A U.S. District Court order has forced the Bureau of Land Management back to the drawing board in Miles City.
The BLM’s Miles City Field Office is requesting information from industry, state and local governments, and the public for “relevant coal resource data” such as the “development potential (e.g., location, quality, and quantity) of BLM administered coal mineral estate, and on surface resource values related to multiple-use conflicts.”
The request for information is part of the BLM’s move to revise its 2015 Resource Management Plan for the region. That plan was successfully challenged in court by a coalition of environmental groups concerned that the plan failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering reductions in the amount of coal available for leasing or measures to reduce methane emissions.
In its notice of intent to amend the plan filed this week, the BLM said it relied on information from previous plans in 1996 and 1985 and with a belief that no new mines would be developed in the region during the next 20 years.
The reasonable foreseeable development scenario “did not consider leasing of the entire 68.38 billion tons of coal that may be available,” according to the notice in the Federal Register.
Because of that decision, and as a result of the March 26 court ruling, the BLM will now “consider an alternative that would decrease the amount of coal potentially available for leasing, which requires conducting new coal screening that considers climate change impacts to assess the amount of recoverable coal available in the Approved RMP, (2) The BLM must supplement the Miles City Final EIS with an analysis of the environmental consequences of downstream combustion of coal, oil, and gas open to development under the Approved RMP; and (3) The BLM must provide additional justification and analysis of global warming potential over an appropriate planning period consistent with evolving science.
A public scoping meeting on the issue is set for Dec. 13 at the Miles City Field Office, 111 Garryowen Road, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The 30-day comment period will end on Dec. 28. Comments sent by mail must be postmarked by this date in order to be considered.
More information, relevant documents and a venue for submitting comments are available on the BLM e-planning website (https://eplanning.blm.gov). Conduct a “Text Search” for “Land Use Plan” using the project NEPA number: DOI-BLM-MT-C020-2019-0004-RMP-EIS. Electronic comments may only be submitted via e-Planning.
Hard copy comments can be mailed or hand-delivered to the Miles City Field Office during business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), or mailed to: Miles City RMP Draft SEIS, Attn: Irma Nansel, 111 Garryowen Road, Miles City, MT 59301.