[Federal Register: November 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 228)]
[Page 68830-68831]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report for the Habitat Conservation Plan for the 
Occidental of Elk Hills, Inc., Elk Hills Oil and Gas Field, Kern 
County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, 
the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are issuing this notice to 
advise the public that we intend to gather information necessary to 
prepare, in coordination with the California Department of Fish and 
Game (DFG) and Occidental of Elk Hills, Inc. (OEHI), a joint 
Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on 
the Habitat Conservation Plan for the Elk Hills Oil and Gas field 
    OEHI intends to apply for a 50-year Endangered Species Act (ESA) 
Section 10 incidental take permit from the Service. The permit is 
needed to authorize the incidental take of threatened and endangered 
species that could occur as a result of future operations of the Elk 
Hills Oil and Gas Field.
    The Service provides this notice to (1) describe the proposed 
action and possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State 
agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an 
EIS/EIR; (3) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and 
(4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to be 
included in the EIS/EIR.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before December 28, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be submitted to Lori Rinek, Chief, 
Conservation Planning and Recovery Division, Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, 
Sacramento, California 95825. Comments may also be sent by facsimile to 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joseph Terry, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, or Lori Rinek, Chief, Conservation Planning and Recovery 
Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, at 916-414-6600 [see 


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact Lori Rinek at 916-414-
6600 as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process 
requests, please call no later than one week before the public meeting. 
Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.


    Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened (16 U.S.C. 
1538). The ESA defines the term ``take'' as: to harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species, or 
to attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532). Harm includes 
significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or 
injures listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering [50 CFR 17.3(c)]. 
Pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, the Service may issue an 
``incidental take permit'' to take listed species if such taking is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing permits for threatened species and endangered 
species, respectively, area at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22.
    Although take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the 
ESA, and therefore cannot be authorized under an incidental take 
permit, plant species may be included on a permit in recognition of the 
conservation benefits provided to them under a habitat conservation 
plan. All species included on an incidental take permit would receive 
assurances under the FWS' ``No Surprises'' regulation [50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)].
    Species proposed for coverage in the HCP are species that are 
currently listed as federally threatened or endangered or have the 
potential to become listed during the life of this HCP and have some 
likelihood to occur within the project area. Should unlisted covered 
wildlife species become listed under the ESA during the term of the 
permit, take authorization for those species would become effective 
upon listing. The specific federally listed endangered species proposed 
for coverage in this HCP are: the giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys 
ingens), San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), Tipon kangaroo 
rat (Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides), Buena Vista shrew (Sorex 
ornatus relictus), blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila), Kern 
mallow (Eremalche kernensis), and San Joaquin woolly-threads (Lembertia 
congdonii). The specific unlisted species proposed for coverage in the 
HCP are: the San Joaquin antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus nelsoni), 
short-nosed kangaroo rat (Dipodomys nitratoides brevinasus, San Joaquin 
LeConte's thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei macmillanoura), western 
burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea), Tejon poppy (Eschscholzia 
lemmonii ssp. kernensis), oil nestraw (Stylocline citroleum, and 
heartscale (Atriplex cordulata). Species may be added or deleted during 
the course of the development of the Plan based on further analysis, 
new information, ageny consultation, and public comment.
    The Federal government established the Elk Hills Oil and Gas Field 
in 1912 for national defense purposes as part of the Naval Petroleum 
Reserves (NPR). It was then referred to as ``NPR-1'' and operated by 
the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Given the potential effects of 
operating NPR-1 on listed species, DOE engaged in several formal 
consultations with the Service under section 7 of the ESA, resulting in 
the issuance by the Service of several Biological Opinions (the most 
recent opinion was completed in 1995). Congress directed DOE to sell 
NPR-1 in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 1996 
and authorized DOE to transfer the Incidental Take Statement contained 
in the 1995 Biological Opinion to the purchase of NPR-1. OEHI (the 
purchaser) is approaching the limit to take authorized in the 1995 
Biological Opinion and therefore has applied for authorization for 
additional incidental take through this HCP.
    The Plan area is located in the Elk Hills, 26 miles southwest of 
Bakersfield, California, and includes oil and gas reserves on the 
47,729-acre Elk Hills Oil and Gas Field and a contiguous 2-mile-wide 
HCP Permit Area around the perimeter of the oil and gas field. The HCP 
would result in the permanent disturbance of up to 4,000 acres and the 
temporary disturbance of up to 3,000 acres of presently undisturbed 
land in the Elk Hills. The proposed duration of the HCP and the 
incidental take permit would be 50 years. The HCP would establish a 
7,801-acre conservation area and habitat management program located on 
the northern and southern edges of the Elk Hills.

[[Page 68831]]

    Implementation activities that may be covered under the Plan 
include all activities associated with ongoing and new oil and gas 
production operations, including but not limited to: (1) Construction, 
operation, and maintenance of production facilities; (2) surface 
excavations; (3) activities required by the California Division of Oil, 
Gas and Geothermal Resources; (4) construction and operation of related 
facilities; (5) installation, maintenance, and repair of perimeter and 
interior fencing; (6) transmission lines; (7) emergency response and 
environmental remediation; (8) livestock grazing; (9) regulatory agency 
requirements; (10) recreational and educational activities; (11) 
scientific research; (12) implementation of conservation program; (13) 
maintenance of off-site facilities; and (14) construction of off-site 
    The effects of the covered activities on the covered species are 
proposed to be minimized and mitigated through implementation of a 
detailed conservation program that will be fully described in the HCP. 
Components of the proposed conservation program may include: avoidance 
and minimization measures, monitoring, adaptive management, and 
mitigation measures consisting of preservation, restoration, and 
enhancement of habitat.

Environmental Impact Statement/Report

    The EIS/EIR will consider the proposed action, the issuance of an 
ESA incidental take permit, no action (no permit), and a reasonable 
range of alternatives. A detailed description of the proposed action 
and alternatives will be included in the EIS/EIR. The alternatives to 
be considered for analysis in the EIS/EIR may include: modified lists 
of covered species, land coverage areas, and intensity of future 
development. The EIS/EIR will also identify potentially significant 
impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, 
water resources, economics, and other environmental resource issues 
that could occur directly or indirectly with implementation of the 
proposed action and alternatives. Different strategies for minimizing 
and mitigating the impacts of incidental take may also be considered.
    Environmental review of the EIS/EIR will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), it s 
implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those 
regulations. This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 
1501.7 and 1508.22 to obtain suggestions and information from other 
agencies and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be 
addressed in the EIS/EIR. The primary purpose of the scoping process is 
to identify important issues raised by the public related to the 
proposed action. Written comments from interested parties are invited 
to ensure that the full range of issues related to the permit 
application is identified. Comments will only be accepted in written 
form. You may submit written comments by mail, facsimile transmission, 
or in person (see ADDRESSES). All comments received, including names 
and addresses, will become part of the official administrative record 
and may be made available to the public.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names, home addresses, 
home phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of respondents, available for 
public review. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their names and/or homes addresses, etc., but if you wish us to 
consider withholding this information you must state this prominently 
at the beginning of your comments. In addition, you must present a 
rationale for withholding this information. This rationale must 
demonstrate that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted 
invasion of privacy. Unsupported assertions will not meet this burden. 
In the absence of exceptional, documentable circumstances, this 
information will be released. We will always make submissions from 
organization or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves 
as representatives of or officials of organizations or businesses, 
available for public inspection in their entirety.

    Dated: November 17, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 06-9410 Filed 11-27-06; 8:45 am]