GILLETTE, Wyo. — This morning, the Bureau of Land Management released proposals regarding federal coal leasing in the Buffalo Field Office area and set dates for public meetings.
In 2022, the U.S. Montana District Court ordered the BLM to produce a draft supplemental environmental impact statement and potential amendment to the 2015 Buffalo Field Office Approved Resource Management Plan for a 90-day public comment period. The court ordered the plan to provide alternatives for federal coal leasing in the Buffalo Field Office and updated information and analysis regarding the health impacts from the production of fossil fuels.
The analysis identifies three alternatives for comment and further review, the ePlanning project website said.
1. No Action – BLM would maintain current decisions on coal management. 48 billion short-tons of BLM-administered federal coal would remain available for future leasing.
2. No Leasing – BLM-administered federal coal would be designated as unsuitable for future leasing. Mining could continue on existing leases until the leased coal is exhausted.
3. Limited Leasing – 1.24 billion short tons of BLM-administered federal coal would be available for future leasing, which meets the Department of Energy’s coal production forecast.
Wyoming State Director Andrew Archuleta selected No Leasing and Limited Leasing as co-preferred alternatives, the BLM said.
“BLM is required by regulation to select at least one preferred alternative, or more if appropriate, in the draft environmental impact statement,” BLM High Plains District Public Affairs Specialist Tyson Finnicum said. “In this case, both co-preferred alternatives meet the purpose and need of the project and respond to the court’s order. Worth noting is that identification of a preferred alternative does not constitute a decision or commitment. The preferred alternative could change between draft EIS, final EIS, and final decision.”
The no-leasing and limited-leasing alternatives aren’t consistent with the 2022 Campbell County Natural Resource Land Use Plan, as the county’s policy is that federally managed lands shall remain open and available for mineral resource exploration, development and production unless administrative withdrawal or other action is necessary to protect the national security and withdrawal procedures are fully followed, the document said.
Opportunities to respond
The BLM will hold an in-person public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. May 31 at the George Amos Memorial Building, 412 S. Gillette Ave., Gillette. The bureau will also hold an online public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. June 5. Registration information is available on the ePlanning project website.
The BLM said it prefers that comments be in by Aug. 2 so it can consider them in the final supplemental environmental impact statement. The court decided that the BLM has until Aug. 3 to complete new coal screening and National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedure Act analysis. New coal, oil and gas leases in the Buffalo and Miles City areas have to satisfy environmental analyses and meet requirements of the court, NEPA and the APA.
Comments can be submitted through the Participation Periods link on this page, emailed to BLM_WY_Buffalo_WYMail@blm.gov or mailed to Buffalo RMP Amendment SEIS, Attn: Thomas Bills, Project Manager, BLM Buffalo Field Office, 1425 Fort St., Buffalo, WY 82834.
For more information, call BLM Project Manager Tom Bills at 307-684-1133.