Park System, except in Alaska, are now required to comply with the 9B regulations.
  • Elimination of the financial assurance or bonding cap.  Financial assurance will be equal to the reasonable estimated cost of site reclamation.
  • Improvement of enforcement authority by incorporating existing NPS penalty provisions. Law enforcement staff will now have authority to write citations for noncompliance with the regulations.
  • Authorization of compensation to the federal government for new access on federal lands outside the boundary of an operator’s oil and gas right.

The Record of Decision is available here, and the Final Rule is available here and becomes effective on December 5, 2016.

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Last updated: November 3, 2016