[Federal Register: December 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 250)]
[Notices]              
[Page 79900-79902]

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Land Management
[LLWO300000.L91310000.PP000]
 
Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States

SUMMARY: In accordance with Section 202 of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality's regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508), and applicable agency guidance, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) and Approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendments for geothermal leasing in the western United States (U.S.). The decision is hereby made to amend 114 BLM land use plans covering public lands managed by the BLM under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) in order to allocate about 111 million acres of BLM-administered lands as open to geothermal leasing and to adopt a reasonably foreseeable development scenario, stipulations, best management practices (BMPs), and leasing procedures for geothermal resources within the 11 western states and Alaska. The Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management, in the Department of the Interior signed the ROD on December 17, 2008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack G. Peterson, BLM Project Manager at (208) 373-4048 (Jack_G_Peterson@blm.gov), BLM, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, Idaho 83706 or visit the PEIS Web site at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the ROD and Approved RMP Amendments are available for review via the Internet from a link at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS, as well as at BLM State Offices and Field Offices. Copies may also be obtained by contacting Jack G. Peterson at the address and phone number listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The ROD and Approved RMP Amendments for geothermal leasing in the western U.S. was developed through preparation of the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States. The NOA of the Final PEIS was published in the Federal Register on October 24, 2008 (73 FR 63430). The elements of the ROD and Approved RMP Amendments were evaluated through this PEIS, which was prepared in accordance with NEPA and FLPMA. Alternative B was identified as the Proposed Action in the Draft PEIS. As a result of public comment, internal review, and agency coordination, Alternative B was clarified and slightly modified to become the preferred alternative and proposed to amend 122 plans in the Final PEIS. The Approved RMP Amendments are identical to the proposed plan amendments presented in the Final PEIS except that the East San Diego County RMP has been removed from the list of plans for amendment because in October 2008 the BLM issued a ROD revising the RMP to include allocations and management for geothermal resources. In addition, the BLM is deferring the decision to amend the Box Elder RMP, House Range Resource Area RMP, Iso-tract Management Framework Plan (MFP), Park City RMP, Pony Express RMP, Randolph RMP, and Warm Springs Resource Area RMP in accordance with the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA Sec.  2815 [a and d], 113 Stat. 512, 852 [1999]). Based on these changes, the decision is to amend 114 BLM land use plans to adopt the allocations, reasonably foreseeable development scenario, stipulations, BMPs, and leasing procedures provided in Alternative B of the PEIS.
  
In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the ROD/Approved RMP Amendments facilitates geothermal leasing of the Federal mineral estate that has geothermal potential in the 11 western states and Alaska. In the ROD and Approved RMP Amendments, the BLM: (1) Identifies public lands with geothermal potential as being legally and administratively open or closed to leasing, and under what conditions; (2) provides a reasonably foreseeable development scenario; (3) develops a comprehensive list of stipulations, BMPs, and procedures to serve as consistent guidance for future geothermal leasing; and (4) provides information that the Forest Service (FS) can use to facilitate making consent determinations for any lease decisions on National Forest System lands. The Final PEIS also provided analysis on 19 specific pending lease applications located in seven geographic areas. This ROD/Approved RMP Amendments does not issue a decision for these applications. Separate RODs will be issued for the applications as the environmental review process is complete.
   
Over 530 million acres of the western U.S. and Alaska have been identified as potentially containing geothermal resources suitable for commercial electrical generation and other direct uses, such as heating. Much of the resource base is held in the Federal mineral estate, for which the BLM has the delegated authority for processing and issuing geothermal leases. The BLM is prohibited from issuing leases on statutorily closed lands (see 43 CFR 3201.11), including Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, lands contained in a unit of the National Park System, National Recreation Areas, Indian trust or restricted lands, and the Island Park Geothermal Areas (around the border of Yellowstone National Park). Other areas closed to leasing by existing laws, regulations, and Executive Orders include National Monuments and designated wild rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
   
Under the ROD/Approved RMP Amendments, the BLM also applies discretionary closures to: (1) Areas of Critical Environmental Concern where the BLM determines that geothermal leasing and development would be incompatible with the purposes for which the ACEC was designated, or that have management plans that expressly preclude new leasing; (2)National Conservation Areas, except the California Desert Conservation Area; and (3) other lands in the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System, such as historic and scenic trails.
   
