[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 24 (Monday, February 6, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 5833-5835]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-2412]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

[WO-300-1310-PP-OSHL]


Notice of Availability of the Draft Programmatic Environmental 
Impact Statement for Allocation of Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources on 
Lands Administered by the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado, Utah, 
and Wyoming

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act 
of 1976, as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared 
Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendments and a Draft 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Allocation of 
Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources on Lands Administered by the BLM in 
Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and by this notice is announcing the 
opening of the comment period.

DATES: To ensure that comments will be considered, the BLM must receive 
written comments on the Draft RMP Amendments and Draft Programmatic EIS 
within 90 days following the date the Environmental Protection Agency 
publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. The BLM 
will hold public meetings on the Draft Programmatic EIS. The locations 
of the public meetings are listed in the ``SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION'' 
section below. The public will be notified of the dates and times of 
these meetings at least 15 days in advance via local media and the 
project Web site listed in the ``SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION'' section 
below.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments related to the Draft Programmatic 
EIS by any of the following methods:
     Web site: Using the online comment form available on the 
project Web site: http://ostseis.anl.gov. This is the preferred method 
of commenting.
     Mail: Addressed to: Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources 
Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass 
Avenue--EVS/240, Argonne, Illinois 60439.
    A complete, printed copy is available for review at the addresses 
listed in the ``SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION'' section below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information on 
the Draft Programmatic EIS should be directed to Sherri Thompson, BLM 
Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources Programmatic EIS Project Manager, BLM 
Washington Office, by email at sthompso@blm.gov, or by telephone at 
(303) 239-3758. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-
800-877-8339 to contact the above individual during normal business 
hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a 
message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply 
during normal business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Draft Programmatic EIS, references, and 
additional information regarding oil shale and tar sands resources 
allocation are available at the project Web site: http://ostseis.anl.gov. An electronic copy of the Draft Programmatic EIS can 
be viewed in any BLM State Office public room in the three state study 
area and will be available through the BLM Web site at http://www.blm.gov. A complete, printed copy is available for review at the 
following BLM offices:

Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, Colorado 
80215.
Northwest District Office, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, Colorado 81506.
Colorado River Valley Field Office, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, 
Colorado 81652.
White River Field Office, 220 East Market Street, Meeker, Colorado 
81641.
Utah State Office, 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, Utah 
84101.
Green River District Office, 170 South 500 East, Vernal, Utah 84078.
Price Field Office, 125 South 600 West, Price, Utah 84501.
Color Country District Office, 176 East D.L. Sargent Drive, Cedar City, 
Utah 84721.
Richfield Field Office, 150 East 900 North, Richfield, Utah 84701.
Canyon Country District Office, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532.
Monticello Field Office, 365 North Main, Monticello, Utah 84535.
Wyoming State Office, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82009.
High Desert District Office, 280 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, 
Wyoming 82901.

[[Page 5834]]

Kemmerer Field Office, 312 Highway 189 North, Kemmerer, Wyoming 83101.
Rawlins Field Office, 1300 North Third, Rawlins, Wyoming 82301.

    The BLM will hold public meetings on the Draft Programmatic EIS to 
provide an overview of the document, respond to questions, and take 
written public comments. The meetings will be announced through local 
news media and the project Web site: (http://ostseis.anl.gov), at least 
15 days in advance. Public meetings are currently planned for the 
following locations:

Rifle, Colorado; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Salt Lake City and Vernal, 
Utah.

    At these meetings, the public will have an opportunity to provide 
written comments. Written comments from the meetings and additional 
written comments submitted during the comment period will be considered 
by the BLM in preparing the Final Programmatic EIS. Comments submitted 
after the close of the comment period will be considered to the extent 
practicable.

Background

    In 2008, the BLM amended eight land use plans in Colorado, Utah, 
and Wyoming to make public lands available for potential leasing and 
development of oil shale resources, and two other land use plans to 
expand the acreage available for potential tar sands leasing in Utah, 
where these resources are located. These 2008 Amendments, supported by 
the preparation of a Programmatic EIS required under Section 369(d)(1) 
of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, made approximately 2,000,000 acres 
available for potential development of oil shale resources and 
approximately 431,000 acres available for potential development of tar 
sands resources. The 2008 Programmatic EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) 
amending the land use plans are available at the following Web site: 
http://ostseis.anl.gov, and include maps and more specific information 
about the geographic area studied in 2008. Information specific to the 
individual RMPs amended in 2008 can be found at the individual BLM 
Field Office Web sites, which can be accessed through http://www.blm.gov.
    The BLM has decided to take a fresh look at the land use plan 
allocation decisions made in the 2008 ROD associated with the 
Programmatic EIS, in order to consider which lands should be open to 
future leasing of oil shale and tar sands resources. The planning area 
for the oil shale resource is the Piceance Basin in Colorado, the 
Uintah Basin in Utah, and the Green River and Washakie Basins in 
Wyoming. For the tar sands resources, the planning area is certain 
sedimentary provinces in the Colorado Plateau in Utah. The BLM, through 
NEPA and the BLM planning process, intends to take a hard look at 
whether, given the current state of technology, future leasing 
opportunities should be focused on lower conflict lands with the 
approximately 2,000,000 acres currently available for potential 
development of oil shale, and the approximately 431,000 acres currently 
available for potential development of tar sands.
    A Notice of Intent to prepare this Programmatic EIS was published 
in the Federal Register on April 14, 2011 (76 FR 21003). This notice 
initiated the scoping period, which lasted from April 14 to May 16, 
2011. During that period, the BLM invited the public to provide 
comments on the scope and objectives of the Programmatic EIS, including 
identification of issues and alternatives that should be considered in 
the Programmatic EIS analyses. Public meetings were held at seven 
locations across the three states. Comments were also collected via the 
project Web site and by mail. Approximately 28,520 individuals, 
organizations, and government agencies provided comments during the 
scoping process.
    The Programmatic EIS analyzes amending the following RMPs: the 
White River, Grand Junction, and Glenwood Springs RMPs in Colorado; the 
Vernal, Price, Richfield, and Monticello RMPs in Utah; and the 
Kemmerer, Rawlins, and Green River RMPs in Wyoming. The purpose and 
need for the proposed planning action is to reassess the appropriate 
mix of allowable uses with respect to oil shale and tar sands leasing 
and potential development.
    The BLM will decide whether any changes should be made to the 
existing land use allocation decisions, in light of the nascent 
character of technology for developing oil shale and tar sands 
resources, and any relevant new information. Specifically, the BLM is 
considering amending the applicable RMPs to specify whether any areas 
in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming currently open for future leasing and 
development of oil shale or tar sands should not be made available for 
such leasing and development.
    The Programmatic EIS analyzes four alternatives in detail for 
allocation of oil shale (two of these include sub-alternatives), and 
four analogous alternatives for allocation of tar sands. Alternative 1 
is the No Action alternative, which would leave in place the current 
allocation decisions from the 2008 ROD. Under each of Alternatives 2 
through 4, the ``Action'' alternatives described in brief below, 
something less than 1,991,222 acres (acreage opened under 2008 
Programmatic EIS ROD) would be available for future consideration for 
leasing for commercial oil shale leasing, and something less than 
431,224 acres (acreage opened under 2008 Programmatic EIS ROD) would be 
available for application for commercial tar sands leasing.
    Alternative 2(a), the Conservation Focus Alternative, analyzes 
removing from possible oil shale and tar sands leasing the following 
kinds of areas:
    (1) All areas that the BLM has identified or may identify as a 
result of inventories conducted during this planning process, as lands 
containing wilderness characteristics (preliminary information may be 
found in chapters 2 and 3 of the 2008 Programmatic EIS, at http://ostseis.anl.gov);
    (2) The whole of the Adobe Town ``Very Rare or Uncommon'' area, as 
designated by the Wyoming Environment Quality Council on April 10, 2008 
(http://deq.state.wy.us/eqc/orders/Rare%20or%20Closed%20 Cases/UandI--
Final--for--DEQ.pdf);
    (3) Core or priority sage grouse habitat, as defined by such 
guidance as the BLM or the Department of the Interior may issue;
    (4) All Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) located 
within the areas analyzed in the September 2008 Oil Shale and Tar Sands 
Resources Leasing Final EIS (2008 OSTS Programmatic EIS, chapter 2, 
with further discussion in chapters 3 and 4, at http://ostseis.anl.gov); and
    (5) All areas identified as excluded from commercial oil shale and 
tar sands leasing in Alternative C of the September 2008 OSTS 
Programmatic EIS (see http://ostseis.anl.gov).
    Under Alternative 2(b), the lands open for future leasing 
consideration for oil shale would be the same as those in Alternative 
2(a), but only for Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) 
leases. The BLM would issue a commercial lease only when a lessee 
satisfies the conditions of its RD&D lease and the regulations at 43 
CFR subpart 3926 for conversion to a commercial lease. The preference 
right acreage, if any, which would be included in the converted lease 
would be specified in the RD&D lease. The environmental impacts of 
Alternative 2(b) would be analytically indistinguishable from those of 
Alternative 2(a). Only the method of obtaining a lease would be 
different.

[[Page 5835]]

