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Compliance With Land Use Planning and NEPA Prior to Issuance of Federal Oil and Gas Leases

Denise A. Dragoo, Regulation and Development of Coalbed Methane (2002)

The tremendous increase of coalbed methane (CBM) exploration and development occurring in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana has tested the limit; of existing land use plans governing federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as land management agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior (Department), developed Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the PRB some 10-15 years ago, prior to commercial-scale CBM development. BLM has recognized the need to update all 162 of its land use plans under the Federal Land Policy & Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA),1 and National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).2 Priority has been given to RMPs affecting the National Energy Policy and the BLM has recently undertaken environmental in pact statements (EISs) addressing CBM development within RMPs for both the Montana and Wyoming PRB.3 The Draft EIS and Draft Planning Amendment for the PRB Oil and Gas Project (WY-070-02-065) released in January 2002, proposes to amend the Buffalo and Platte River RMPs and develop some 39,400 new CBM wells over a 10-year period in the 8 million acre project area encompassing Campbell, Converse, Johnston and Sheridan Counties, Wyoming. In Montana, BLM is amending the Billings and Powder River RMPs to address CBM development. BLM and the State of Montana are preparing a joint E IS accompanying the RMP amendments to address oil.