The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the opening of a 60-day comment period for public input on managing non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.
On many Service lands, including wildlife refuges, the federal government does not own the rights to subsurface minerals. Instead, mineral rights are owned by private individuals or other entities, which have the legal authority to develop their oil and gas resources.
Based on the Service’s best data, more than 200 refuges have oil and gas operations, including more than 5,000 wells, almost 1,600 actively producing oil and gas wells, and almost 1,300 miles of pipelines.
The rulemaking effort is part of the Service’s ongoing commitment to avoid or minimize adverse effects on natural and cultural resources and wildlife-dependent recreation, ensure a consistent and effective regulatory environment for oil and gas operators, and protect public health and safety.
The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on February 24. Comments must be received on or before April 25. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. The Service cannot accept email or faxes.
Written comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods:
· Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; or
· U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
“Throughout the process, the Service will work with the public, the oil and gas industry and conservation groups to ensure we are using the best management practices and other industry standards for the conservation of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats,” said Director Dan Ashe.
Since this is a formal rulemaking process with subsequent National Environmental Policy Act support, the Service anticipates the effort will take at least three years to complete.
Comments and materials, as well as supporting documentation, will be available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov under the above docket number. In addition, more details on the kinds of information the Service is seeking is available in the notice and will be posted online at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/oil-and-gas/