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UFWDA Community Forum  |  Regional Focus - News and Local Events  |  Southwest  |  Topic: Ut - Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah, EIS for Oil and Gas Leasing « previous next »
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Todd Ockert
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« on: August 12, 2007, 09:36:23 am »

[Federal Register: August 3, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 149)]
[Notices]               
[Page 43228-43229]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr03au07-33]                         

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah, EIS for Oil and Gas Leasing

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA, and Bureau of Land Management, USDI.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Manti-La Sal National Forest gives notice of the intent to
prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to document the
analysis and disclose the environmental and human effects of oil and
gas leasing on lands administered by the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
The Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 (FOOGLRA)
requires the Forest Service to evaluate National Forest System (NFS)
lands for potential oil and gas leasing.
    As the agency responsible for lease issuance and administration,
the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will participate as a cooperating
agency.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received
by September 10, 2007, to be most helpful. The draft environmental
impact statement is scheduled for completion by the spring of 2008, and
the final environmental impact statement is scheduled for completion by
the fall of 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Dale Harber, Oil and Gas Team
Leader, Manti-La Sal National Forest, 599 West Price River Drive,
Price, UT 84501; phone (435) 636-3548; fax (435) 637-4940; email
comments-intermtn-manti-lasal@fs.fed.us. Please include ``Oil and Gas

Leasing Analysis Project'' on the subject line.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann King, Public Affairs Officer,
Manti-La Sal National Forest, 599 West Price River Drive, Price, UT
84501; phone (435) 636-3535.
    Fore technical information contact Dale Harber, Oil and Gas Team
Leader, (435) 636-3548.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    FOOGLRA requires the Forest Service to evaluate NFS lands for
potential oil and gas leasing and establishes Forest Service consent
authority for leasing prior to the BLM offering NFS lands for lease. A
leasing EIS was prepared in the early 1990s, with the Record of
Decision (ROD) signed January 12, 1993, and a ROD modifying specific
aspects of the original ROD signed on January 4, 1994. Due to the
length of time since the last EIS was prepared and the increased
interest by the industry due to the increased demand for oil and gas,
high prices, and discoveries of oil and gas reserves in nearby areas
with similar geologic conditions, it is now time to prepare an updated
EIS to continue leasing. The BLM Utah State Office has received, and
continues to receive, numerous Expressions of Interest for leasing
portions of the Manti-La Sal Natioal Forest.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Supervisor of the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the
Utah State Director, Bureau of Land Management, propose to conduct that
analysis and decide which lands to make available for oil and gas
leasing. The analysis area includes all NFS lands administered by the
Manti-La Sal National Forest. As part of the analysis, the Forest
Service will identify those areas that would be available for leasing
subject to the terms and conditions of the standard oil and gas lease
form, or the use of lease stipulations such as those prohibiting
surface occupancy. The analysis will also: (1) Identify alternatives to
the proposed action, including that of not allowing leasing (no
action), (2) project the type/amount of post-leasing activity that is
reasonably foreseeable, and (3) analyze the reasonably foreseeable
impacts of projected post-leasing activity [36 CFR 228.102(c)].

Possible Alternatives

    All alternatives studied in detail must fall within the scope of
the purpose and need for action and will generally tier to and comply
with the Manti-La Sal Forest Plan. Law requires evaluation of a ``no
action alternative''. Under the No Action/No Lease alternative, no
additional oil and gas leasing would occur. Alternatives to be
evaluated would range from the No Action/No Lease alternative (most
restrictive) to the Standard Lease Terms alterative (least restrictive)
where all lands legally open to leasing would be made administratively
available for leasing with only the standard BLM terms and conditions
contained on BLM Lease Form 3100-11. Other alternatives which fall
somewhere between the No Action/No Lease alternative and Lease with
Standard Terms alternative would also be developed and evaluated, which
would involve making some lands unavailable for leasing and other lands
available for leasing with stipulations for the protection of other
resources and interests.
    The Forest is expecting that the public input will generate either
thematic concerns or area-specific issues that may be addressed by
modifying the proposed action to create a new alternative or
alternatives.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The Forest Service is the lead agency. The Bureau of Land
Management will participate as a cooperating agency.

Responsible Officials

    Rodney L. Player, Forest Supervisor, Manti-La Sal National Forest,
599 West Price River Drive, Price, UT 84501.
    Selma Sierra, Utah State Director, Bureau of Land Management, 440
West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84145.

