[Federal Register: June 27, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 125)]
[Page 36553-36554]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Bureau of Land Management


Notice of Availability of a Final Supplemental Environmental 
Impact Statement for the Pinedale Anticline Oil and Gas Exploration and 
Development Project, Sublette County, WY

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
has prepared a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement 
(FSEIS) that analyzes additional oil and gas development in the 
Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA).

DATES: The FSEIS will be available for review for 30 days following the 
date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes their Notice of 
Availability in the Federal Register. A Record of Decision (ROD) will 
be prepared following the 30-day review period.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT: Caleb Hiner, BLM Project Manager, 768 
West Pine Street, P.O. Box 768, Pinedale, Wyoming 82941. Electronic 
mail may be sent to: Caleb_Hiner@blm.gov with ``PAPA FSEIS Information 
Request'' in the subject line. The FSEIS will be posted at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/pfodocs/anticline/seis.html when 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The BLM conducted NEPA analysis and issued a 
ROD for the Pinedale Anticline Oil and Gas Exploration and Development 
Project in July 2000. The BLM conducted this analysis in response to 
increasing numbers of operators requesting approval to explore for and 
develop natural gas on the Pinedale Anticline. The 2000 PAPA ROD 
established protection of big game crucial winter ranges from oil and 
gas developments (well drilling and completion) during the winter 
months, and therefore did not include analysis of the potential impacts 
of oil and gas development activities (specifically drilling and 
completions) to big game on crucial winter ranges during the period of 
November 15 through April 30. The PAPA ROD provided that the BLM could 
grant limited exceptions to this winter closure period based on current 
conditions such as presence of wintering animals or depth of snow 
cover. Finally, the analysis in the PAPA EIS considered a total of 900 
wells drilled with 700 producing well pads. The PAPA ROD stated that if 
the level of proposed development exceeds that analyzed in the EIS, BLM 
would conduct additional environmental analysis. There are currently 
approximately 460 producing wells in the PAPA.
    Starting in winter 2002-2003, the BLM authorized Questar 
Exploration and Development Company to continue winter gas development 
operations at one well pad within big game crucial winter range with 
the requirement that they work closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish 
Department in its study of impacts to the Sublette Mule Deer. Since 
then, other operators within the PAPA have expressed interest in 
conducting gas development activities including year-round drilling 
within big game crucial winter range. In summer 2005, Anschutz, Shell, 
and Ultra submitted a proposal to the BLM for year-round drilling 
demonstration project on three well pads within their leaseholds for 
one year. In September 2005, the BLM issued a Decision Record to allow 
them to proceed (ASU Year-Round Drilling Demonstration Project, 
September 2005).
    In 2005, BLM received a proposal for continued and expanded long-
term development of natural gas resources in the PAPA from Questar 
Exploration and Production, Shell Exploration and Production Company, 
and Ultra Resources Inc. (`The Operators'). The Operators proposed to 
conduct year-round drilling and completions in concentrated development 
areas within a core development area coinciding with the Anticline 
Crest in the PAPA. The Operators proposed an additional 4,399 wells on 
approximately 10-acre bottom hole spacing from an additional 250 well 
pads. The proposed development included construction of new well pads 
and substantial expansion of existing well pads to allow for multiple 
wells to be drilled from a pad. In addition, the BLM has determined 
that there is a need for new pipeline corridors between the PAPA and 
gas processing plants in southwestern Wyoming. Therefore, the FSEIS 
also includes analysis of potential new corridors.
    The PAPA encompasses approximately 198,034 acres of primarily 
Federal lands (nearly 80 percent), and State and private land. 
Approximately 83 percent of the mineral estate underlying the PAPA is 
federally-owned. The BLM has identified the following resources that 
may be adversely impacted by the proposal: surface and ground water 
resources; air quality; wildlife and their habitats; reclamation; 
visual resources; transportation; noxious weed control; grazing, 
cultural and paleontological resources; wetland and riparian resources; 
threatened and endangered animal and plant species; and socioeconomic 
    The BLM's Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a SEIS was printed in 
the Federal Register on October 21, 2005. A Notice of Availability 
(NOA) of the Draft SEIS was published in the Federal Register on 
December 15, 2006. The public comment period on the Draft SEIS closed 
in April 2006. Based upon public comment, the BLM determined two 
additional alternatives needed to be analyzed and made available for 
public review. A NOA for Revised Draft SEIS was published in the 
Federal Register on December 28, 2007. The comment period on the 
Revised Draft SEIS closed on February 11, 2008.
    The FSEIS describes and analyzes five alternatives, including the 
No Action Alternative and The Operators proposed action. A summary of 
the alternatives follows:
    (A) The No Action Alternative would continue development on the 
Pinedale Anticline under the conditions imposed by the 2000 PAPA ROD. 
The Operator's proposal for year-round access would be denied. This 
alternative does not provide for full resource recovery.
    (B) Alternative 2, The Operators proposed action, includes year-
round development of up to 4,399 additional wells. Development would 
occur in three areas of concentrated development within a core area. 
Tier 2 equivalent emission controls would be installed on drilling rig 
engines in 29 of 48 drilling rigs in 2009. The Operators have also 
committed to 3:1 offsite mitigation for wildlife, if necessary.
    (C) Alternative 3 considers the same project components as 
Alternative 2; however implementation would be phased spatially. It 
analyzes a smaller core area, with five areas of development; year-
round access would be limited by area. The goal of Alternative 3 is to 
minimize surface disturbance in some areas while maximizing development 
in other areas. Air quality mitigation to reduce impacts

[[Page 36554]]

in nearby sensitive areas is included in this alternative.
    (D) Alternative 4, the BLM Preferred Alternative, is the result of 
comments received on the Draft SEIS. This alternative expands the core 
area slightly as compared to Alternatives 2 and 3, and delineates a 
potential development area around the core. Similar to Alternatives 2 
and 3 the core area is broken into five development areas. The 
alternative also analyzes spatial phasing of development and applies 
Operator offered mitigation measures including Federal suspended leases 
and areas of no surface occupancy on areas outside the core of the 
PAPA. Adaptive management and a compensatory mitigation fund are also 
important elements of this alternative. Additional air quality 
mitigation is also included to further reduce impacts.
    (E) Alternative 5 describes development of the full Operator 
proposed number of new wells (4,399) under conditions similar to the 
2000 PAPA ROD, and without winter access in restricted wildlife 

James K. Murkin,
Acting Associate State Director.
 [FR Doc. E8-14493 Filed 6-26-08; 8:45 am]