[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 97 (Monday, May 20, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 29318-29321]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-11909]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche 
National Grasslands, Colorado and Kansas, Oil and Gas Leasing 
Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and 
Comanche National Grasslands (PSICC) are initiating the preparation of 
an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS will disclose the 
effects of updating the potential oil and gas areas available and 
unavailable for lease, the appropriate and applicable lease 
stipulations, and post-lease oil and gas

[[Page 29319]]

development that is reasonably foreseeable as a consequence of 
conducting a leasing program on the PSICC. The proposed action includes 
the following elements: identifying what lands will be available for 
oil and gas leasing; what stipulations need to be attached to oil and 
gas leasing for the protection of other resources; and what forest/
grasslands plan amendments to the 1984 PSICC Land and Resource 
Management Plan (Forest Plan) may be needed to incorporate the revised 
oil and gas leasing decision. The EIS will document changed conditions 
and new information since the PSICC 1992 Oil and Gas Leasing Final EIS 
and Record of Decision, and incorporate that information into the 
analysis of potential effects of leasing on other resources. Changes in 
conditions and information since the 1992 leasing EIS and decision 
include new and improved oil and gas drilling, completion, and 
production technology; proposed listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken 
as a threatened species; increased urban development adjacent to the 
Forest boundary; and promulgation of a rule to protect roadless areas 
in Colorado.
    The scope of the analysis is Forest and Grassland-wide.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of this analysis should be 
received by June 19, 2013. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected in January of 2014 and the final environmental impact 
statement is expected in September of 2014. The PSICC will convene five 
meetings on five separate districts on the Forest. The meetings will be 
taking place over two weeks starting on May 14, 2013. The Supplementary 
Information section of this document provides public meeting addresses, 
dates and times.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to:

Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National 
Grasslands Oil and Gas Scoping
Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National 
Grasslands, 2840 Kachina Dr., Pueblo, Colorado 81008

    Submit electronic comments to: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=33788.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Project alternative maps, draft oil and gas 
stipulations and additional project information is available at the 
following Web site: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/psicc/landmanagement/projects/?cid=stelprdb5418254.

Public Open Houses

    Five public open houses are planned at the following places and 
times:

May 14, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Point of Rocks Room, 
625 Colorado, Elkhart, Kansas 67950.
May 15, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Minnick Building at the 
Baca County Fairgrounds, 28500 County Road 24.6, Springfield, Colorado 
81073.
May 21, 2013 at the from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Walsenberg 
Community Meeting Room in 928 S. Russell St., Walsenberg, Colorado 
81089.
May 22, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Bear Creek Elementary 
School, 1330 Creekside Dr., Monument, Colorado 80132.
May 23, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the North West Fire 
Protection District 21455, U.S. Highway 285 District, Fairplay, 
Colorado 80440.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Dow, Forest Planner, Pike and San 
Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, 
2840 Kachina Dr, Pueblo, Colorado 81008, Phone: (719) 553-1476.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at -800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time Monday through Friday.

