No lessee can undertake any activity that disturbs the surface of a leased parcel and requires reclamation without an approved Application for Permit to Drill (APD). The APD is the fourth and final stage before the drill bit breaks the ground – therefore, it is a critical time for public involvement, as NEPA requires an EA at the very minimum in terms of the environmental analysis at this stage. In essence, this is the public’s last crack at providing input, voicing concerns, and appealing, if necessary, APDs that are approved in violation of the law.
A complete APD must contain both a “drilling plan” and a “surface use plan of operations” (SUPO). The drilling plan describes the drilling program, maps out the surface and underground locations to be disturbed, provides geological data, predicts hazards (such as releases of oil to nearby streams), and proposes ways to avoid such releases or to mitigate their effects. The Forest Service is in charge of reviewing and approving the drilling plan. The surface use plan describes the location of the roads and drill pads, provides specifics of the pad construction, details methods for containing and disposing of waste material and sets out plans for reclaiming the surface. The Forest Service is in charge of reviewing and approving the SUPO and the environmental analysis that accompanies it. Before activities can begin, BLM must issue the approval for the APD, which in turn requires that BLM has approved the drilling plan and that the Forest Service has approved the SUPO.
Most importantly, before the BLM can approve an APD, the agencies must first post a notice of the proposed action, including the terms of the lease and a map or description of the affected lands. The BLM may not act on an APD until this notice has been posted in the appropriate BLM state office (and, for Forest Service lands, the appropriate Forest Service office) for thirty days, regardless of other considerations. BLM must also notify and consult with any “interested parties” upon receipt of an APD. The notice issued by BLM should include the name and address of the responsible BLM official. This 30-day period may be your only opportunity to tell BLM and the Forest Service of your concerns about the proposed drilling activity. Importantly, inadequate NEPA analyses at Stage 1 (RMP), 2 (lease) or 3 (project-level) can be remedied by challenging a single APD, which could halt development until the NEPA process is correctly followed and completed.
More Information on APDs can be found at the link below::
Additional Information on the NEPA Process: