After obtaining a lease in a valid sale, the operator will apply to BLM/FS for approval to develop exploratory (or “pilot”) projects, and in the case of proven reserves, for full-field development. This is a third level of public participation – as these projects all require compliance with NEPA. An environmental assessment (EA) is usually prepared, and if the impacts are significant to the human environment, an EIS must be prepared. This is a key time for the interested and affected public to voice their concerns with the project, as at this time, the actual location of the proposed oil and gas development will be identified.
Accordingly, unlike the land use plan and pre-leasing NEPA decisions, this is the first time the public knows specifically where the development will occur on public lands. As such, site-specific factors can be raised, such as water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, old growth forest, threatened and endangered species or their habitat, wildlife corridors, brooding or nesting sites for important wildlife species, and important aesthetic, cultural and historical concerns.
Additional Information on the NEPA Process: