Protecting wildlife at production sites
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January 16, 2013
Protecting wildlife at production sites

Open pits and tanks filled with hazardous liquids at energy production sites present a danger to wildlife, a hazard that does nothing to promote public support for increased extraction.  To address this conservation as well as public-image concern, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released its revised best management practices (BMPs) for diverting wildlife from facilities authorized by the BLM (Instruction Memorandum [IM] 2013-033, Fluid Minerals Operations—Reducing Preventable Causes of Direct Wildlife Mortality).

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The BMPs are largely intended to ensure compliance with existing federal energy, wildlife, and environmental laws and regulations.  The BMPs are also intended to provide increased protection of livestock and human health and safety around fluid mineral facilities.  

Fluid mineral facilities contemplated in the policy include oil, gas, and geothermal facilities and associated structures authorized by the BLM through Applications for Permit to Drill, Geothermal Drilling Permits, Sundry Notices, and fluid mineral associated rights-of-way.

Industry involvement

Established BLM policy already requires that permits contain mitigative and protective measures to control wildlife interactions with the dangerous components of energy development sites.  According to the BLM, the new BMPs build on years of cooperation between government and industry to establish a consistent approach to policy.  It is BLM’s intention that the BMPs become standard in new fluid management permits on public land.  To expedite permitting, the BLM also encourages industry to proactively include the BMPs in their permit applications before review by the BLM. 

The BMPs focus on reducing the risk of direct wildlife mortality from five fluid mineral practices: 

  1. Open pits and tanks containing freestanding liquids.
  2. Chemical tank secondary containment.
  3. Pit, tank, and trench entrapment hazards.
  4. Exhaust stacks.
  5. Wire exclosure fences for well pads or production facilities and associated rights-of-way.

Inspections

The IM notes that BLM inspectors are directed to ensure operator implementation and maintenance of effective wildlife protection measures.  Furthermore, operators are expected to notify the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) law enforcement office upon discovery of a dead or injured migratory bird, bald or golden eagle, or Endangered Species Act-listed species or other species protected under federal statute in or adjacent to a pit, trench, tank, exhaust stack, or fence.  The BLM field office and the FWS will attempt to determine the cause of mortality.  Working with the FWS, the BLM will then evaluate and identify appropriate mitigation measures to avoid future occurrences. 

The IM includes sample permit conditions of approval and terms and conditions consistent with the revised policy. 

Click here for BLM’s IM.

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