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BLM

DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement for the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application WYW-172684

Wyoming High Plains District

March 2010

Pronghorn grazing on completed reclamation at Buckskin Mine.

MISSION STATEMENT It is the mission of the Bureau of Land Management to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

BLM/WY/PL-10/001+1320

Cover photo: Buckskin Mine 2007.

Executive Summary

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Introduction
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Hay Creek II coal lease application (Proposed Action). The draft EIS was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its associated rules and guidelines, and presents the BLM’s analysis of environmental impacts from the Proposed Action and alternatives. The BLM will use this impact analysis to make a leasing decision for federal coal reserves adjacent to the Buckskin Mine. A federal coal lease does not authorize mining to occur, but is the first step in that process. The lease merely grants the lessee the exclusive right to pursue a mining permit for the coal tract subject to the terms of the lease, the mining permit itself, and all applicable state and federal laws. Permits to mine are issued by authorized federal and/or state agencies only after a lease has been secured and all appropriate agencies have reviewed and approved an extensive permit application. That application document provides information describing a wide range of baseline resources, as well as detailed mining, mitigation, and reclamation plans.

Background
On March 24, 2006, Kiewit Mining Properties, Inc. (Kiewit) filed the Hay Creek II coal lease application with the BLM for federal coal reserves included in a tract located northwest of and immediately adjacent to the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, approximately 12 miles north of Gillette, Campbell County, Wyoming (map ES-1). The mine is operated by the Buckskin Mining Company, a directly held subsidiary of Kiewit. The Hay Creek II lease by application (LBA) tract (proposed tract) was assigned BLM case file number WYW-172684. The federal coal reserves were applied for as a maintenance tract for the Buckskin Mine, which means the coal tract is adjacent to, and can be recovered by, the existing active coal mine. The intent of the tract is to maintain production rather than to expand mine operations. The 2006 application was subsequently modified in May and November of 2008. The November tract modification is evaluated in this environmental impact statement (EIS). The BLM, Wyoming State Office, Division of Minerals and Lands, has reviewed Kiewit’s application for the proposed tract. That office determined that the lease application and lands involved meet the regulatory requirements for an LBA under 43 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 3425. The Powder River Regional Coal Team reviewed Kiewit’s application at a public meeting held on April 19, 2006, in Casper, Wyoming, and subsequently recommended that the BLM process it.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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10 miles


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No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map ES-1 General Location Map with Federal Coal Leases and LBA Tracts

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Evaluation and Environmental Review Process
To process an LBA, the BLM must evaluate the quantity, quality, maximum economic recovery, and fair market value of the federal coal. The BLM also must fulfill the requirements of NEPA by evaluating the environmental impacts of leasing that coal. NEPA requires the BLM to consider and evaluate reasonable alternatives to the Proposed Action, including a “no action” alternative. This EIS has been prepared to evaluate the site-specific and cumulative environmental impacts of leasing and recovering the federal coal reserves in the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration, as determined by the BLM. In keeping with the purpose of an EIS, the analyses presented in this document are based primarily on existing information. The BLM leasing process does not authorize mining of federal coal reserves; applicants must obtain permits from appropriate federal and/or state agencies to mine the coal. However, because mining is a logical consequence of issuing a maintenance lease to an existing operation, the impacts of mining the coal are considered in this EIS. The BLM will use the analyses in this EIS to decide whether to hold a competitive sale and issue a lease for the federal coal reserves in the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration. The LBA process by law and regulation is an open, public, competitive sealed-bid process. If a sale is held for a tract, the bidding would be open to any qualified bidder; it would not be limited to the applicant. A coal lease is issued to the highest bidder at the sale, if a federal sale panel determines that the high bid meets or exceeds the fair market value of the coal as determined by the BLM’s economic evaluation, and if the U.S. Department of Justice determines that no antitrust violations would result from assigning the lease to the high bidder. A decision to lease these federal coal reserves would be in conformance with the BLM resource management plan for the Buffalo and Casper field offices. Regardless of whether the successful bidder is the applicant or a new operator, the lessee would be required to submit a permit application, including detailed mining, monitoring, mitigation, and reclamation plans to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Land Quality Division (WDEQ/LQD) for review. The operator would also be required to submit a Resource Recovery and Protection Plan to the BLM for review. Before mining operations could begin in the new tract, the mining permit must be approved by WDEQ/LQD, the Resource Recovery and Protection Plan must be approved by the BLM, and a Mineral Leasing Act mining plan must be approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Other agencies will also use this EIS analysis to make decisions related to leasing and mining the federal coal in the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration. Cooperating agencies in the preparation of this draft EIS include the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, all divisions of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ), the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), and the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Executive Summary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will publish a Notice of Availability for the draft EIS in the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period on the document will commence with that published notice. The BLM will also publish a Notice of Availability along with a Notice of Public Hearing in the Federal Register. The hearing notice will announce the date and time of a public hearing to be held during the 60-day comment period. The purpose of the hearing will be to solicit public comments on the draft EIS and on the fair market value, the maximum economic recovery, and the proposed competitive sale of federal coal reserves considered for mining in this EIS. The BLM will also publish a notice of public hearing in the Gillette News-Record and other local newspapers. All substantive comments received on the draft EIS will be included, with agency responses, in the final EIS.

