Good news for those of us working to maintain the balance between oil and gas development and the natural beauty and agricultural economy of the Beartooth Front.
Three leases in the Beartooth Foothills will not be put up for sale as planned next week, the BLM announced today. The parcels were scheduled to be part of an online auction on March 13.
The BLM had proposed offering 109 parcels covering nearly 63,500 acres in an online auction to be held March 12 and 13. The scattered parcels stretch across Central Montana from the Canadian border to the Wyoming state line. The BLM has decided to defer the rights to explore for oil and gas on 26 parcels and on a portion of two additional parcels, totaling about 17,300 acres. These parcels are located near the city of Livingston, and in the foothills surrounding the Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges in Montana.Three parcels, totaling about 2100 acres, were part of the planned auction. All were in southern Stillwater County.
The remaining 83 parcels covering nearly 46,200 acres in Montana are being offered for oil and gas leasing through a competitive online auction. Information on the parcels including details on how to register in advance as a bidder is available at EnergyNet.com.
Map of deferrals in the March lease sale. Click on map for more detail.
The BLM awards oil and gas leases for a period of 10 years, and for as long thereafter as there is production in paying quantities. The revenue from the sale of federal leases, as well as the 12.5 percent royalties collected from the production of those leases, is shared between the federal government and the states.
Leases on BLM land are put up for sale when there is a request from a company that wants to exploit mineral resources. The process is governed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.
To meet NEPA requirements federal agencies prepare a detailed statement known as an environmental assessment. EPA reviews and comments on environmental assessments prepared by other federal agencies, maintains a national filing system for all assessments, and assures that its own actions comply with NEPA.
The environmental assessment involves two steps:
- Public Scoping: This step involves the community in determining whether there are environmental impacts that need to be considered. These impacts might include:
- Significant natural resources such as ecosystems and threatened and endangered species;
- Commercial and recreational fisheries;
- Current recreational uses of the land and waterways;
- effects on water users;
- Effects of potential controls on current lake and waterway uses such as flood risk management, commercial and recreational navigation, recreation, water supply, hydropower and conveyance of effluent from wastewater treatment plants and other industries; and
- Statutory and legal responsibilities relative to use of land and water.
2. Preliminary environmental assessment: Public review of preliminary environmental assessment. This process takes 30 days before the final environmental assessment.