Why the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS Is Needed
The Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is needed to support BLM proposed planning actions to reassess the appropriate mix of allowable uses with respect to oil shale and tar sands leasing and potential development and to maintain compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which specifies when EISs must be prepared.
The 2008 Final PEIS was required under Section 369 (d) (1) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was prepared in cooperation with 14 federal, state, and local governmental organizations. The Record of Decision for the 2008 PEIS amended 10 land use plans in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to make public lands available for potential leasing and development of oil shale and tar sands resources. These amendments made approximately 2 million acres available for application for oil shale leasing and approximately 430,000 acres available for application for tar sands leasing. Together with the regulations published in 2006 and 2008 for oil shale and tar sands resources, the 2008 PEIS and subsequent land use amendments established an oil shale and tar sands program as mandated in the Act.
The BLM has taken a fresh look at the land use plan allocation decisions made in the 2008 ROD in order to consider excluding certain lands from future leasing of oil shale and tar sands resources. Given the experimental state of the oil shale and tar sands industries, the BLM, through its planning process, has taken a hard look at whether future leasing opportunities should be focused on lower conflict lands within 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. On January 16, 2009, a lawsuit was filed by several organizations challenging the 2008 ROD. Consistent with its settlement of this lawsuit, the BLM is engaged in a planning initiative that is taking a fresh look at the allocation decisions made in the 2008 ROD. This new planning initiative has also provided the BLM an opportunity to consider what public lands might be best suited for this kind of development in light of information not available in 2008. The 2012 Final PEIS analysis was prepared to support this planning initiative. Because the BLM is determining whether and how to amend several plans, rather than just one, the NEPA analysis was prepared at a programmatic level.
National Environmental Policy Act
Federal laws and regulations require the federal government to evaluate the effects of its actions on the environment and to consider alternative courses of action. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) specifies when an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. NEPA requires that an EIS be prepared for major federal actions with the potential for significant impact on the quality of the human environment.
Under the BLM planning regulations at 43 CFR Part 1600 amendment of a resource management plan can be considered through preparation of an environmental assessment, which is a more concise environmental analysis, or an EIS. The BLM determined that preparation of an EIS was appropriate in this instance, to support analysis of the proposed land use allocation decisions regarding oil shale and tar sands resources.
Energy and the Environment
Environmental protection is an integral part of energy production.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the Act), Public Law 109-58 (H.R. 6), enacted August 8, 2005, directed the Secretary of the Interior (the Secretary) to complete a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for a commercial leasing program for oil shale and tar sands resources on public lands with an emphasis on the most geologically prospective lands within each of the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The Act addresses the Nation's need for ensuring greater security and affordability in our energy supply while also protecting the environment. Any steps the BLM takes to implement the Energy Policy Act will continue to include thorough environmental review and analysis.
Nothing in the Energy Policy Act changes the requirements of environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.
In addition, the BLM remains committed to the principles of cooperative conservation and community collaboration with the many groups interested in environmentally responsible management of the public lands.