    Alternative 3, the Research Lands Focus Alternative, was developed 
by the BLM in response to several comments received during the public 
scoping process that suggested that the BLM should not move forward to 
establish commercial leasing programs for oil shale or tar sands 
development on public lands. The variety of concerns cited as reasons 
for not establishing commercial programs included: (1) The sensitivity 
of specific resources within the three state study area, such as lands 
with wilderness characteristics, visual resources, ecological 
resources, and cultural resources; (2) the lack of definitive 
information about the technologies that will be employed in commercial 
operations; (3) the need for the nation to focus on alternative sources 
of energy, such as renewable resources; and (4) in the case of oil 
shale, the potential recurrence of adverse socioeconomic impacts 
resulting from a possible boom/bust cycle of development. Under the oil 
shale Research Lands Focus Alternative, 10 land use plans in Colorado, 
Utah, and Wyoming would be amended to limit public lands available for 
commercial leasing to the those lands encompassed by existing oil shale 
RD&D leases and their associated preference right lease acreage, plus 
the areas encompassed by the three RD&D lease applications currently 
under review. For the tar sands Research Lands Focus Alternative, the 
lands identified as available for application for commercial leasing 
would be limited to those lands in the Vernal, Utah, planning area, for 
which there is a pending tar sands lease application.
    Under Alternative 4(a), the Moderate Development Alternative, only 
the following kinds of areas would be excluded from commercial oil 
shale or tar sands leasing:
    (1) The whole of the Adobe Town ``Very Rare or Uncommon'' area, as 
designated by the Wyoming Environment Quality Council on April 10, 2008 
(180,910 acres total; 167,517 acres of public land, of that, 10,920 
acres are already designated as a BLM Wilderness Study Area).
    (2) All ACECs located within the areas analyzed in the September 
2008 Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources Leasing Final EIS; (76,666 acres 
in existing ACECs in the 2008 Programmatic EIS, plus additional ACEC 
acreage as a result of Utah and Wyoming planning efforts recently 
completed).
    Under Alternative 4(b), the lands open for future leasing 
consideration for oil shale would be the same as those in Alternative 
4(a), but only for RD&D leases. The BLM would issue a commercial lease 
only when a lessee satisfies the conditions of its RD&D lease and the 
regulations at 43 CFR subpart 3926 for conversion to a commercial 
lease. The preference right acreage, if any, which would be included in 
the converted lease, would be specified in the RD&D lease.
    The environmental impacts of Alternative 4(b) would be analytically 
indistinguishable from those of Alternative 4(a). Only the method of 
obtaining a lease would be different. This planning initiative 
addresses the allocation of BLM-administered lands as closed or open to 
the potential leasing and development of oil shale and tar sands 
resources, but, as in the oil shale and tar sands planning process 
completed in 2008, will not disturb other management decisions 
contained in the RMPs governing the areas to be included in the study 
area.
    The BLM is including in the Programmatic EIS, for reference, the 
mitigation measures developed during the previous oil shale and tar 
sands planning initiative completed in 2008, and has developed 
additional mitigation measures. No decision regarding the adoption of 
such measures is being made as part of this planning initiative; such 
measures may be applied, if appropriate, at the discretion of the 
decision-maker, at the time these resources are leased and/or 
developed.
    The BLM has used an interdisciplinary approach to develop the 
Programmatic EIS in order to consider the variety of identified 
resource issues and concerns. Specialists with expertise in the 
following disciplines were involved in the developing this Programmatic 
EIS: Minerals and geology; wildlife and fisheries; air quality; outdoor 
recreation, including lands with wilderness characteristics; 
archeology; paleontology; hydrology; soils; sociology; and economics.
    The BLM will use and coordinate public participation opportunities 
consistent with the NEPA and land use planning processes to assist the 
agency in satisfying the public involvement requirements under Section 
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and 36 CFR 
800.2(d)(3)).
    At this stage in the planning and NEPA process, the BLM has chosen 
Alternative 2(b) as the preferred alternative for oil shale, and 
Alternative 2 as the preferred alternative for tar sands.
    In addition to public scoping, and under Federal requirements and 
policy, the BLM initiated government-to-government consultation with 26 
Indian tribes, chapters, and bands with a potential interest in oil 
shale and tar sands resources development on BLM-administered lands in 
the three state study area. The BLM is also coordinating with and 
soliciting input from the State Historic Preservation Offices in each 
of the three states in the study area and from the Advisory Council on 
Historic Preservation. Cooperating Federal agencies on the Programmatic 
EIS include the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service. Other cooperating agencies include: Garfield County, Colorado; 
Grand County, Utah; the States of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; the City 
of Rifle, Colorado; Sweetwater County, Wyoming; Duchesne County, Utah; 
the Coalition of Local Governments (Wyoming); Lincoln County, Wyoming; 
Carbon County, Utah; and Uintah County, Utah.
    In addition to notifying the public of the availability of the 
Draft Programmatic EIS, this notice also informs the public of an error 
in the Programmatic EIS. The Draft Programmatic EIS includes incorrect 
figures for the number of archeological and historical sites within the 
most geologically prospective areas in Colorado and Utah. In Colorado, 
the Draft Programmatic EIS states that there are 1,951 sites within the 
most geologically prospective oil shale area. The correct number is 
2,298 sites. In Utah, the number of archeological and historic sites 
within the most geologically prospective oil shale lands reported in 
the Draft Programmatic EIS is 2,104; the number should be 3,289. For 
the Tar Sands areas, the Draft Programmatic EIS reports 1,846 sites; 
there should be 2,699 sites. Unfortunately, this error was discovered 
after printing of the document, but will be rectified in the Final 
Programmatic EIS.
    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1506.6 and 1506.10; 43 CFR 1610.2.

Timothy Spisak,
Deputy Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management.
[FR Doc. 2012-2412 Filed 2-3-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-84-P