Purpose and Need
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to provide a technically and economically feasible method for the Buckskin Mine to pass through a geologic irregularity, known as the Sand Channel Area, to reach low-sulfur compliance coal in the existing Spring Draw lease (WYW-78634). The Proposed Action would not expand operations at the Buckskin Mine, but would extend the life of the mine by approximately two years1. More broadly, the Proposed Action responds to the continued demand for coal in the U.S., primarily for the purpose of generating electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration (2008a), the U.S. has the world’s largest known coal reserves. Demand for this coal is driven by the electric power sector, which accounts for about 92% of coal consumption (Energy Information Administration 2008a, 2008b). Approximately half of the electricity currently generated in the U.S. comes from coal (U.S. Department of Energy 2009). Wyoming coal is used to generate electricity in 37 other states (Wyoming Mining Association 2009). The BLM recognizes that the continued extraction of coal is essential to meet the nation’s future energy needs and goals. Consequently, private development of federal coal reserves is integral to the BLM’s coal leasing program under the authority of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as well as the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976. Under FLPMA, the BLM is mandated to manage public lands for multiple-use so that the lands are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people. Management of federal coal resources—leasing, mining, and selling—in the PRB contributes to a reliable supply of low-sulfur compliance coal for electric power generation in the U.S. This domestic supply enables coal-fired power plants to meet current Clean Air Act requirements and increasing demand without potentially significant increases in power costs while new technologies are developed to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Management of federal

1

Assuming that coal production would continue at the most recent (2008) annual coal production rate of 25 million tons per year.

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Executive Summary

coal resources in the PRB also generates revenue—in the form of bonus, annual rental, and royalty payments—that is used to fund numerous infrastructure and social projects in Wyoming.

Proposed Action and Alternatives
The Proposed Action and two alternatives are analyzed in detail in this draft EIS; their boundaries are shown on map ES-2. No new life-of-mine facilities would be built under any of the alternatives; coal reserves would be mined as an extension of the existing mine. „ Proposed Action – Under the Proposed Action, the BLM would hold a competitive, sealed-bid sale and issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in the proposed tract, which is a contiguous block of federal coal reserves adjacent to the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. The proposed tract includes approximately 419 acres and 77.2 million tons of in-place coal reserves. „ Alternative 1 – Under Alternative 1, the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be offered for sale at this time. The existing leases at the Buckskin Mine would be developed according to the current approved mining plan. Rejection of the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in that area in the future. Approximately 182 acres of the proposed tract and 436.5 acres of the BLM study area overlap the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and are, therefore, subject to surface disturbance associated with existing coal leases under existing conditions. „ Alternative 2 – Under Alternative 2, the BLM would hold a competitive, sealed-bid sale and issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in an alternative tract configuration that could include all or part of the proposed tract and additional reserves within the area shown on map ES-2, the BLM study area, as determined by the BLM. The BLM study area includes up to approximately 1,883 acres and 269.7 million tons of in-place coal reserves. Not all of the federal coal reserves in the proposed tract and BLM study area are considered mineable at present. Campbell County Road 23 (Collins Road) and Campbell County Road 73 (McGee Road) cross the BLM study area from its southern to northern boundaries; much of the western boundary of the proposed tract is adjacent to the Collins Road. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) prohibits mining under a public road, in its right-of-way, or within 100 feet on either side of the right-of-way, as specified under unsuitability criterion 3 (43 CFR 3461.5[c][2][iii]). An exception to this prohibition is included in the SMCRA regulations at section 522(e)(4) and 30 CFR 761.11(d)(2), which can be applied if the appropriate road authority allows the road to be relocated or closed after public notice, an opportunity for a public hearing, and a finding that the interests of the affected public and landowners will be protected. Under the same unsuitability criterion, the land underlying an occupied residence in the BLM study area is also considered unsuitable for mining. Surface disturbance at the residence and a 300-foot buffer around it would be prohibited unless Kiewit were to purchase the surface rights associated with the home and its buffer zone.

