The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now taking public comments on how to do an Environmental Impact Statement on a request by 9 oil and gas companies to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for bats covering any and all their potential development activities in three states over the next 50 years. (formal notice)
Oil and gas activities in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania by these companies would be included.
The 9 companies are: Antero Resources Corporation; Ascent Resources, LLC; Chesapeake Energy Corporation; EnLink Midstream L.P.; EQT Corporation; MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P., MPLX L.P., and Marathon Petroleum Corporation; Rice Energy, Inc., Southwestern Energy Company; and The Williams Companies, Inc.
The proposed EIS and Conservation Plan would cover 5 species of bats-- the Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat (both federal and state endangered species) and the Little Brown bat (being reviewed), Eastern Small-Footed bat (determined listing not warranted in 2013) and the Tri-Colored bat (being reviewed).
The Plan and EIS would cover all activities of these companies, including seismic testing, well pad development, gathering and midstream pipelines and all other development activities. No specific projects in specific areas were proposed as part of this process.
If successful in this request, these companies would avoid the preparation of individual Habitat Conservation Plans for specific projects, but instead would rely on the general rules and approaches outlined in the EIS and the multi-state Habitat Conservation Plan to avoid, minimize and restore habitat impacted by projects.
It is important to note, this proposal would not affect state-named endangered, threatened or species of special concern reviews now done for individual permits for these kinds of projects.
State agencies like the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions defer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the protection of federally-listed endangered and threatened species during reviews of individual project permits.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold public meetings to accept comments on how to develop the proposed EIS at these locations in Pennsylvania--
-- December 12: Chartiers Township Community Center, Banquet Room, 2013 Community Centre Drive, Houston, Washington County from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m;
-- December 16: Genetti Hotel, Washington Room, 200 West Fourth Street, Williamsport, Lycoming County from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m; and
-- December 20 Webinar: 6:00 p.m. Click Here to register.
Public comments are due by December 27.
There are still several additional steps in this process that could take several years, including preparation of the EIS itself and the development of the formal Habitat Conservation Plan by the 9 companies that both involve their own public review requirements, but could occur in parallel.
The Game and Fish and Boat Commissions are now reviewing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notice to determine what comments to submit give the narrow scope of the comments requested-- how to prepare an EIS on the request by the 9 companies.
Some of the issues being discussed so far include--
-- The 50 year length of the proposed Plan and the scope of the proposal covering all potential activities by these 9 companies three entire states; and
-- The number of species covered-- 5 bats when there are 30 additional endangered or threatened species of animals and 9 plants listed by the federal government.
For more information, read the formal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Oil & Gas Coalition Multi-State Habitat Conservation Plan notice.
More information on DEP’s review of individual reviews of permits for their impact on endangered, threatened and species of special concern, Click Here for DEP formal policy in this area and Click Here for an FAQ on the process.
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