In 2005, the Bush Administration, led by Vice President Cheney, drafted and finalized the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). Before coming into office, Cheney was CEO of industry giant Halliburton; predictably, the EPAct was very partial to industry. Pilot offices, categorical exclusions, and the Halliburton Loophole came out of the act, prioritizing industry interests over the environment and public health.
The EPAct established the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project which designated seven Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices, including the Farmington, NM, office, as pilot project offices. These offices were given additional resources to prioritize oil and gas development at the expense of archaeological resources, recreation opportunities, river protections, and air quality. Congress made the program permanent in 2014.
Despite the widespread use of fracking, and the dangerous chemicals it uses, the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate the injection of fracking fluids under the Safe Water Drinking Act. This is referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole” and was introduced as part of the EPAct.
The EPAct’s Section 390 Categorical Exclusions includes criteria which exclude applications for permit to drill (APDs) from environmental review. From 2006-2008 the BLM Farmington Field Office used this section to avoid environmental analysis of 1,389 APDs. From 2007-2008 the office approved approximately 1,275 APDs total, if 2006 was similar (no data is available) that means more than 70 percent of applications were approved without environmental review.