The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Friday announced an expansion of best management practices (BMP) for the fluids minerals industry to protect wildlife near oil, natural gas and geothermal facilities on federal land.
Fluid mineral facilities include natural gas, oil, geothermal facilities and associated structures authorized by the BLM through applications for permits to drill, geothermal drilling permits, sundry notices or fluid mineral associated rights-of-way.
Cooperation between the energy industry and BLM “has contributed in recent years to significant decreases in the number of wildlife deaths associated with oil and gas operations,” federal officials said. The updated BMPs are to build a “consistent policy approach and set of practices” for future activities.
“Identifying these mitigation strategies is critical to effectively carrying out the BLM’s multi-use mission,” said Acting BLM Director Mike Pool. “Responsive wildlife protection policies demonstrate our bureau’s fundamental commitment to promoting responsible energy development on public lands while safeguarding wildlife, livestock and public health.” Best practices established in the policy focus on five industry situations:
“All BLM field offices will ensure new fluid mineral permit approvals contain appropriate BMPs necessary for complying with existing federal energy, wildlife and environmental laws and regulations,” the agency said.
The new policy requires state-of-the-art environmental mitigation measures to be part of all approved permits. Through its Onshore Oil and Gas Order No. 1, the BLM also “encourages the industry to proactively include these best practices in their permit applications prior to a review” by the agency.
The BMPs identified in the new policy take into consideration “unique wildlife needs and the potential hazards of extractive industry operations.”
Specific mitigation strategies included under the policy would, for instance, require using closed loop systems or nets for managing fluids, constructing wildlife escape ramps in open excavation operations, and installing screens on all open exhaust stacks to prevent bird and bat entry or nesting.
Strategies also are included to reduce threats to “important” bird species, such as the greater sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken, BLM said. “For these species, demonstrably effective mitigation measures will utilize fence markings around production facility exclosures to prevent wire collisions near mating areas. Increased industry adoption of these best practices at field sites across BLM lands promises to yield healthier environments.
The BMPs are considered critical to BLM’s efforts to reduce “preventable causes of wildlife mortality across the country while also protecting human health and safety,” officials said. “Many of the BMPs also improve safeguards against groundwater contamination and emissions that may affect water and air quality for humans and wildlife alike.”
When “appropriate” conditions for new permits are identified, BLM field offices plan to incorporate the new BMPs through the existing National Environmental Policy Act environmental review process, officials said.
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