Updates will provide clarity for industry and protect park resources, visitors
WASHINGTON – The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to modernize regulations for non-federal oil and gas rights exercised in national parks. The proposal would update current regulations that are now 36-years-old. The proposed updates will provide greater clarity and certainty to industry while improving the National Park Service’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and to protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with non-federal oil and gas operations located within the National Park System. The updated rule will bring existing oil and gas operations up to NPS standards to protect water quality and water quantity, air quality, night skies and natural sounds, visitor and employee health and safety, fish, wildlife and habitat and meet spill protection and reclamation standards.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to conserve park resources for the enjoyment of future generations and the changes we’ve proposed will clarify the process for oil and gas development in the small group of parks where current operations exist, and for parks who may manage operations in the future,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
Currently, there are oil and gas operations in 12 of the 408 parks in the National Park System, and about 60 percent of those operations are exempt from NPS regulations. The proposed rule would apply NPS regulations to operations that are currently exempt and any future oil and gas operations in the National Park System.
The proposal seeks to recover the full cost of reclamation resulting from oil and gas development and includes updates to make the regulations consistent with existing policies and practices. The proposal would also update the format to improve clarity and simplify the application and compliance for oil and gas operators and NPS employees.
Non-federal oil and gas rights exist within the National Park System in situations where the United States does not own the oil and gas interest, either because the United States acquired the property from a grantor that did not own the oil and gas interest, or the United States acquired the property from a grantor that reserved the oil and gas interest. The Energy and Minerals Branch of the Geologic Resources Division within the NPS’ Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate assists park staff in overseeing oil and gas operations in parks.
The NPS prepared a cost-benefit analysis for this rulemaking. The NPS estimates that the annualized cost to operators under the proposed rule is approximately $1,650 per well. Cost factors in the proposed rule include bringing previously exempt operations into compliance with NPS standards, ensuring well site reclamation by updating financial assurance requirements, compensating for the use of federal lands outside an operator’s oil and gas right, and recovering permitting costs.
The NPS will publish the proposed rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement in the Federal Register soon, and the public will have 60 days to review the documents and submit comments.
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