[Federal Register: November 7, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 217)]
[Page 66253-66254]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Bureau of Land Management

[MT-020-1310-DT 050E]

Notice of Availability of the Final Supplement to the Montana 
Statewide Oil and Gas Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed 
Amendment of the Powder River and Billings Resource Management Plans 

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: By Order of the U.S. District Court for the District of 
Montana, dated April 5, 2005, and pursuant to the Federal Land Policy 
and Management Act of 1976 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a Final 
Supplement to the Montana Statewide Oil and Gas Environmental Impact 
Statement and Proposed Amendment (Proposed SEIS/Amendment) of the 
Powder River and Billings Resource Management Plans (RMPs).

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Proposed SEIS/Amendment have been sent to 
affected federal, state, and local government agencies; to tribal 
governments; and to interested parties. Copies of the Proposed SEIS/
Amendment are available for public inspection at the BLM Miles City 
Field Office, 111 Garryowen Road, Miles City, Montana; and at the BLM 
Montana State Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, Montana. You may 
also view the Proposed SEIS/Amendment on the Internet at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.blm.gov/eis/mt/milescity_seis/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Bloom, Project Manager, by 
telephone at (406) 233-2852; by mail at 111 Garryowen Road, Miles City, 
MT 59301; or by e-mail at Mary_Bloom@blm.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Powder River and Billings RMP areas 
comprise approximately 1.5 million acres of BLM-managed surface and 5 
million acres of BLM-managed mineral

[[Page 66254]]

estate. There are approximately 3.2 million acres of BLM-managed oil 
and gas. The Powder River RMP area includes Powder River and Treasure 
Counties, and portions of Big Horn, Carter, Custer, and Rosebud 
Counties. The Billings RMP area includes Carbon, Golden Valley, 
Musselshell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Wheatland, and Yellowstone 
Counties and the remaining portion of Big Horn County. The Proposed 
SEIS/Amendment supplements the 2003 Montana Statewide Final Oil and Gas 
Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Amendment of the Powder 
River and Billings Resource Management Plans (Statewide Document).
    The Statewide Document was approved on April 30, 2003. Several 
lawsuits were filed against the BLM's decisions. Two of the lawsuits 
resulted in an April 5, 2005, ruling by the U.S. District Court 
ordering the BLM to prepare the SEIS/Amendment to consider a phased 
development alternative for coal bed natural gas (CBNG) production in 
the Billings and Powder River RMP areas.
    Topics addressed in the Proposed SEIS/Amendment include those 
provided or recommended by the U.S. District Court: Phased CBNG 
development, the inclusion of the proposed Tongue River Railroad in the 
cumulative impact analysis, and a discussion on how private water well 
mitigation agreements help alleviate the impacts of methane migration 
and groundwater drawdown. The Notice of Intent to plan for the Draft 
SEIS/Amendment was published in the Federal Register in Volume 70 FR 
Number 150, p. 45417, August 5, 2005.
    The Draft SEIS/Amendment analyzed three new alternatives (F, G and 
H) to consider phased CBNG development. Under Alternative F, the BLM 
would limit the number of Federal applications for permit to drill 
(APD) approved each year cumulatively and in each fourth-order 
watershed. The BLM would also limit the percentage of disturbance 
within identified crucial wildlife habitat. Further, the BLM would 
place a limit on the volume of untreated water discharged to surface 
waters from Federal CBNG wells within each fourth-order watershed.
    Under Alternative G, development of CBNG on Federal leases in the 
Billings and Powder River RMP areas would be done following the same 
management actions as described under Alternative F. However, while the 
BLM would limit the number of Federal APDs approved each year 
cumulatively, development would be limited to a low range of predicted 
wells based on the Statewide Document's Reasonably Foreseeable 
Development scenario.
    Alternative H, the BLM's preferred alternative, contained three key 
components. First, a phased development approach would be implemented 
where a CBNG proposal would be reviewed against four filters or screens 
to determine if the proposal needed to be modified. Second, this 
alternative would include extensive requirements that an operator must 
meet when submitting a project Plan of Development (POD). Third, 
mitigation measures, and subsequent modifications to existing 
operations via adaptive management, would be considered and applied to 
each POD, as appropriate.
    The 90-day public comment period on the Draft SEIS/Amendment ended 
May 2, 2007. During the comment period, the EPA notified the BLM of air 
analysis deficiencies in the Draft SEIS/Amendment. As a result, the BLM 
prepared a draft supplement to the Draft SEIS/Amendment to demonstrate 
that predicted visibility effects in Class I and II areas could be 
mitigated. The 90-day public comment period for the additional air 
quality analyses ended March 13, 2008.
    Public comments on the Draft SEIS/Amendment and supplemental air 
analyses were considered in the preparation of the Proposed SEIS/
Amendment. Public comments resulted in changes to the Air Quality and 
Wildlife screens in the Draft SEIS/Amendment (Alternative H). The Air 
Quality Screen was modified to allow for better monitoring of air 
quality. The BLM also received comments on climate change, which have 
been addressed in the Proposed SEIS/Amendment. Consideration of climate 
change analysis did not result in any additional changes to the Air 
Quality Screen. The Wildlife Screen was modified to include population 
threshold levels for pronghorn, mule deer, and sage-grouse habitat. If 
the BLM management of habitat results in declines in the populations of 
these species, based on the established threshold levels, the BLM would 
implement mitigation measures to minimize impacts to wildlife habitat 
and maintain wildlife populations. The Wildlife Screen was also 
modified to include provisions that would allow for the implementation 
of protective measures for other species' habitats.
    The Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management, in the 
Department of the Interior is the responsible official for this 
proposed plan amendment on public lands. The Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act and its implementing regulations provide land use 
planning authority to the Secretary, as delegated to the Assistant 
Secretary. Because the Record of Decision will be signed by the 
Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management, it will be the final 
decision for the Department of the Interior. This decision is not 
subject to administrative review (protest) under the BLM or the 
Department of the Interior regulations (43 CFR 1610.5-2).
    The BLM has initiated activities to coordinate and consult with the 
Montana Governor. Prior to the issuance of the Record of Decision and 
approval of the proposed land use plan amendment, the Governor will be 
given the opportunity to identify any inconsistencies between the 
Proposed SEIS/Amendment and state or local plans and to provide 
recommendations in writing during the 60-day consistency review period 
required by the BLM land use planning regulations (43 CFR 1610.3-2).

Gene R. Terland,
State Director.
[FR Doc. E8-26473 Filed 11-6-08; 8:45 am]