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No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map ES-2 Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area

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Kiewit does not currently plan to pursue efforts to close or relocate either county road, or acquire the surface rights to the land associated with the occupied residence; therefore, the company considers the lands around those features inaccessible and operationally limited. Nevertheless, the coal underlying these structures and their buffers is still considered for leasing because those reserves could be mined if the authorized agency determines that one or both roads can be closed or moved, or if Kiewit acquires the surface rights to the occupied residence. Including the coal underlying those features in the lease would also allow for maximum recovery of all the mineable coal adjacent to, but outside of, their respective buffer zones, even if no action is taken to seek an exception to unsuitability criterion 3. If a lease is issued for a tract, a stipulation will be attached stating that no mining activity may be conducted in the portion of the lease underlying the county roads, their rights-of-way, and buffer zones and occupied residence and buffer zone unless approval is obtained from the appropriate authority to move or close the roads or acquire surface rights associated with the occupied residence, respectively. The BLM study area and immediate vicinity include small areas of agricultural lands (crops, hayfields, and pastures), several overhead electric power lines, oil and gas pipelines, and two unoccupied residences. Before any surface disturbance or other mine-related activities could begin, support infrastructure such as power lines, gas pipelines, and flood- and sediment-control features would be built or relocated, as needed. The analyses presented in this draft EIS assume that Kiewit would be the successful bidder under both the Proposed Action and Alternative 2 (action alternatives). Kiewit would add the tract as an integral extension of existing operations at the Buckskin Mine. Facilities and infrastructure would be the same as those currently identified in the WDEQ/Land Quality Division (LQD) Mine Permit 500 Term T7, approved May 22, 2006, and the BLM Resource Recovery and Protection Plan, approved June 16, 2006. Kiewit would submit an application to the WDEQ/LQD to amend its existing surface mining permit and mining plan to incorporate the final tract configuration; that application would include detailed amendments to the current monitoring and mitigation plans to include a new lease area. Table ES-1 describes projected coal production, surface disturbance, mine life, and projected federal and state revenues for the Buckskin Mine under each of the alternatives analyzed in this EIS. These figures are based on the current and projected average coal production rate of 25 million tons per year, and the assumption that coal reserves under the public roads and occupied residence would not be mined.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Table ES-1.

Comparison of Additional Coal Production, Surface Disturbance, Mine Life, and Revenues under the Proposed Action and Alternatives
Existing Buckskin Mine Permit Area
460.9 mmt 361.9 mmt 344.3 mmt 6,438.2 acres 6,727.8 acres7 8,011.5 acres 25 mmt 14 years 338 $563.6 million $417.0 million (Post-2008)9 12-31-08)4

Additional Under Alternative 1 (No Action)
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Item
In-Place Coal (as of 12-31-08) Mineable Coal (as of Potential Lease Area Total Disturbance Permit Area8 Average Annual Post-2008 Coal Production Remaining Life of Mine Average Number of Employees Total Projected State and Local Revenues (Post-2008)10,11 Total Projected Federal Revenues (Post-2008)12
mmt = million tons
1	

Proposed Action1,3
77.2 mmt 60.1 mmt 54.1 mmt 419.04 acres 478 acres 1,009 acres 0 2 years 0 $90.6–$108.8 million $69.2–$87.3 million

Alternative 22,3
269.7 mmt 166.3 mmt 149.7 mmt 1,883.1 acres 618 acres 2,191.6 acres 0 6 years 0 $250.2–$300.4 million $191.0–$241.1 million

