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Memo from DOI Deputy Secretary on NEPA Review Process

Posted By Mark Ellis, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The attached signed memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) considers and incorporates each Bureau's feedback for the thorough and timely consideration of environmental impacts analyzed within an Environmental Assessment (EA) document.


On August 31, 2017, DOI issued Secretary's Order 3355 to improve DOI’s environmental review processes under the National Environmental

Policy Act (NEPA).


Section 4b of the Order directed the Department's Bureau and Office heads to recommend target page and time goals for the preparation of Environmental Assessments (EA) where a Bureau is the Lead Agency.


The President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recommends that EAs be approximately 10-15 pages and be completed in three months or less.  DOI generally produces EAs that are approximately 30-40 pages.  In certain circumstances, EAs may need to exceed the CEQ’s guidance.  In these instances, DOI Bureaus should strive to complete EAs in 75 pages or less and conclude the EA review with 180 calendar days of the commencement date.  The memorandum also addresses EA tracking and management, EA team and solicitor assignments, meeting EA page and timeline goals, public involvement, contractor guidance and Bureau NEPA handbooks.  All of which are structured to streamline DOI’s environmental review processes.

This memorandum was sent to all Assistant Secretaries, Heads of Bureaus and Offices and NEPA Practitioners.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  DOI  Environmental Assessment  Environmental Impact Statement  NEPA 

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IMA-NA Comments on Draft List of Critical Minerals

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, March 19, 2018

On February 16th, the Department of Interior published their Draft List of Critical Minerals. This Draft List is the next step in implementing President Trump's goals set in Executive Order 13817, “A Federal Strategy To Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals,” issued on December 20, 2017. The Executive Order recognizes the importance of mineral commodities generally, but specifically certain mineral commodities vital to the security and prosperity of the United States. The Secretary of the Interior’s Draft List of Critical Minerals (“Draft List” or “List”) similarly recognizes the importance of mineral commodities generally, with a particular focus on 35 minerals or mineral material groups currently considered critical. 

It is important to note that the Draft List includes barite as a critical mineral. IMA-NA is clearly supportive of the inclusion of barite on the List, but also sees the development of a standard methodology for evaluating our mineral supply chain as a big step in the government prioritizing mineral resources. 

Click here to read IMA-NA's comments

Tags:  administration  barite  critical minerals  department of interior  DOI  minerals science  president  Regulations  Trump 

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Senate Releases FY18 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Monday, November 20th, the Senate Committee on Appropriations released the Chairman's recommendations for the FY18 budgets for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.  The bill contains many expected recommendations including, cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and some notable differences from President Trump's proposed budget such as, maintaining FY17 funding levels for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and increasing funding for Indian Affairs. The understood desire is to restore the EPA and affiliated agencies to a more traditional understanding of the mission to clean up the environment.  Additionally, the bill leans towards funding for programs that encourage infrastructure investment and responsible land development.

Of particular note is the preservation of funding for the US Geological Survey (USGS) at FY17 levels and in fact, a slight increase in funding for the Minerals Resources programs. As a member of the Minerals Science and Information Coalition (MSIC), IMA-NA has been active in fighting for renewed investment in the important work at USGS, which has been steadily decreased for the last 30 years. We commend the Committee's decision and Senator Murkowski's particular commitment to the investment in minerals science. 

To read the press release from the Committee click here 

To read the full proposal click here

Tags:  appropriations  budget  DOI  environment  EPA  minerals science  MSIC  Senate 

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Cabinet Confirmations Move Forward - Zinke and Perry

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, March 2, 2017

In the past two days, the Senate has approved two more Cabinet members for the Trump Administration. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) was confirmed as Secretary of Interior on March 1st, by a vote of 68-31. Secretary Zinke won the support of all voting Republican and 17 Democrat Senators in his confirmation.  The former Navy Seal served just one term as the At-Large Representative for the State of Montana before being tapped by President Trump for the position of Secretary of Interior.  A self fashioned Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, Secretary Zinke, hopefully brings a sense of balance between conservation and responsible land development to his new position. As mentioned by IMA-NA previously, while Secretary Zinke's Congressional record is relatively short there are indications that under his leadership the Department of Interior will be open to working closely with industry, states, and stakeholders to ensure the United States is making the best use of our natural resources in a way that allows future generations to enjoy the same access.