Nature of Decision to be Made

    The Forest Supervisor, Manti-La Sal National Forest, will decide
which lands administered by the Manti-La Sal National Forest will be
administratively available for oil and gas leasing, along with
associated conditions or constraints for the protection of non-mineral
interests [36 CFR 228.102(d)]. The Forest Supervisor will also
authorize the BLM to offer specific lands for lease, subject to the
Forest Service ensuring that the required stipulations are attached to
the leases [36 CFR 228.102(e)].
    The BLM is responsible for issuing and administration of oil and
gas leases under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended, and
Federal Regulations in 43 CFR 3101.7. The BLM Utah State Director must
decide whether or not to offer for lease specific lands authorized for
leasing by the Manti-La Sal National Forest and with what stipulations.

[[Page 43229]]

Scoping Process

    The first formal opportunity to comment on the Manti-La Sal
National Forest Oil and Gas Leasing Analysis Project is during the
scoping process (40 CFR 1501.7), which begins with the issuance of this
Notice of Intent. The Forest Service requests comments on the nature
and scope of the environmental, social, and economic issues, and
possible alternatives related to oil and gas leasing on lands
administered by the Manti-La Sale National Forest. Mail comments to:
Dale Harber, Oil and Gas Team Leader, Manti-La Sal National Forest, 599
West Price River Drive, Price, UT 84501.
    A series of public meetings are scheduled to describe the proposal
and to provide an opportunity for public input. Meetings are planned in
Moab, Monticello, Ferron, Ephraim, Price, and Provo, Utah, and Delta,
Colorado, in late August and early September. The schedule will be
published in the newspapers of record for the Manti-La Sal National
Forest Supervisor's Office and the Ranger Districts as soon as it is
finalized. Written comments will be accepted at this meetings.
    The Forest Service will work with tribal governments to address
issues that would significantly or uniquely affect them.

Preliminary Issues

    Important goals for the project are to meet the legal requirements
for evaluating NFS lands and make the required decisions. The intent of
the applicable laws and regulations (see Summary) are to lease
appropriate NFS lands and provide a reasonable opportunity to explore
for, discover, and produce economic oil and gas reserves from available
Federal lands, while meeting the requirements of environmental laws and
protection of other resources and interests not compatible with such
activities. Issues are anticipated to involve potential effects to
wildlife, water, vegetation, recreation, public safety, roadless
character, visual resources, cultural and paleontological resources,
and social and economic settings. Specific issues will be developed
through review of public comments and internal review.

Comment Requested

    This Notice of Intent initiates the scoping process which guides
the development of the EIS. The Forest has also received substantial
input at public meetings held for the Forest Plan revision, including
issues relative to mineral exploration and development. Through these
efforts the Forest has an understanding of the broad range of
perspectives on the resource issues and social values attributed to
resource activities on the Manti-La Sal National Forest. Consequently,
site-specific comments or concerns are the most important types of
information needed for this EIS. Because the Oil and Gas Leasing EIS is
a stand-alone document, only public comment letters which address
relevant issues and concerns will be considered and formally addressed
in an appendix in the EIS.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review

    A draft environmental impact statement will be prepared for
comment. The comment period on the draft environmental impact statement
is expected to be 45 days from the date the Environmental Protection
Agency publishes the notice of availability in the Federal Register.
The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important to
give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public
participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of
draft environmental impact statements must structure their
participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it is
meaningful and alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and
contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519,
533 (1978). Also, environmental objections that could be raised at the
draft environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised
until after completion of the final environmental impact statement may
be waived or dismissed by the courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F.2d
1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986) and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490
F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings,
it is very important that those interested in this proposed action
participate by providing comments during the scoping comment period and
during the comment period following the release of the draft EIS so
that substantive comments and objections are made available to the
Forest Service at a time when it can meaningfully consider them and
respond to them in the final environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues
and concerns on the proposed action, comments should be as specific as
possible. Reviewers may wish to refer to the Council on Environmental
Quality Regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the
National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing their
points.
    Comment received, including the names and addresses of those who
comments, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal
and will be available for public inspection.

(Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook
1909.15, Section 21.)

    Dated: July 26, 2007.
Rodney L. Player,
Forest Supervisor, Manti-La Sal National Forest.
[FR Doc. 07-3743 Filed 8-2-07; 8:45 am]

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