UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
 
September 30, 2005
 
In Reply Refer To:
3160 (310), 1790 (210), 2800 (350) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 09/30/2005
Instruction Memorandum No. 2005-247
Expires: 09/30/2006
 
To:             All Field Officials
 
From:          Director
 
Subject:       National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance for Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Development
                            
Program Areas: Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Exploration and Operations; Lands and Realty (energy-related rights-of-way); Environmental Coordination.
 
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance for improved NEPA compliance in oil, gas, and geothermal exploration and development operations on public lands. It specifically provides instructions for developing a range of reasonable alternatives in environmental impact statements (EIS) for oil, gas, and geothermal development projects; interim guidance on the application and use of statutory NEPA categorical exclusions (CX), as granted in Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for oil and gas exploration and development; expanded use of multiple well environmental assessments (EA) and EISs; expanded use of the Documentation of NEPA Adequacy (DNA); and consideration and application of Best Management Practices (BMP).
 
Background: Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the “Act”) established five new statutory NEPA CXs. These exclusions are different in several respects from those historically used by the Bureau.
 
Additionally, the increasing number of approved and anticipated oil, gas, and geothermal projects on public lands, and the increase in the number, complexity, and controversy of EISs and other NEPA analyses associated with exploration and development of oil, gas, and geothermal resources, has prompted the need for additional national guidance.
 
Policy/Action: Field Offices are directed to incorporate the following NEPA procedures when analyzing and reviewing oil, gas, geothermal, and energy-related projects. This interim policy is in effect until Departmental Manuals, BLM Manuals, and/or BLM Handbooks are revised or additional guidance is issued. 
 
Range of Alternatives
 
Departmental Manuals, guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and BLM Handbooks contain guidance for developing a range of reasonable alternatives in NEPA documents. Additional guidance for developing a range of reasonable alternatives for oil, gas, and geothermal development EISs is contained in Attachment 1. The attached guidance applies to all EISs that have not as yet progressed beyond publication of a draft document, and strong consideration should be given to those documents in the final preparation stages (final EIS), but have not been approved for publication. Environmental Assessments are not addressed by the policy contained within Attachment 1.
 
Section 390 Categorical Exclusions (CX)
 
Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established five new statutory CXs that apply only to oil and gas exploration and development (the CXs do not apply to geothermal actions). These CXs are different in application from the CXs previously used by the BLM, and are further described in Attachment 2.
 
Until further guidance is issued, the guidance in Attachment 2 is to be carefully followed to assure accurate and consistent application of the new CXs. 
 
Field Offices shall maintain a structured, multi- or interdisciplinary permit review and approval process, conduct onsite exams for 100 percent of proposed well and road locations, and shall apply appropriate mitigation and BMPs to all permitted actions, in accordance with existing land use plans, full field development EIS, and other pertinent NEPA documents, even when actions are approved through the use of Section 390 CXs. 
 
Multiple Well EA/EIS
 
An EA or EIS prepared for development of two or more oil, gas, or geothermal wells provides substantial time savings over writing individual EAs or EISs for each well approval and generally results in improved impact analysis.
 
Effective immediately, all BLM Offices will address multiple proposed activities (e.g. multiple wells within a field) through a single NEPA action, whenever practical (Attachment 3 provides specific guidance).
 
Documentation of NEPA Adequacy (DNA)
 
The appropriate use of DNAs for oil, gas and geothermal operations is to be expanded in all Field Offices (Attachment 4 and WO IM 2001-162 provide detailed guidance).
 
Tracking
 
The use of Section 390 CXs is to be tracked and tabulated for Fiscal Year 2006 on the table in Attachment 5. If any Section 390 CXs were approved during Fiscal Year 2005, add them into the Fiscal Year 2006 table. Maintain the table in each Field Office as a reference for addressing future CX data calls.
 
Timeframe: Implement immediately.
 
Budget Impact: Full implementation of these policies is expected to provide substantial savings in staff time and budget associated with approval of APDs and related realty actions. 
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: NEPA Handbook H-1790-1.
 
Coordination: Coordination occurred among the Washington Office Fluid Minerals Group; Planning, Assessment and Community Support Group; Land and Realty Group; and Office of the Solicitor – Department of the Interior.
 
Contact: Please direct any questions to Tom Hare, Washington Office Fluid Minerals Group (WO-310), at (202) 452‑5182 or tom_hare@blm.gov, Jordon Pope, Washington Office Planning, Assessment and Community Support Group (WO-210), at (202) 452‑5048 or jordon_pope@blm.gov, Ron Montagna, Lands and Realty Group (WO‑350), at (202) 452-7782 or ron_montagna@blm.gov .
 
Signed by:
Authenticated by:
Kathleen Clarke
Barbara J. Brown
Director
Policy & Records Group, WO-560
 
5 Attachments