On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed an order to streamline permitting backlogs and delays, and to identify ways to improve access to parcels of federal land that qualify for mineral development.

As of January 31, the BLM had nearly 3,000 Applications for Permit to Drill pending.

Despite the fact that Interior Department and the BLM process APD reviews within 30 days, the average time to process an APD in 2016 was 257 days.

Zinke says his directive will improve two programs, the  Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the Federal Solid Mineral Leasing Program, which are both major sources of income for the federal government.

Critics of the move, such as the Western Values Project, say the drilling order is a 'pointless giveaway to special interests', to favor oil and gas companies that already have considerable access to public lands.

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