Land Use Planning
The BLM’s regulations at 43 CFR 3420.1-4(d) require lands acceptable for coal leasing be screened prior to processing any coal leasing application. The screening can be done as part of a Resource Management Plan, a site specific NEPA analysis, or a combination of the two. The four specific land-use screening steps that are unique to developing land-use planning decisions for Federal coal lands include:
• Identification of coal with potential for development.
• Determination if the lands are unsuitable for coal development.
• Consideration of multiple-use conflicts.
• Surface owner consultation.
All coal leasing and exploration applications must also be considered in the context of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and generally require the completion of an Environment Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the identified tracts. The process begins after a cost recovery agreement between the BLM and the applicant is in place. An EA requires publication of the final document for public comment. An EIS requires publication of a draft document, receipt and analysis of public comments, and publication of a final document.
During the preparation of the EA or EIS the BLM will consult with other government agencies. Typically, this includes the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Depending on the specific requirements and conditions of the coal tract, it could also include a surface management agency, the state, Indian tribes or bands, or other agencies as needed. In addition, the BLM may analyze additional tract configurations beyond that proposed by the applicant. Tract reconfigurations will depend on a number of factors including maximizing the recovery of coal resources, land ownership and leasing availability per existing land use plans, and additional considerations unique to the circumstances of each leasing application. While the NEPA document is being prepared and after the final tract delineation is determined, the BLM will also establish the tract’s Fair Market Value.
Prior to issuing a lease, the BLM will also certify that the applicant meets the required Lessee Qualifications.