Recoverable Coal (as of 12-31-08)4,5 Area6

Numbers are based on the entire proposed tract, which includes a 182-acre overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area; that overlap was not factored into calculations for coal reserves for the existing mine, but was included in total disturbance numbers for the existing mine. Numbers were calculated based on the entire BLM study area, which includes a 436.5-acre overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area; that overlap was not factored into calculations for coal reserves for the existing mine, but was included in total disturbance numbers for the existing mine. Coal numbers assume mining of the entire proposed tract or BLM study area. Estimates for total disturbance include additional lands in a buffer outside of those areas within the general analysis area, excluding operationally limited lands west of both county roads and around the occupied residence. Mineable and recoverable coal figures under the Proposed Action and Alternative 1 are maximum estimates and do not account for coal reserves that would not be mined beneath the occupied residence and associated 300-foot buffer zone, or the public road rights-of-way (Collins and McGee roads), their associated 100-foot buffer zones, and other operationally limited lands between the two roads. Recoverable coal figures assume a recovery rate of 95% for coal in the Canyon seam and a 90% for all other coal reserves; they do not include coal left behind as support pillars and similar structures, or unavoidably lost through spillage and spontaneous natural fires during normal mining operations. The total area to be disturbed exceeds the leased area under the existing Buckskin Mine and the Proposed Action because of the need for highwall reduction, topsoil removal, and other mine support activities that cause surface disturbance outside the lease boundaries. The permit area is larger than the leased or disturbed area to ensure that all disturbed lands are within the permit boundary and to allow an easily defined legal land description. The total area to be disturbed does not include lands under public roads, in their rights-of-way or 100-foot buffer zones, in the 300-foot buffer zone around the occupied residence, or in the operationally limited lands west of the Collins and McGee roads; those expected exclusions result in a smaller disturbance area than lease area under Alternative 2. Includes federal and state coal leases currently held by the Buckskin Mining Company. Pending WDEQ permit revision under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2. Assumes average current average annual coal production rate of 25 million tons continues through life-of-mine. Revenues to the State of Wyoming and local governments include severance taxes; property and production taxes (ad valorem); sales and use taxes; and Wyoming’s share of federal royalty payments, bonus bids, annual rental payments, and Abandoned Mine Land fees. State revenues are based on an assumed price of $7.85 per ton of “recoverable coal,” federal royalty of 12.5% of the value less 51% federal share, plus $0.315 per ton for Abandoned Mine Land fees on assumed 25% state share, plus bonus payments of between $0.30 and $0.97 per ton of LBA leased coal per ton (based on average of six LBAs in 2004 and 2005) times the tonnage of recoverable coal times a 50% state share, plus $0.07 per ton estimated sales and use taxes, plus $0.33 per ton estimate for ad valorem taxes, plus $0.415 per ton in severance taxes. Only the sales and use taxes paid directly by the mine are considered (i.e., taxes generated by vendors and suppliers and by consumer expenditure supported directly and indirectly by the mine are not included. These figures could change based on the outcome of recent legislation that changed the percentage of distribution to states. Revenues for Alternative 1 do not include the $4.2 million in scheduled coal lease bonus bids to be paid on the final tract configuration in fiscal year 2009. Federal revenues are based on an assumed price of $7.85 per ton, federal royalty of 12.5% times 51% share, plus $0.315 per ton for Abandoned Mine Land fees times an assumed 75% federal share, plus black lung tax of $0.00261 per ton, plus bonus payments of between $0.30 and $0.97 per ton of LBA leased coal (based on the range of the six LBA sales in 2004 and 2005) times tonnage of recoverable coal minus a 50% federal share. These figures could change based on the outcome of recent legislation that changed the percentage of distribution to states.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Other alternatives that were considered but eliminated from further analysis in this EIS include: „ Alternative 3 – Under Alternative 3, the BLM would hold a competitive, sealed-bid sale and issue a lease for a coal tract to a successful bidder other than the applicant for the purpose of developing a new stand-alone mine. „ Alternative 4 – Under Alternative 4, the BLM would delay the sale of a new coal tract with the goal of increasing the public benefit should higher coal prices be in place at a later date and/or to allow more complete recovery of the potential coal bed natural gas (CBNG) resource prior to mining. The current economies of mining in the Powder River Federal Coal Region appear to make construction of a new mine economically unfeasible using estimated in-place coal reserves in the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration. The BLM currently estimates that a tract would need to include as much as 500 to 600 million tons of in-place coal to attract a buyer interested in opening a new mine in the Wyoming PRB. Neither the proposed tract (approximately 77 million tons) nor the BLM study area (about 270 million tons) includes sufficient in-place coal resources to justify the costs of opening a new mine. Given these limitations and other assumptions associated with a new mine start, such as the necessary annual production and competition for market share, Alternative 3 is not analyzed further in this EIS. Alternative 4 was not analyzed in detail because it would not produce substantially different impacts from the alternatives analyzed in this EIS; only the timing and possibly the economic return of the sale would differ.