Purpose and Need for the Action

    The Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and 
Comanche National Grasslands (PSICC) issued its current oil and gas 
leasing availability decision in 1992 (Final Oil and Gas Leasing 
Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision). The FS has 
provided consent to BLM to lease some PSICC lands since the 1992 
decision was implemented and currently has pending requests to lease 
roughly another 27,000 acres of PSICC lands. Before the FS can 
authorize the BLM to lease these lands, it must verify that oil and gas 
leasing is adequately addressed in a NEPA document. Since 1992 
information and circumstances considered under that decision have 
changed, including technological advances in oil and gas development 
activities, increased urban and suburban development, and new 
threatened and endangered species. Consequently, the Forest Supervisor 
of the PSICC has identified a need to prepare a new Oil and Gas Leasing 
EIS. The new Oil and Gas Leasing EIS will consider the new information 
or changed conditions across the Pike and San Isabel National Forests 
and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands to determine which NFS 
lands administered by the PSICC should be made available for oil and 
gas leasing and what lease stipulations should apply to those lands for 
the protection of other resources. The Bureau of Land Management will 
be a cooperating agency in this effort. The Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) will be prepared in a manner that would support BLM's 
independent decision to include those NFS lands administered by the 
PSICC that are made available for leasing, in future competitive oil 
and gas lease sales. Hence, the purpose for the proposed action is to 
allow both agencies to satisfy their respective regulatory obligations 
to respond to both pending and future requests to lease PSICC lands for 
oil and gas.
    The purpose of the proposed action is to: (1) Ensure that the new 
technology and information is considered and adequately addressed in a 
NEPA document and is consistent with the PSICC land and resource 
management plan prior to the leasing of specific NFS lands ; (2) 
Fulfill the federal government's policy to '' foster and encourage 
private enterprise in the orderly and economic development of domestic 
resources to help assure satisfaction of industrial, security, and 
environmental needs'' (Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970), while 
continuing to sustain the land's productivity for other uses and 
capability to support biodiversity goals (US Forest Service Minerals 
Program Policy); and (3) Enable the BLM to exercise its discretionary 
authority to offer and issue leases on NFS lands administered by the 
PSICC.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposes to identify lands administered by the 
PSICC that would be administratively available for oil and gas leasing 
and to identify which stipulations would be necessary in areas where 
protection of surface resources can be reasonably assured and is 
otherwise in accordance with law and regulation.
    The Proposed Action considers the following: (1) Information that 
addresses new and different circumstances from those analyzed under the 
1992 leasing decision; (2) lease stipulations on future leases, where 
needed, on lands identified as administratively available for leasing, 
for the purpose of protecting other resources including--(a) No Surface 
Occupancy (NSO) stipulations for areas identified as needing greater 
surface resource protection, laws, regulations, policies, and Forest 
Plan Standards such as, species listed under the Endangered Species 
Act, slopes

[[Page 29320]]

greater than 60%; upper tier roadless acres, identified in the Colorado 
Roadless Rule, on leases issued after July 3. 2012; (b) Controlled 
Surface Use (CSU) for other specific resource concerns (c) Timing 
Limitations (TL) for certain--potential raptor breeding territories and 
winter roost sites; deer, elk, moose and pronghorn habitats; and (4) 
prohibition of road construction or reconstruction on oil and gas 
leases issued within a Colorado Roadless Area after July 3, 2012.
    Current valid existing leases, including the associated terms, 
conditions, and stipulations would not be considered nor affected by 
this analysis, nor would the exercising of reserved and outstanding 
mineral rights on NFS lands. Proposed land availability and lease 
stipulation changes would only affect leases issued after a decision is 
implemented. The proposed changes would apply to new leases on lands 
that are currently leased after existing leases have been terminated, 
relinquished, or subsequently nominated for lease.

Possible Alternatives

    (1) No New Leasing--Under this alternative, no new NFS lands 
administered by the PSICC would be available in the future for oil and 
gas leasing. Operations on existing leases would continue under 
applicable lease terms, statutory, and regulatory direction, and Forest 
Plan direction. Existing federal oil and gas leases on the PSICC that 
are not extended by production would terminate at the conclusion of 
their primary term, and those lands would not be available for further 
leasing. Implementation of this alternative would require a Forest Plan 
amendment to identify lands as closed to oil and gas leasing.
    (2) No Action (Current Management)--This alternative would 
continue, with no changes in oil and gas leasing availability and no 
new or changed stipulations on the PSICC as directed by the RODs for 
the PSICC 1992 Oil and Gas Leasing EIS (February 12, 1992) and the Land 
and Resource Management Plan (November 18, 1984).

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The Forest Service is the lead agency. As the agency responsible 
for offering, selling, and issuing leases, the BLM will participate as 
a cooperating agency under a memorandum of understanding (MOU). 
Additionally, the United States Fish and Wildlife Agency (USFWS) and 
the Colorado Department of Natural Resources will participate as 
cooperating agencies, under separate MOUs, to provide resource specific 
expertise when needed.

