Forest Service puts O&G projects on fast track
Categorical exclusions to be used to speed small surface uses on federal leases
December 12, 2005
(Washington) The USDA Forest Service announced they are proposing to implement new procedures for moving federal leases for small oil and gas exploration and development projects through the permitting process by significantly streamlining the environmental review part of the paperwork process.
In a press release issued on Monday, December 12, the Forest Service said the proposal "would reduce unnecessary red tape and delay while keeping environmental protection for national forests and grasslands." The new proposal is expected to streamline the environmental review process from six months plus down to approximately two months.
The proposal would allow local forest and grassland units to use a categorical exclusion when approving surface uses, such as road access, drill pad construction and pipeline installation, for oil and gas exploration and development under federal lease. The new proposal is aimed at small scale projects that do not have significant environmental effects to human health or the environment.
"Categorical exclusions are defined as categories of actions that do not have a significant effect on the environment and therefore, do not require an EA or EIS. They are an existing tool provided for under the National Environmental Policy Act that has been used for decades on a broad range of land management activities," the news release stated.
"Projects under this proposed regulation could not include more than up to a mile each of new and reconstructed road, three miles of pipeline and four drill sites. Currently, these types of projects require an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS), which can take six months or longer to complete. This proposal would allow the environmental review process to be completed in about two months," said the release.
The proposal would apply only to activities where there are no extraordinary circumstances related to the project, such as significant adverse effects on threatened and endangered species or their designated critical habitat, wilderness areas, inventoried roadless areas, wetlands and archeological or historic sites.
Public involvement opportunities would not be limited in any way under this action. Individuals would continue to have an opportunity to be involved in project planning on oil and gas leasing projects prior to their approval.
The public has 60 days to comment on the new proposal.
For more information, go online to: www.fs.fed.us to view the Federal Register notice, which includes instructions on how to send public comments.