Resources Addressed in this Environmental Impact Statement
The BLM requires that certain elements are analyzed when present in the affected environment. Map ES-3 shows the general analysis area for most resources analyzed in this EIS. This area encompasses the BLM study area (including the proposed tract) and a 0.25-mile-wide buffer to the north and west for a total of approximately 2,847 acres. Required elements present in the general analysis area and addressed in this EIS include: „ air quality (section 3.4); „ water quality (section 3.5); „ wetlands/riparian zones (section 3.7); „ invasive non-native species (section 3.9); „ threatened and endangered species (sections 3.9 and 3.10); „ cultural resources (section 3.12); „ hazardous or solid wastes (section 3.16); „ Native American religious concerns (section 3.17); and „ environmental justice (section 3.17).

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 	

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Executive Summary

The following additional resources also are present in the general analysis area and are addressed in this EIS: „ topography and physiography (section 3.2); 
 „ geology, mineral, and paleontological resources (section 3.3); 
 „ other water resources (section 3.5); 
 „ alluvial valley floors (section 3.6); 
 „ soils (section 3.8); 
 „ vegetation (section 3.9); 
 „ wildlife (section 3.10); 
 „ land use and recreation (section 3.11); 
 „ visual resources (section 3.13); 
 „ noise (section 3.14); 
 „ transportation resources (section 3.15); and 
 „ socioeconomics (section 3.17). 
 Five additional aspects considered in this chapter are: 
 „ regulatory compliance; 
 „ mitigation and monitoring; 
 „ residual impacts; 
 „ the relationship between local short-term uses of the human environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity (3.18); and „ any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be associated with the action alternatives (42 United States Code § 4332[C]) (3.19). The following elements, which are required by the BLM when present in the affected environment, are not present in the general analysis area and are not addressed in this EIS: „ areas of critical environmental concern; „ prime or unique farmlands; „ floodplains; „ wild and scenic rivers; and „ wilderness. Individual data reports have been prepared for most resources to provide additional detailed information on the affected environment for the proposed tract and general analysis area. Copies

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of those reports can be viewed at the BLM Wyoming High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming.

General Setting
The general analysis area is adjacent to one of the northern-most operating mines in the PRB, in the part of the Northern Great Plains that includes most of northeastern Wyoming. The climate there is typical of a semi-arid, high plains environment with relatively large seasonal and diurnal variations in temperature. Precipitation occurs predominantly during the spring and fall, with approximately 10% in the form of snow. Surface wind speeds average 10.5 miles per hour throughout the year, with prevailing winds from the north-northwest and south-southeast directions, depending on the season. The general analysis area is characterized by gently rolling uplands and relatively level agricultural fields; many hills are dissected by drainages that create moderate variations in local relief. Topographic elevations in the general analysis area range from approximately 4,080 feet above mean sea level along Hay Creek in the northern tier to about 4,380 feet above mean sea level in the southwestern portion of the area. The vegetation in the general analysis area consists of species common to eastern Wyoming and is consistent with vegetative communities in the adjacent Buckskin Mine permit area. The proposed tract is dominated (approximately 71%) by various upland grasslands. The general analysis area is comprised primarily of upland grasslands (approximately 40%) and agricultural lands (croplands and pastures, 31%).

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map ES-3 General Analysis Area

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Summary of Impacts
The general analysis area represents the maximum surface area that could be disturbed by mining activities analyzed in this EIS. Surface disturbance occurs outside of a coal lease area as a result of activities including, but not limited to, overstripping, highwall back-sloping (including catch benches), highwall reduction after mining to match undisturbed topography, and construction of flood- and sediment-control structures.

Alternative 1 (No Action Alternative)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. However, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Under the No Action Alternative, impacts in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining (described above) on existing leases.

