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Contact: Ardrianna Mclane, 239-695-1107
The National Park Service issued a finding of no significant impact Friday, following a nearly 20-month environmental review of a proposed 3-D seismic survey of the Nobles Grade area within Big Cypress National Preserve by Texas-based Burnett Oil Company, Inc.
The finding of no significant impact is based on information and conclusions outlined in an environmental assessment completed for the proposed survey. Burnett Oil is required to implement a variety of measures to prevent lasting impacts and minimize short-term impacts to the preserve's resources during survey activities.
The September 2014 proposal submitted to the National Park Service in the form of a plan of operations detailed Burnett Oil's intention to exercise its right of access to private holdings to explore for oil and gas within the preserve. The plan calls for a seismic survey of 110 square miles. The survey will use sound waves created by truck-mounted vibrators to create 3-D maps of potential oil and gas reserves.
Scientists with the National Park Service evaluated the potential effects of the survey on the preserve. After extensive agency and tribal consultation and analysis of public comments, the agency found that the proposed seismic survey would pose no significant environmental impacts. The National Park Service considered the proposal because the federal law specifically grants owners of non-Federal oil and gas rights access to preserve lands to 'provide reasonable use and enjoyment' of those private interests.
The environmental assessment only covers the seismic survey. Should Burnett Oil wish to pursue production of resources, they must submit a new plan of operations which would undergo additional environmental review and public comment periods.
The National Park Service prepared the environmental assessment to evaluate the environmental impacts of the plan of operations. The assessment, prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, evaluated three alternatives: a no-action alternative and two action alternatives. It analyzed the potential impacts that these alternatives could have on the natural and human environment. During preparation of the assessment, the park service consulted with federal and state agencies, tribes, interested and affected parties, and the general public.The agency developed enforceable mitigation measures that were included in the assessment and incorporated into the selected action.
The required mitigation measures were developed to assure that the impacts of the selected action would be lessened and not be significant. The mitigation measures and anticipated impacts are discussed in the finding of no significant impact and the environmental assessment.
Burnett Oil's plan of operations was released for public comment June 2015, and the environmental assessment was first made available for public comment in November 2015.After the first round of public comments, the park service made changes to the proposed action in response to public comments received during the November 2015 comment period. These changes necessitated preparation of a revised environmental assessment which was released for public comment in March 2016.
Before Burnett Oil may proceed with its plan of operations, it must accept a letter of concurrence from the National Park Service agreeing to comply with the requirements detailed in the finding of no significant impact and the environmental assessment.
The finding of no significant impact (FONSI), environmental assessment (EA), and plan of operations (POP) can be viewed under "Burnett Oil Company Nobles Grade 3-D Seismic Survey" at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=53498.