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Federal agencies release final Columbia River System Operations environmental impact statement
Bonneville Power Administration - 07/31/20 9:38 AM

PORTLAND, Ore.–The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration today released the Columbia River System Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement. The issuance of the final EIS is a substantial step toward accomplishment of a priority item of the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West issued in October 2018.

This final EIS documents the detailed analyses of environmental, social and economic benefits and consequences to affected resources of the alternatives considered for improved integrated operations.

The Preferred Alternative documented in the final EIS includes implementation of innovative dam operations that balance fish benefits and energy goals by spilling more water in the spring for juvenile fish passage.

If the Preferred Alternative is selected, measures it contains are anticipated to result in benefits to juvenile and adult Endangered Species Act–listed anadromous and resident fish and Pacific lamprey, while providing reliable flood risk management and flexibility for variability in climate conditions, water supply for irrigation, municipal and industry use, water, and flexibility in hydropower generation, minimizing adverse effects to the human and natural environment.

The final EIS includes the co-lead agencies’ analysis of effects of operation, maintenance and configuration of the Columbia River System, and responds to substantive comments on the draft EIS, which was released in February 2020. In all, the co-agencies hosted 6 virtual public meetings and received almost 59,000 comment letters on the draft EIS.

"The overwhelming response of Northwest tribes, the general public and other stakeholders helped us successfully complete the EIS," said Brig. Gen. D. Peter Helmlinger, Northwestern Division commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "The analysis in the final EIS will support the Record of Decision we will release in September."

The final EIS carries forward the Preferred Alternative identified in the draft EIS with an additional measure added as a result of ESA consultations. Public, agency and tribal comments helped identify areas that needed clarity or correction. New discussions in the document reflect these inputs and public comments and the results of independent external peer review.

The co-lead agencies plan to release a joint Record of Decision in September 2020 documenting which alternative evaluated in the final EIS will be selected for implementation.

"Throughout the development of the EIS, we have listened carefully to the diverse interests across the Pacific Northwest and worked to strengthen regional cooperation, partnerships and understanding of our shared interests," said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer. "We are committed to working with our many regional partners and customers to achieve the important goals of long-term salmon recovery and economic vitality for communities throughout the Columbia River Basin."

The final EIS is the result of more than three years of regional collaboration among the co-lead agencies and more than 30 Tribes, state, federal and county agencies in the National Environmental Policy Act process.

"Collaboration has been the cornerstone of this process. This document evaluates the necessary balance between responsible environmental stewardship and the multiple uses of the Columbia River System," said Reclamation Regional Director Lorri Gray.

This NEPA process responds to a U.S. District Court of Oregon Court Opinion and Order regarding the need to review and update management of the Columbia River System and evaluate impacts to resources in the context of new information and changed conditions in the Columbia River Basin since the last comprehensive update to the operating strategy for the Columbia River System was issued in 1995.

The document also includes, as appendices, recently completed biological opinions evaluating impacts from the Preferred Alternative on 13 species of salmon and steelhead along with other ESA–listed species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The biological opinions document ESA consultation on the continued operation and maintenance of the Columbia River System, and conclude that the Preferred Alternative is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.

Background

Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation to construct, operate and maintain the 14 federal dams as one interconnected system to meet multiple specified purposes, including flood risk management, navigation, hydropower generation, irrigation, fish and wildlife conservation, recreation and municipal and industrial water supply. The Bonneville Power Administration is authorized to market and transmit the power generated by coordinated system operations.

Built and put into service between 1938 and 1976, the Columbia River System provides valuable social and economic benefits to the region.


DOI and USDA renew commitment to protect public safety while addressing the threat of predators to livestock and urban-rural communities
Bureau of Land Management Ore. & Wash. - 07/29/20 3:22 PM

Partnership displays importance of increased access and recreational use of public lands

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) today renewed their partnership for alleviating human-wildlife conflicts on BLM-administered public lands. An updated Memorandum of Understanding clarifies respective roles and responsibilities for wildlife damage management and reducing predation on livestock across more than 245 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West and Alaska. The MOU will remain in effect for five years and replaces the previous agreement, signed in 2012.

“Under the Trump Administration, the BLM has increased access to and recreational opportunities on public lands. Reaffirming our partnership with APHIS-Wildlife Services allows us to take steps to protect the safety and the recreational experience of public land visitors and their pets while helping to ensure abundant wildlife,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “We also recognize the livestock community, as well as those with small children and pets in the urban-rural interface areas, must be protected from attacks by dangerous predators.”

“APHIS-WS and the BLM are Federal partners who have collaborated for decades to protect people, livestock and natural resources on public lands. This newly signed MOU continues and refines that important tradition,” said Janet Bucknall, Deputy Administrator for Wildlife Services.

“Catron County has a long-standing working relationship with Wildlife Services which provides essential wildlife damage management to our livestock producers as well as our constituents across the county. We applaud the renewed commitment,” said Catron County Commissioner Anita A. Hand. “Living in a rural county with vast wide open spaces negative predator interactions can be devastating especially for our families with small children. Livestock production is crucial to our economy and the clarification of the respective roles and responsibilities is vital. We hope to see this commitment across all public lands throughout our county.” 