Proposed Action and Alternative 2
This section focuses on the expected impacts of the two action alternatives analyzed in this EIS. Background information and details supporting the determinations for individual resources are provided in chapter 3. Topography Under both action alternatives, surface coal mining would permanently alter the topography of the proposed tract or BLM study area through blasting, hauling, and stockpiling of overburden and interburden. Postmining topography would be recontoured under either scenario to resemble the premining topography and the basic drainage system would be retained, but the reclaimed lands would be approximately 60 feet lower and somewhat gentler and more uniform in appearance. These changes in the landscape would result in minor to moderate, long-term reductions in microhabitats and habitat diversity in the affected area. As discussed under the Wildlife Resources heading below, affects on wildlife would be minor to moderate, depending on the species, and short-term. Long-term beneficial impacts of the lower and flatter terrain would be reduced water runoff, which would increase infiltration rates for precipitation and reduce erosion, and may also increase vegetative productivity and potentially accelerate recharge of groundwater. These topographic changes would not conflict with regional land use, and the postmining topography would be designed to adequately support the anticipated future land use of the mined area.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Executive Summary

Geology and Coal Resources The Paleocene Fort Union Formation is the stratigraphic unit (i.e., geological layer) which contains the coal seams that would be mined under the action alternatives. This formation is divided into the Tongue River, Lebo, and Tullock members. The Anderson and Canyon coal seams of the Tongue River Member are targeted for mining in the BLM study area (the maximum extent of leasable coal in the general analysis area). Under both action alternatives, removal of overburden, interburden, and coal reserves would have a moderate but permanent impact on the geology and coal resources on up to 1,883 acres in the BLM study area, with the area of impact depending on the final tract configuration. An average of about 250 feet of overburden and interburden, 30 feet of Anderson coal, and 70 feet of Canyon coal would be removed under either action alternative. Approximately 54 million tons of coal would be recovered from the proposed tract, and up to 149.7 million tons from the BLM study area. Overburden removed during mining would be replaced with a relatively homogenous mixture of partially compacted rock and soil that would be significantly altered from the original distinct layers. Mining support and reclamation activities would cause temporary surface disturbance on an additional buffer in the general analysis area outside of the final tract configuration. Other Minerals The Anderson and Canyon coal seams tapped for CBNG development are the same seams that are being mined at the Buckskin Mine. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records indicate that as of May 2008, 30 CBNG wells have been completed in the general analysis area. Half of those wells are producing and the rest have been shut in, are no longer producing, have been permanently abandoned, or have expired permits. Commission records indicate that no CBNG wells have been completed below the Anderson and Canyon seams within the general analysis area. No conventional oil and gas wells are located in the general analysis area. Additionally, no bentonite or uranium reserves have been identified in the general analysis area. Scoria breaks are absent from the proposed tract, but do occur on some hillsides along the northern edge of the general analysis area. Under the action alternatives, development of other minerals present in the general analysis area could not occur during mining, but could resume after mining. Surface coal mining would have permanent impacts on oil and gas (conventional and CBNG) resources located in and above the mined coal seams. Resources that are not recovered prior to mining would be irretrievably lost when the coal is removed. Dewatering wells and active mining would combine with ongoing CBNG production to deplete the hydrostatic pressures and methane resources adjacent to mining areas a short time after mining would begin. The action alternatives would have no impact on bentonite or uranium resources because they are not present in the general analysis area. Mining would remove or reduce the scoria hills along the northern portion of the general analysis area, resulting in a permanent loss of those resources and a change in topographic relief.

