[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 244 (Tuesday, December 19, 2000)]
[Notices]
[Pages 79422-79423]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-31447]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

[MT-020-1610-DH CBMP]


Notice of Intent To Amend the Powder River and Billings Resource 
Management Plans (RMPs) and Conduct Scoping Meetings, Montana

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City and Billings Field 
Offices, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

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

SUMMARY: BLM will prepare an Oil and Gas Resource Management Plan (RMP) 
Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) jointly with the 
State of Montana (State). The planning area for the BLM will be the 
BLM-administered oil and gas estate within the Powder River and 
Billings RMP areas. The planning area for the State will be potential 
coal bed methane development areas around the state. The RMP Amendment 
will be based on the existing statutory requirements and will meet the 
requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 
1976. The RMP Amendment will guide BLM's oil and gas decisions within 
the Powder River and Billings RMP areas and help the State evaluate 
effects of further oil and gas permit applications. The Draft EIS and 
RMP Amendment is scheduled for completion by September 2001. The Final 
EIS and Proposed RMP Amendment is scheduled for March 2002.
    The public is asked to help BLM and the State identify issues, 
concerns and alternatives. Draft Planning Criteria to help guide the 
effort have also been developed for public comment.

DATES: Any issues, concerns, or alternatives should be submitted to BLM 
on or before January 17, 2001. Public scoping meetings are scheduled as 
follows:

1. January 4, 2001, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Billings, Montana
2. January 9, 2001, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Broadus, Montana
3. January 9, 2001, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Ashland, Montana
4. January 10, 2001, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Miles City, Montana
5. January 11, 2001, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Helena, Montana

ADDRESSES: All submissions should be sent to the following address: 
BLM, Mary Bloom, BLM Project Leader, 111 Garryowen Road, Miles City, 
Montana, 59301.
    The public scoping meetings will be held at the following 
locations:

1. Billings--Lewis and Clark Room in the Student Union Building of the 
Montana State University-Billings
2. Broadus--Community Center at the Powder River County Fairgrounds
3. Ashland--Multi-purpose Room of the Ashland Public Elementary School 
on Highway 212
4. Miles City--Room 106 of Miles Community College
5. Helena--Director's Conference Room #111, Metcalf Building, 1520 East 
Sixth Avenue

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Bloom, BLM Project Leader, (406) 
233-3649.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The BLM and the State of Montana are co-
leads for the effort. The BLM's planning area is BLM-administered oil 
and gas in the

[[Page 79423]]

Powder River and Billings RMP areas. The Powder River RMP area consists 
of Treasure, Rosebud, Powder River, Carter, and portions of Custer and 
Big Horn counties. The Billings RMP area consists of Wheatland, Golden 
Valley, Musselshell, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Yellowstone, Carbon, and 
a portion of Big Horn counties. The State of Montana will evaluate the 
effects of further permit applications in BLM's planning area and other 
areas around the state including portions of Blaine, Park and Gallatin 
counties. BLM and the state have drafted a Memorandum of Understanding 
to conduct a joint EIS. The joint EIS will analyze impacts to resources 
as a result of oil and gas, including coal bed methane, development.
    The Powder River and Billings RMPs, as amended by BLM's 1994 ``Oil 
and Gas Amendment of the Billings, Powder River and South Dakota RMPs'' 
support limited conventional oil and gas development and coal bed 
methane exploration and production. Numerous conventional oil and gas 
wells are located on state and federal minerals in the planning area. 
An October 18, 2000 meeting of the Coal Bed Methane Coordination Group 
indicates that industry projects drilling approximately 10,000 coal bed 
methane wells in the Montana portion of the Powder River Basin over the 
next 10 years, in addition to an unspecified number of conventional oil 
and gas wells. In order to analyze an increased interest in oil and gas 
activity, an EIS and RMP amendment is being prepared.
    The public is asked to assist the BLM and the State with 
identification of issues related to oil and gas development, including 
coal bed methane. Examples of potential issues (problems, concerns) 
are: Water (surface and ground), socioeconomics, soils, water, Air, 
vegetation and wildlife.
    Alternatives will be developed to present a range of feasible 
management actions. The ``No Action Alternative'' will be included in 
accordance with 40 CFR 1502.14(d) and represent the continuation of 
current management.
    Development of this RMP Amendment will require involvement of 
professionals from these disciplines: Air quality, cultural resources, 
economics, hazardous materials, hydrology, lands, realty, minerals, 
geology, paleontology, recreation, sociology, soils, vegetation, and 
wildlife.
    Planning criteria help guide the development of the Amendment and 
EIS by focusing efforts where they are needed, providing direction for 
the plan, and identifying legal, policy, or regulatory constraints that 
direct or limit BLM's ability to resolve issues. After taking into 
consideration the public's comments on the criteria, they will be 
finalized to help guide the plan.
    The public will be provided the opportunity to review and comment 
on issues identified by BLM and the State, identify new issues, and 
comment on the Draft Planning Criteria. A mailing list is being 
developed and will be used to communicate with and solicit comments 
from local, state and federal agencies, Native American tribes, the 
Eastern Montana Resource Advisory Council, and the public at large that 
may be affected by the plan. As the planning process proceeds, these 
publics will be encouraged to participate.
    Public information will be available at scoping meetings to be held 
at Broadus, Miles City, Ashland, Billings and Helena, Montana from 
January 4 through January 11, 2001. See DATES and ADDRESSES sections 
for specific meeting information.
    The BLM and the State are seeking information from individuals, 
organizations, and agencies that may be affected by the plan. 
Specifically, we request any issues, concerns or alternatives that 
should be addressed in the plan amendment.
    This notice meets the requirements of 40 CFR 1501.7 and 43 CFR 
1610.2(c).

    Dated: December 5, 2000.
Fred O'Ferrall,
Assistant Field Manager.
[FR Doc. 00-31447 Filed 12-18-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-$$-U