Today, the Senate confirmed former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) for the position of Secretary of Energy by a vote of 62-37. The former Governor of Texas will now be in the position of leading a department he vowed to abolish during his past presidential campaigns. In his role as Secretary of Energy, Perry will oversee over the maintenance of the country's nuclear stockpile as well as the Department's grants and loans and national R&D laboratories. While the focus of the Department of Energy is not on the development of energy sources many are hoping that Secretary Perry's experience with the benefits of the robust and diverse energy portfolio of Texas will lead to the maintenance of key grants and loans to research in the renewable sector. The impact on DOE funded R&D across the country will develop as Secretary Perry begins his new role in directing the agenda. 


Bonus trivia: On his first day as Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke rode into work on a National Park Service horse named Tonto.

Tags:  administration  confirmation  DOE  DOI  perry  rick perry  ryan zinke  zinke 

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Final Rule on Hydraulic Fracturing Released

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, March 20, 2015

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final rule on the use of hydraulic fracturing to recover oil and natural gas on federal and Indian lands.  The BLM originally published a proposed in on May 11, 2012, but given significant public interest it published a supplemental notice and request for comments on May 24, 2013.  While the final rule has yet to be published in the Federal Register, an advance copy is available for viewing here. The final rule will become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

According to the final rule, the rule "fulfills the goals of the initial proposed rule:  To ensure that wells are properly constructed to protect water supplies, to make certain that the fluids that flow back to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations are managed in an environmentally responsible way, and to provide public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.  The rule also:  (1) Improves public awareness of where hydraulic fracturing has occurred and the existence of other wells or geologic faults or fractures in the area, as well as communicates what chemicals have been used in the fracturing process; (2) Clarifies and strengthens existing rules related to well construction to ensure integrity and address developments in technology; (3) Aligns requirements with state and tribal authorities with regard to water zones that require protection; and (4) Provides opportunities to coordinate standards and processes with individual states and tribes to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and promote the development of more stringent standards by state and tribal governments."

"Key changes to the final rule include:  (1) The allowable use of an expanded set of cement evaluation tools to help ensure that usable water zones have been isolated and protected from contamination; (2) Replacement of the "type well" concept to demonstrate well integrity with a requirement to demonstrate well integrity for all wells; (3) More stringent requirements related to claims of trade secrets exempt from disclosure; (4) More protective requirements to ensure that fluids recovered during hydraulic fracturing operations are contained; (5) Additional disclosure and public availability of information about each hydraulic fracturing operation; and (6) Revised records retention requirements to ensure that records of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are retained for the life of the well."

"The final rule also provides opportunities for the BLM to coordinate standards and processes with individual states and tribes to reduce administrative costs and to improve efficiencies."

The House and Senate Republicans have already come out in opposition to BLM's final rule. The GOP stance is this new rule will stifle the boom in energy development in the United States and create unnecessary costs for energy companies.

Relatedly, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S. 828 yesterday, to clarify that a state has the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land within the boundaries of the state.  Neither a summary nor the text of the bill are available at this time.  The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resource.

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal lands account for about 11% of the natural gas and 5% of the oil that the U.S. consumes.  The Journal notes that drilling on private or state-owned lands won't be subject to the regulations.  However, part of the federal government's goal is to create national standards for hydraulic fracturing that states and companies can adopt.  The Journal reports that some analysts feel the rules won't be unduly burdensome, perhaps contributing less than 0.5% to average well costs.

Tags:  BLM  Congress  DOI  energy  fracking  hydraulic fracturing  natural gas  Regulations 

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