Career staff to resume U.S. federal drilling permit approvals - Interior Dept

March 15 (Reuters) - The Biden administration on Monday said U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office staff would resume processing oil and gas drilling permits later this week following a two-month period when those approvals were limited to senior officials in Washington.

In an emailed statement, the Interior Department said BLM officials would process applications for permits “and related sundry activities on valid, existing leases in a timely manner.”

The department, which oversees BLM, also said it would begin providing monthly updates on pending and approved drilling permits on federal lands in an effort to improve transparency for the industry and the public.

On its first day in office, the administration of President Joe Biden stripped Interior Department agencies and bureaus of their authority to issue drilling permits.

The order, which expires on March 21, appeared to be a first step toward delivering on Biden’s campaign pledge to ban new leasing on federal acreage, though permits have continued to be processed in Washington.

Later in January, the administration paused new oil and gas leases, triggering criticism from the oil industry and Republican lawmakers. The Interior Department will launch a formal review of the program on March 25 with a public forum.

Federal mineral leasing was criticized heavily by environmentalists and Democrats during the administration of former President Donald Trump, who sought to maximize fossil fuel development on public lands. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Richard Pullin)