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Paleontological Resources Two formations exposed on the surface of the general analysis area could contain paleontological resources: the Paleocene Fort Union Formation and the Paleocene and Eocene Wasatch Formation (Breckenridge 1974; Love and Christiansen 1985). Both of these sedimentary formations are known to yield vertebrate fossils in Wyoming (Estes 1975; Roehler 1991; Secord 1998; Robinson et al. 2004). No significant or unique paleontological resources have been reported by the Buckskin Mine and none were recorded on the surface in the general analysis area during surveys conducted for the draft EIS. No specific mitigation was recommended for the action alternatives and no further paleontological work was recommended or required. Additional surveys for paleontological resources may be required if discoveries are made during mining operations. Undiscovered resources not exposed on the surface or detected during mining would be permanently lost. Air Quality Particulate and gaseous emissions are the two primary types of air pollutants directly associated with surface coal mining in the PRB; both are associated with a variety of health and environmental impacts. In general, PM10 particulate matter is the major significant pollutant from coal mine point (stationary) and fugitive (non-point) sources; PM10 is coarse particulate with mean aerodynamic diameters less than 10 microns. The major sources of particulate emissions (solid particles and liquid droplets that can be suspended in air) at surface coal mines are fugitive dust and tailpipe emissions from large mining equipment. Activities such as blasting, excavating, loading and hauling of overburden and coal, and wind erosion of disturbed land all produce fugitive dust. The most common point sources of particulate matter are associated with coal crushing, storage, and handling facilities. Gases that contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts are referred to as nitrogen oxides, or NOx. These are the primary fugitive gaseous emissions produced during surface coal mining operations. Nitrogen oxides are generated from tailpipe emissions from mining equipment and other vehicle traffic inside the mine permit area. Blasting to remove overburden can result in emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), because of the incomplete combustion of explosives used in the blasting process. The Buckskin Mine does not use cast blasting to move overburden, which is the most common source of blasting emissions. No NOx point sources occur at the Buckskin Mine. Non-mining air pollutant emission sources are also present within the region, though most (i.e., fugitive dust and tailpipe and exhaust emissions) are similar to those at the coal mines. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are also generated at power-plants. The closest coal-fired power plants are the Wyodak, WYGEN, and Neil Simpson plants, located about 15 miles southeast of the general analysis area. The Dry Fork Station, a 420-megawatt, coal-fired power plant currently under construction, is located approximately 10 miles southeast of the area. The currently regulated particulate pollutant in Wyoming is PM10, which has been monitored at the mines since 1989. In 2000, Wyoming adopted a standard for PM2.5 (particulate matter with a

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Executive Summary

mean aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 microns or less), but that standard is not yet part of the state’s air quality monitoring requirements. The current National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for 24-hour PM10 is 150 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), whereas Wyoming 3 implements an annual PM10 ambient air quality standard of 50 μg/m . The NAAQS for annual NO2 is 100 µg/m3. This gas is not currently regulated at surface coal mines by either national or state ambient air quality standards, though the WDEQ Air Quality Division (AQD) does require an assessment of annual NOx impacts as part of an air quality permitting analysis for new surface coal mines and existing mine plan revisions. Moderately adverse, short-term impacts on air quality are currently present at the Buckskin Mine due to existing mine operations, and would continue for two to up to six years under the action alternatives. Long-term modeling for the current Buckskin Mine permit did not forecast any exceedances of the annual PM10 particulate NAAQS at the permitted production rate of 42 million tons per year; Buckskin’s current and anticipated production rates are 25 million tons per year. Results from the Buckskin Mine 24-hour PM10 monitors surpassed the 24-hour national annual average standard (150 µg/m3) on only three occasions since monitoring began in 1989. Two of the three exceedances were deemed an “exceptional event” associated with strong winds by the WDEQ/AQD. The dispersion model for the lands necessary to conduct mining at Buckskin (map ES-4A) showed a maximum PM10 concentration of 32.9 µg/m3 in 2011, one of two projected “worst-case” years used for the model. Map ES-4B shows the same modeling information for 2012. Both maps also depict the area sources used to model fugitive emissions. The WDEQ/AQD has received no reports of public exposure to NO2 from blasting activities conducted at the Buckskin Mine. Therefore, the agency has not required Buckskin to implement any specific measures to control or limit public exposure to NO2 from blasting, such as restrictions regarding blasting size, setbacks, or other parameters. Maximum annual NO2 impacts of 1.6 µg/m3 in 2011 and 1.8 µg/m3 in 2012 were predicted during modeling for the Buckskin Mine; predictions for regional sources and background concentrations were 38.0 µg/m3 and 37.8 µg/m3 for these respective years. All four values were considerably lower than the annual NO2 NAAQS of 100 µg/m3.

ES-16

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

14

16

NO2 = 35.6

Proposed Tract 0 2,500 feet 5,000

BLM Study Area

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.
10 10 2 2

Map ES-4A 2011 Maximum Modeled PM and NO Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Boundary

14

16

PM10 = 31.0 NO2 = 35.6

Proposed Tract 0 2,500 feet 5,000

BLM Study Area

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map ES-4B 2012 Maximum Modeled PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Boundary 10 2

