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Federal laws

There are many laws that govern natural resource extraction on federal lands.

Fiscal regime

The laws in this section provide the backbone of the fiscal regime for the extractive industries.
Law name and codeDescriptionRelevant landsRelevant natural resources
The General Mining Law of 1872 as Amended (PDF)
(30 USC § 29 et seq. and 43 CFR 3860)
Provides the right to transfer federal lands and natural resources to private ownership. This right is a mineral patent. Since October 1, 1994, Congress has imposed a budget moratorium on any new mineral patent applications. Federal onshore (public domain)Locatable hardrock minerals (e.g., gold, silver, and copper)
Leasing of Allotted Lands for Mining Purposes Act of 1909 (PDF)
(25 USC § 396 et seq. and 25 CFR 212)
Allows leasing of lands allotted to Indians for mining purposes. Leases can extend up to ten years as determined by the Secretary of the Interior. Excludes Indian lands allotted to members of the Five Civilized Tribes and Osage.Indian (allotted)Not specified
Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 as Amended
(30 USC 181 et seq.)
Creates a system of leasing mineral resources on federal lands for extraction. Also grants BLM authority to administer mineral leasing.Federal onshore (public domain)Coal, oil, gas, oil or gas shale, sodium, potassium, phosphate, sulfur, and gilsonite
Indian Mineral Leasing Act of 1938
(25 USC § 396a et seq.)
Opens unallotted lands within any Indian reservation for leasing for mining purposes. This is by authority of the tribal council and approval of the Secretary of the Interior.Indian (tribal)Not specified
Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947 (PDF)
(30 USC § 351 et seq. and 43 CFR 3420)
Extends the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Extends authority of the Secretary of the Interior to govern mineral leasing on federal acquired lands.Federal onshore (acquired)Coal, oil, gas, oil or gas shale, sodium, potassium, phosphate, sulfur, and gilsonite
Mineral Materials Act of 1947
(30 USC § 601 et seq.)
Also known as the Common Varieties Act. Regulates the sale and permitting of the most common hardrock minerals in place of the General Mining Law of 1872.Federal onshoreCommon hardrock minerals (e.g., sand, gravel, stone, pumice, cinders)
Submerged Lands Act of 1953 (PDF)
(43 USC § 1301 et seq.)
Recognizes states’ rights to the submerged navigable lands within their boundaries. These include things like lakes and rivers. Also recognizes states' rights to the marine waters within three geographical miles from the coastline.State offshoreAll natural resources
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 as Amended
(43 USC § 1331 et seq.)
Makes the Secretary of the Interior responsible for the administration of mineral exploration and development of the Outer Continental Shelf. Activities are subject to environmental safeguards. Requires fair market value for mineral leasing.Outer Continental ShelfOil, gas, and other minerals
Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 (PDF)
(30 USC § 1001 et seq.)
Allows leasing of land for geothermal resources development. This excludes lands prohibited from leasing by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.Federal onshoreGeothermal
Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970 (PDF)
(30 USC § 21a et seq.)
Amends the Mining Act of 1920. Establishes the national interest to develop a mining industry. Also addresses adverse environmental impacts.Federal onshoreAll natural resources
Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act (FCLAA) of 1976 (PDF)
(90 STAT 1083)
Amends Section 2 of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Requires competitive leasing for all public lands available for coal leasing. Allows the government to only accept lease bids equal to or greater than fair market value. Consolidates leasing into logical mining units. Requires lease holders to operate continually and other measures.Federal onshoreCoal
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 (PDF)
(30 USC § 1201 et seq.)
Creates the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE). The program balances the need for domestic coal production while protecting the environment. After current mining operations, coal mine owners are required to post bonds as insurance for reclaiming the land. They are also required to pay into the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. This fund is intended to address mines abandoned prior to 1977.Federal onshoreCoal
Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act (FOGRMA) of 1982
(30 USC § 1701 et seq.)
Grants the Secretary of the Interior authority to manage and collect oil and gas royalties from leases on federal and Indian lands.Federal onshore, Indian, and Outer Continental ShelfOil and gas
Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982 (PDF)
(25 USC §§ 2101–2108 et seq.)
Gives Indian tribes flexibility with the use and sale of mineral resources. Creates opportunities to enter into business agreements with the mineral industry.Indian (tribal)Oil and gas, coal, geothermal, and other mineral resources
Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act (FOOGLRA) of 1987 (PDF)
(30 USC § 181 et seq.)
Amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Gives the US Forest Service the authority to offer leases for oil and gas on National Forest System lands. They must meet environmental and other land-use regulations. BLM administers most leasing on these lands.Federal onshoreOil and gas
1996 Amendments to FOGRMA
(Pub. L. 104-185)
Revisions to the Federal Oil & Gas Royalty Management Act (FOGRMA).Federal onshore, Indian, and Outer Continental ShelfOil and gas
Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Simplification and Fairness Act (RSFA) of 1996 (PDF)
(30 USC § 1701 et seq.)
Improves royalty management from federal and Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leases.Federal onshore and Outer Continental ShelfOil and gas
Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 (PDF)
(42 USC § 13201 et seq.)
Addresses energy production in the United States. This includes the production, transportation, and transmission of energy on the Outer Continental Shelf from sources other than oil and gas (e.g., wind energy). Includes incentives for oil and gas development and provisions to access oil and gas resources on federal lands.Federal onshore and Outer Continental ShelfOil, gas, coal, wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal
Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006
(120 Stat. 2922)
Opens 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing. Shares leasing revenue with gulf producing states and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Bans oil and gas leasing within 125 miles off the Florida coastline in the Eastern Planning Area and a portion of the Central Planning Area until 2022.Outer Continental ShelfOil and gas