Responsible Official

    The Forest Service responsible official is Jerri Marr, Forest 
Supervisor, Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and 
Comanche National Grasslands, 2840 Kachina Dr., Pueblo, CO 81008.
    The BLM responsible official is Keith Berger, Field Office Manager, 
Royal Gorge Field Office, 3028 Main St., Canon City, CO 81212.

Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will determine whether, if, and how the 
current oil and gas leasing decision, as it relates to land 
availability and lease stipulations should be changed based on current 
information and analysis. The Responsible Official will decide which 
lands administered by the PSICC will be administratively available for 
oil and gas leasing, which land will be administratively unavailable 
for oil and gas leasing through management direction or legal reasons, 
and which lease stipulations would be applied to future oil and gas 
leases for the protection of other resources [36 CFR 228.102(c)]. 
Subsequent to the Responsible Official's decision, the Regional 
Forester will authorize the BLM to offer specific lands for lease. When 
lands are nominated for leasing, the Forest Service will (1) verify 
that leasing the specific lands has been adequately addressed in a 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document and is consistent 
with the Forest Plan, and that no significant new information or 
circumstances would require further analysis; (2) ensure that 
conditions of surface occupancy are properly included as stipulations 
in resulting leases; and (3) determine that operations and development 
could be allowed somewhere on each proposed lease, except where 
stipulations will prohibit all surface occupancy [36 CFR 228.102(e)]. 
The BLM State Director must decide whether to offer for lease specific 
lands authorized for leasing by the PSICC, and must include Forest 
Service stipulations on any leases offered on NFS lands.

Scoping Process

    The first formal opportunity to comment on the revised oil and gas 
leasing availability and stipulations proposal is during the scoping 
process (40 CFR 1501.7), which begins with the issuance of this Notice 
of Intent. The Forest Service requests comments on the nature and scope 
of potential environmental, social, and economic issues, and possible 
project alternatives related to oil and gas leasing on NFS lands 
administered by the PSICC. The Forest Service will work directly with 
tribal governments to address issues that would significantly or 
uniquely affect them.
    Five open house meetings are planned. The meeting addresses, dates 
and times are provided in the Supplementary Information section of this 
notice.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the PSICC oil and gas leasing availability 
environmental impact statement. Through the 1992 Oil and Gas EIS and 
decision, the PSICC has an understanding of the broad range of 
perspectives on the resource issues and social values attributed to 
resource activities on the PSICC. Consequently, site-specific comments 
or concerns are the most important types of information the PSICC needs 
from the public scoping process. In scoping, the agency, with the 
assistance of the public, determines the scope of the issues to be 
addressed and identifies the significant issues related to the proposed 
action (see 40 CFR 1501.7).
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such a way that they are useful to the Agency's preparation of 
the revised plan and the EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided 
prior to the close of the comment period and should clearly articulate 
the reviewers' concerns and contentions. The submission of timely and 
specific comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in 
subsequent administrative appeal or judicial review.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including the 
names and addresses of those who comment will be part of the public 
record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered.
    Send written comments to:

Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National 
Grasslands Oil and Gas Scoping
Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National 
Grasslands, 2840 Kachina Dr., Pueblo, Colorado 81008.
    Submit electronic comments to psicc_oandg@fs.fed.us.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments should be as specific as 
possible. Only individuals or entities who submit timely and specific 
written

[[Page 29321]]

comments will have eligibility (36 CFR 218.5) to file an objection 
under 36 CFR 218.8. For objection eligibility, each individual or 
representative from each entity submitting timely and specific written 
comments must either sign the comment or verify identity upon request. 
Issues raised in an objection must be based on previously submitted 
timely, specific written comments regarding the proposed action unless 
based on new information arising after the designated comment 
opportunities.
    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: May 14, 2013.
Jerri Marr,
Forest Supervisor, Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron 
and Comanche National Grasslands.
[FR Doc. 2013-11909 Filed 5-17-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P