Author Topic: Ut - Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.  (Read 908 times)

Offline Todd Ockert

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[Federal Register: August 29, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 167)]
[Page 49696-49697]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Forest Service

Duchesne Ranger District, Ashley National Forest, UT; South Unit
Oil and Gas Development EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: The Forest Supervisor of the Ashley National Forest gives
notice of the intent to prepare an environment impact statement (EIS)
to document the analysis and disclose the impacts of an oil and gas
development project on lands administered by the Ashley National
Forest. The EIS analysis are includes approximately 25,900 acres on the
South Unit of the Ashley National Forest in Duchesne County, Utah. The
proposed project is located 11 miles south of Duchesne County, Utah in
Township 6 South, Ranges 4 and 5 West. Any authorizations and actions
proposed for approval in the EIS will be evaluated to determine if they
are consistent with direction in the 1986 Ashley National Forest Land
and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan).

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received
within 45 days of publication of this notice in the Federal Register.
The draft environmental impact statement is expected in June 2008 and
the final environmental impact statement is expected in November 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to David Herron, Project Lead, Ashley
National Forest, 355 North Vernal Avenue, Vernal, Utah 84078; phone:
(435) 781-5218. Electronic comments may be sent to Email correspondence should include the

project name in the subject line. Any attachments must be submitted in
MS Word (*.doc) or rich text format (*.rtf) and should include the
project name in the document title. Written comments may also be
dropped off at the above address during regular business hours (8 a.m.
to 5 p.m.), Monday-Friday.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Herron, Project Lead, Ashley
National Forest, 355 North Vernal Avenue, Vernal, Utah 84078; phone:
(435) 789-1181; e-mail:


Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose and need for this project is to respond to a formal
proposal from the Berry Petroleum Company (Berry), to exercise their
lease rights, and develop oil and gas resources within their existing
federal oil and gas leases, located on the South Unit of the Ashley
National Forest. The purpose and need is also to identify the terms and
conditions necessary to protect surface resources and prevent conflicts
with other activities, programs and users in the area of operations.

Proposed Action

    In January 2007, Berry submitted a proposal to the Forest Service
to drill up to 400 oil and gas wells on federal mineral leases the
Company holds on approximately 25,900 acres in the South Unit of Ashley
National Forest. If economically recoverable oil or gas reserves were
identified from exploratory drilling, those wells would be put into
production. Wells would be drilled from well pads constructed of native
soil and rock material using standard cut and fill methods. Well pad
construction would require an estimated 2.5 acres of surface
disturbance per well pad. If economic quantities of oil and/or gas are
found as a result of the drilling of vertical wells, Berry may attempt
to directionally drill from some or all of the same well pads to assess
whether oil and gas resources can be reached and successfully produced
from directional wells. Approximately 100 miles of new access roads and
21 miles of upgraded existing roads would be constructed to reach the
proposed well pad sites. The proposal calls for a 20-year construction
and drilling period.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The Forest Service is the lead agency. The Bureau of Land
Management will participate as a cooperating agency. Other eligible
agencies may also participate as cooperating agencies.

Responsible Official

    The Responsible Official is Kevin B. Elliott, Forest Supervisor,
Ashley National Forest, 355 North Vernal Avenue, Vernal, UT 84078.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The responsible official will decide whether to allow development
to occur as proposed or to allow implementation of a reasonable
alternative to the proposed action. The selected alternative will
establish the terms, conditions, and mitigations needed to protect
surface resources during the proposed oil and gas development. Specific
ground disturbing developments (wells, roads, compressors, etc.) would
require additional analysis prior to implementation, to determine
whether those developments are consistent with the scope and
requirements of the selected alternative. Approval for such actions on
individual well sites would be conducted through the Application for a
Permit to Drill (APD) process, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM).

Scoping Process

    The Forest Service is seeking information, comments, and assistance
from federal, state, and local agencies and individuals or
organizations interested in or affected by the proposed action. The
comment period on the proposed action will be 45 days from

[[Page 49697]]

the date this Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register.
Copies of this Notice of Intent will be distributed to interested
parties via mailings, posting on the Ashley National Forest Web site
(, and publication in the

Uintah Basin Standard newspaper. Requests to be added to the mailing
list for this project should be sent to: David Herron, Project Leader,
Ashley National Forest, 355 North Vernal Avenue, Vernal, Utah 84078, or
e-mail to A series of public meetings will be
scheduled during the scoping period to describe the proposal and to
provide an opportunity for public input. Public meetings are being
planned for Salt Lake City, Duchesne, and Vernal, Utah. Dates and
locations for these meetings will be made available via a mailed
scoping notice, the Ashley National Forest Web site, and the Uintah
Basin Standard.

Preliminary Issues

    Issues that may be analyzed in all alternatives include: The
socioeconomic effects of oil and gas development and associated
activities; effects on terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna,
including threatened and endangered species, sensitive species, and
management indicator species; effects on both developed and dispersed
recreation; effects on air quality; effects on water resources,
including wetlands, floodplains, riparian areas, private and municipal
water systems, and groundwater; effects on visual resources; effects on
soils and geologic hazards; effects on cultural resources; effects on
upland and riparian vegetation; effects on other mineral resource
extraction activities; and effects on noxious weeds and invasive
species. Issues may be added or refined based on public comments and
internal review.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides
the development of the environmental impact statement. The Forest
Service requests comments on the nature and scope of the environmental,
social, and economic issues, and possible alternatives specifically
related to oil and gas development on Ashley National Forest lands
currently leased by Berry Petroleum.
    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 will be 60 days from the date the Environmental
Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability in the Federal
    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,
553 (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 the close of the 60-day comment period 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 on the draft
environmental impact statement should be specific as possible. It is
also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the
draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft
environmental impact statement. Comments may also address the adequacy
of the draft environmental impact statement or the merits of the
alternatives formulated and discussed in the statement. 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 these points.
    Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who
comment, 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: August 20, 2007.
Kevin B. Elliott,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 07-4227 Filed 8-28-07; 8:45 am]

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