Fees and fines for extractive industries companies

There are other laws governing natural resources and extractive companies’ operations. Some of these laws require companies to pay fees. Violating some of these laws can also result in companies paying fines.
Law name and codeDescriptionRelevant landsRelevant natural resources
Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 as Amended (PDF)
(43 USC § 1701 et seq.)
Requires BLM to use a land use planning framework to administer federal lands. The framework includes the following: no unnecessary or undue degradation; multiple-use, sustained yield considerations for present and future generations; and public planning. Requires receipt of fair market value for use of federal lands and resources.Federal onshore and IndianAll natural resources
Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 (PDF)
(42 USC § 7401 et seq.)
Outlines steps to decrease air pollution. Applies to federal agencies, state and local governments, and industry. Oil and gas wells are exempt from legal aggregation. This means the emissions from small sites that are connected, in close proximity, or under shared ownership, are added together. They are regulated as “stationary sources” if they emit or could emit 100 tons per year of a pollutant.All landsAll natural resources, except when oil and gas are exempted
Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1977 (PDF)
(33 USC § 1251 et seq.)
Establishes regulations to protect water quality and track discharges of pollution into bodies of water. Does not require permits for uncontaminated storm water discharges from the following oil and gas activities: exploration, production, processing or treatment operations, transmission, and drill site preparation.All landsAll natural resources, except when oil and gas are exempted
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 (42 USC §§ 300f–300j et seq.) (PDF)Protects public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply and its sources. As of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, hydraulic fracturing fluids are exempt from underground injection control permits unless diesel fuel is used in the extraction process.All landsAll natural resources, except when oil and gas are exempted
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980
(42 USC §§ 9601–9675 et seq.)
Provides a federal ‘superfund’ to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous-waste sites. Also covers clean up from accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment. Gives EPA the power to seek out parties responsible for any release and assure their cooperation in the cleanup.All landsAll natural resources, except when oil and gas are exempted
Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973
(16 USC § 1531 et seq.)
Protects and recovers imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.All landsAll natural resources
Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 as Amended
(16 USC § 1361 et seq.)
Prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in US waters and by US citizens on the high seas. Also prohibits, with certain exceptions, the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States.All landsAll natural resources, except when oil and gas are exempted

Other laws

There are many other laws with which extractive industries companies must comply. Several federal agencies’ websites contain more comprehensive lists of laws they enforce:


Federal agencies implement laws by developing and enforcing regulations. The regulations below relate to natural resource extraction on federal and Indian lands.
  • Title 25 in the Code of Federal Regulations relates to sovereign Indian nations. Subchapter I deals with energy and minerals (Parts 200–227).
  • Title 30 governs mineral resources. Chapter II deals with the BSEE; Chapter V deals with BOEM; Chapter VII deals with OSMRE; Chapter XII deals with ONRR.
  • Title 43 in the Code of Federal Regulations governs public lands. Subchapter C focuses on minerals management (Parts 3000–3870).
Implementing laws includes complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (PDF) (42 USC § 4321 et seq.). NEPA is intended to ensure that decision makers and the public have information about the potential impacts to the environment of proposed federal actions and alternatives to those actions. When taking any major action, such as leasing natural resources on federal lands for extraction, federal agencies must prepare an Environmental Assessment and, if applicable, an Environmental Impact StatementAn icon of a black question mark inside a circle that indicates more information.. The public has legally mandated opportunities to comment on these impact statements.