The MOU recognizes the importance of recreational activities on public lands. Both agencies will carefully evaluate the safety and recreation experiences of public land visitors and their pets prior to undertaking wildlife damage management activities in support of other multiple use management objectives. 

Both agencies are committed to ensuring that any wildlife damage management activity on BLM National Conservation Lands will be consistent with the requirements of designating legislation or proclamations and other applicable laws. The BLM will share relevant information for meeting these requirements during its review of APHIS-WS annual plans and will complete a Minimum Requirements Analysis for any activities APHIS-WS proposes to conduct in Wilderness areas.

“With ever increasing predator populations, it is critical that federal land and wildlife management agencies coordinate along with impacted communities to protect people, private property and wildlife like deer and elk,” said New Mexico Federal Lands Council President Don L. (Bebo) Lee.

The BLM and APHIS will continue to coordinate regularly and closely to ensure that wildlife damage management activities are analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). APHIS-WS will serve as the lead agency in preparing NEPA analysis of damage-management activities and the BLM as a cooperating agency, except in situations where the BLM specifically requests APHIS-WS assistance in managing wildlife damage on public lands it administers. In these instances, the BLM will serve as lead and APHIS-WS as cooperating agency. The BLM managers will continue to review APHIS-WS wildlife damage management plans annually and provide information so these plans conform with the BLM resource management plans.

APHIS-WS’s mission is to provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist. APHIS-WS is the federal agency with recognized expertise and authority under the Act of March 2, 1931, as amended, and the Act of December 22, 1987, for providing WDM services, which establish APHIS-WS as the lead agency for wildlife damage management activities.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

-BLM-

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.


The Trump Administration proposes updates to oil and gas regulations
Bureau of Land Management Ore. & Wash. - 07/29/20 1:32 PM

Proposed changes ensure fair return for taxpayers and clarify regulations for producers 

WASHINGTON – In support of President Donald J. Trump’s America-First Energy Strategy, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced proposed revisions to three key regulations governing oversight of oil and gas production and reporting. The proposed regulations are designed to reduce burdensome bureaucracy, redundant recordkeeping and measurement requirements, while ensuring that taxpayers receive accurate royalties from oil and gas produced on Federal and Tribal lands.

“These proposed enhancements streamline regulations to ensure that our oversight of energy production on America’s public lands is consistent and fair,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor.

“We’re continuing our work to ensure safe, abundant, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. “The BLM promotes responsible and safe oil and gas development on public lands and is committed to making sure these valuable resources are reported properly and measured accurately.”

Federal royalties generated from onshore oil and gas production on Federal lands totaled nearly $4.23 billion in Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, production on Tribal lands generated nearly $1.14 billion. Revenue from production royalties are distributed entirely to Tribes and shared with the states in which those revenues are generated, making the oil and gas industry an indispensable source of revenue for schools, healthcare, infrastructure and other public services across the West. These updates support the Administration’s work to relieve burdens adversely impacting investments that generate these royalties. 

In total, oil and gas development on BLM-managed lands supported more than 300,000 jobs and contributed $71.5 billion in output to the U.S. economy in fiscal year 2018. These contributions make it critical for the agency to ensure accurate measurement and reporting of production, while reducing unnecessary and burdensome requirements to protect jobs and facilitate reliable energy production. Oil and gas measurement performance requirements have been updated to account for production volumes and risk to mismeasurement. More accurate measurement is required at higher producing leases. Such updates are necessary because vast royalties are generated from smaller, local operations that were disproportionately impacted by the previous regulations. 

The proposed rule would revise three regulations to ensure proper handling of oil and gas production, which is essential for accurate measurement, proper reporting and overall production accountability. Taken together, the proposed new rules would remove or modify unnecessarily complex and burdensome requirements, address logistical issues and eliminate inconsistencies. For example, the proposed rule reduces requirements for water-draining operations which are duplicative of existing seal requirements.

“Our goal is to ensure maximum accountability and efficiency, while making sure that operators are able to develop America’s energy resources on public lands for the benefit of the American people and local communities across the nation. We will use the feedback and information we receive from the public and stakeholders to further refine and improve this proposal before making any final decision,” Mr. Pendley said.

Through these proposed changes, the BLM will ensure accurate reporting while significantly reducing duplicative and extensive recordkeeping requirements. Further, the proposals increase grandfathering of measurement equipment and inspection frequency, where accuracy and performance has already been verified.

The rulemaking follows the BLM’s review of the 2016 final rules for conformance with Executive Order 13783 Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, and Secretary’s Order 3349 American Energy Independence, which require agencies to ensure that regulations do not unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation. Based upon that review, the BLM found that the revisions would streamline regulations for oil and gas operators working on Federal and Indian lands.

Publication of the proposed regulations in the Federal Register will open a 60-day public comment period. The BLM will notify the public and stakeholders when the regulations publish, as well as publicizing the opening and closing dates of the comment period and instructions on how to comment. Before finalizing any regulations, the BLM will  review and respond to substantive public comments and may use any new information gathered to help guide the development of the revisions.

-BLM-

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.