Approximately 143 million acres of public (BLM) lands and 104 million acres of National Forest System lands have geothermal potential. The ROD/Approved RMP Amendments identifies approximately 111 million acres of public lands as available to potential geothermal leasing subject to existing laws, regulations, formal orders, stipulations attached to the lease form, and terms and conditions of the standard lease form. To protect special resource values, the BLM has developed a comprehensive list of stipulations, conditions of approval, and BMPs.
   
As noted above, the BLM manages the public lands pursuant to FLPMA. Under FLPMA, in order for geothermal resource leasing and development to take place on the public lands that BLM manages, such activities must be provided for in the land use plan (also termed RMP) for the affected administrative unit. Under the ROD/Approved RMP Amendments, the BLM amends 114 RMPs to adopt the allocations, reasonably foreseeable development scenario, stipulations, BMPs, and procedures analyzed in the PEIS. In most cases, the BLM will be able to issue geothermal leases on the basis of the analysis contained in this document. The FS will use the PEIS to facilitate subsequent consent decisions for leasing on National Forest System lands. The following BLM RMPs and MFPs are amended with this ROD:

 Table 1--BLM Land Use Plans Proposed for Amendment Under the PEIS 
 

State Land use plan(s)
Alaska

Central Yukon RMP
Kobuk-Seward RMP
Ring of Fire RMP

Arizona

Arizona Strip RMP
Kingman RMP
Lake Havasu RMP
Lower Gila North MFP
Lower Gila South RMP
Phoenix RMP
Safford RMP
Yuma RMP

CaliforniaAlturas RMP
Arcata RMP
Bishop RMP
Caliente RMP
Cedar Creek/Tule Mountain
Integrated RMP
Eagle Lake RMP
Headwaters RMP
Hollister RMP
Redding RMP
S. Diablo Mountain Range and Central Coast RMP
South Coast RMP
Surprise RMP
West Mojave RMP
Colorado

Glenwood Springs RMP
Grand Junction RMP
Gunnison RMP
Kremmling RMP
Little Snake RMP
Northeast RMP
Royal Gorge RMP
San Juan/San Miguel RMP
Uncompahgre Basin RMP
White River RMP

IdahoBennett Hills/Timmerman Hills MFP
Big Desert MFP
Big Lost MFP
Bruneau MFP
Cascade RMP
Cassia RMP
Challis RMP
Chief Joseph MFP
Jarbidge RMP
Kuna MFP
Lemhi RMP
Little Lost-Birch MFP
Magic MFP
Malad MFP
Medicine Lodge RMP
Monument RMP
Owyhee RMP
Pocatello RMP
Sun Valley MFP
Twin Falls MFP
Montana Big Dry RMP
Billings Resource Area RMP
Dillon RMP
Garnet Resource Area RMP
Judith Valley Phillips RMP
North Headwaters RMP
Powder River Resource Area RMP
West HiLine RMP
Nevada Carson City Consolidated RMP
Elko RMP
Las Vegas RMP
Paradise-Denio MFP
Shoshone-Eureka RMP
Sonoma-Gerlach MFP
Tonopah RMP
Wells RMP 
New MexicoCarlsbad RMP
Farmington RMP
MacGregor Range RMP
Mimbres RMP
Rio Puerco RMP
Roswell RMP
Socorro RMP
Taos RMP
White Sands RMP
OregonBrothers/LaPine RMP
Eugene District RMP
John Day River RMP
John Day RMP
Lower Deschutes RMP
Medford RMP
Roseburg RMP
Salem RMP
Three Rivers RMP
Two Rivers RMP
UtahBook Cliffs MFP
Cedar Beaver Garfield Antimony RMP
Diamond Mountain RMP
Henry Mountain MFP
Mountain Valley MFP
Paria MFP
Parker Mountain MFP
Pinyon MFP
St. George (formerly Dixie) RMP
Vermilion MFP
Zion MFP
WashingtonSpokane RMP
Wyoming

Big Horn Basin RMP
Buffalo RMP
Cody RMP
Grass Creek RMP
Great Divide RMP
Green River RMP
Kemmerer RMP
Lander RMP
Newcastle RMP
Pinedale RMP
Platte River RMP
Snake River RMP
Waskakie RMP

Public involvement in preparation of the Geothermal Leasing PEIS was extensive, as documented in the PEIS and the ROD. Results of the 60-day Governors' Consistency Review of the PEIS, as required by BLM planning regulations, were favorable in that none of the Governors objected to the proposed plan amendments.

Michael D. Nedd, Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management, Bureau of Land Management.
[FR Doc. E8-30883 Filed 12-29-08; 8:45 am]