Rulemaking and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to update 50 year-old regulations governing the management of non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. The proposed revisions continue to allow for the responsible extraction of oil and gas, but require closer adherence to industry best management practices – especially with respect to abandoned infrastructure and debris.

Private individuals and other entities retain ownership of subsurface minerals on many Service lands, including national wildlife refuges, and have the legal right to develop those resources. The regulations will reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity.

More than 100 refuges have oil and gas operations, including almost 1,700 actively producing oil and gas wells, and thousands more inactive or plugged wells. While in most instances, impacts on refuge resources are minimal, improperly conducted oil and gas development on refuges can result in significant damage to wildlife and their habitats.

Written comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2012-0086]; or
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2012-0086]; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

The proposed rule and draft EIS will publish in the Federal Register on December 11, 2015. Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before February 9, 2016. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

Download a copy of the proposed rule and DEIS.

Read the Press Release.

Get answers to frequently asked questions.


Background

On February 24, 2014, the Service published the ANPR/NOI in the Federal Register opening a 60-day comment period that closed on April 25, 2014. The Service reopened the ANPR/NOI for another 30-day comment period until July 9, 2014.

The ANPR/NOI asks a series of questions regarding management and oversight of nonfederal oil and gas operations on Refuge System lands and waters. As part of the process, the Service is reviewing all comments the agency received since first publishing the ANPR in the Federal Register.

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) (64 KB PDF)

For a summary report of the public comments: Summary Report

Comments and materials, as well as supporting documentation, are available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number: FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086.

Read the ANPR Press Release