The NPS promulgated specific regulations at 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart B, commonly referred to as the “9B Regulations” to provide a system-wide regulatory framework governing the exercise of nonfederal oil and gas rights. The purposes of the regulations are to “insure that activities undertaken pursuant to [nonfederal oil and gas rights] are conducted in a manner consistent with the purposes for which the National Park System and each unit thereof were created, to prevent or minimize damage to the environment and other resource values, and to insure to the extent feasible that all units of the National Park System are left unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” 36 C.F.R. § 9.30(a). The regulations control conduct associated with private mineral rights on, across, or through federal land so that these activities avoid or minimize harm to park resources and values.
The 9B regulations require that each oil and gas operator develop a Plan of Operation that outlines the specific location, process, protection measures, and other information that will be employed during the oil and gas activity. The NPS evaluates the submitted plan and must determine whether those operations will affect park visitors or resources and if so, how to eliminate, minimize, or mitigate those impacts. This evaluation process includes the development of an environmental document that solicits public involvement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. By attaining public review and input, the park can help ensure that impacts are addressed, reasonable alternatives are considered, and the park resources and visitor experiences are protected while allowing access to privately held minerals.
Many park resources and values are considered when evaluating a Plan of Operation including sea turtles, vegetation, shorebirds, visitor use, cultural sites, and natural soundscapes to name a few. Padre Island National Seashore staff has extensive knowledge and experience pertaining to the protection of nesting Kemp’s ridleys and routinely works with numerous federal and state agencies to ensure that this valuable resource is protected. Over 80 mitigation measures have been developed to minimize or eliminate the impacts to park resources and visitors, and are required of all oil and gas operators working in the park. Some of these measures include:
- Limiting the maximum speed limit of oil and gas vehicles to 15 mph throughout the park while park visitors have a maximum speed limit of 25.
- Limiting the maximum number of trucks that can be in the park each day.
- Not allowing oil and gas equipment to be operated along the beach at night.
- Requiring all oil and gas equipment to convoy as a group, which is escorted by an NPS trained turtle observer.
- Placing a net or other type of cover over any container that can hold a liquid.
- Establishing a 500 foot buffer around permanent freshwater ponds.