Executive Summary

Public exposure to emissions caused by surface mining operations is most likely to occur along public roads and highways that pass through the area of the mining operations. One occupied dwelling is located within the general analysis area (map ES-5A and map ES-5B) that could also be affected. The residence is less than 0.25 mile north of the existing permit boundary, west of the McGee Road within the general analysis area; the home is approximately 1 mile north of the northern-most extent of disturbance that would be associated with the proposed tract. With one exception, all other occupied dwellings in the vicinity of the general analysis area are at least 0.5 mile from the general analysis area (map ES-5A and map ES-5B). Most homes are on the far side of ridges that provide visual and audio buffers from existing and future mine operations. In some cases, operations associated with an action alternative would be farther from occupied dwellings than they could encroach under existing conditions. Two school bus stops are located on U.S. Highway 14-16, approximately 0.5 mile west of the general analysis area (map ES-5A). Three other school bus stops are located more than 1.5 miles west and north of the area. Motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents as well as natural sources emit NOx and volatile organic compounds that help form ozone (O3). The WDEQ/AQD does not require O3 monitoring at the Buckskin Mine; however, levels have been monitored in the PRB, since 2001, at ambient air quality monitor sites operated and maintained by the WDEQ/AQD. No exceedances of the O3 standard have occurred at either of the two monitoring sites when evaluated under the standard in place at the time the values were recorded. Impacts of coal mining on acid deposition are due primarily to NOx emissions from mining operations. Impacts on lake acidification are expected to remain extremely low due to the distance from the Buckskin Mine to sensitive lakes in the region, the absence of NOx point sources at the mine, the lack of predicted exceedances for NOx under “worst-case” conditions at the permitted coal production rate of 42 million tons per year, and the continuation of the current production rate of 25 million tons per year under any of the alternatives considered in this EIS. Water Resources Under either action alternative, the coal aquifer and any water-bearing strata in the overburden and interburden would be permanently removed and replaced with unconsolidated backfill. Mining would also cause a long-term reduction in groundwater in aquifers beyond the final tract configuration as a result of seepage into and dewatering from mine excavations (i.e., drawdown). The extent of drawdown would depend on how long the mine excavations are open, the distance of the aquifers from the mined tract, and the extent of dewatering. Map ES-6 shows the predicted extent of worst-case drawdown in the lowest coal seam (Canyon coal) over the life of the mine within the general analysis area. The area of drawdown in the overburden aquifers would be smaller than in that of the coal aquifers. CBNG development, where present, would continue to have substantial contributions to drawdown, especially in the coal seams. In the absence of CBNG development, drawdown typically is greatest near the mine, and decreases substantially away from the mine.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-19

Map ES-5A Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area

14


16


Map ES-5B Enlargement—Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area

0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map ES-6 Extent of Drawdown under Proposed Action

Executive Summary

Groundwater is expected to rise to similar levels as observed prior to mining, but it would not have all of the same characteristics because of the more homogeneous nature of the backfill. Due to its proximity to the existing Buckskin Mine, groundwater quality in the backfill aquifer after mining is expected to be similar to that measured in wells completed in the existing backfill at the mine. It is likely that recharged groundwater would be adequate for postmining land uses such as water sources for livestock and wildlife. Mining would not disturb the aquifers below the coal. Two water supply wells from the underburden aquifer are currently used by the Buckskin Mine. Based on monitoring results to date, these wells currently could remain viable through the life of the mine. Coal mining would have significant temporary effects on surface drainage systems and water runoff characteristics under either action alternative. Erosion and sediment discharge would likely increase in disturbed areas because of vegetation removal, but infiltration rates would likely improve after reclamation due to changes in soil structure and the presence of vegetation to reduce runoff. Water flow and direction in that area would be altered by the removal and reconstruction of drainage channels prior to mining and from redirected flow through the use of erosion- and sediment-control structures to manage surface water runoff from disturbed areas. The most prominent surface water feature in the general analysis area is Hay Creek, which is ephemeral in nature (i.e., responds only to rainfall or snow-melt events). The creek has been or will soon be mined out in the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing permit area, and is diverted to rejoin the undisturbed creek east of the general analysis area. Additional segments of Hay Creek and several tributaries could be diverted and restored during reclamation under Alternative 2. However, Kiewit does not anticipate the need for any additional channel diversions under either action alternative due to the fact that no roads or occupied dwellings are likely to be disturbed. Both action alternatives would result in moderate, adverse long-term impacts on groundwater rights for wells in coal or overburden aquifers until recharge. Affects would be similar for surface water rights. One surface water right on a disconnected drainage would be affected under the Proposed Action for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Up to two surface water rights would be affected under Alternative 2 for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Alluvial Valley Floors The action alternatives considered in this EIS would not affect alluvial valley floors. Multiple investigations conducted within the general analysis area have concluded that the Hay Creek valley bottom is not an alluvial valley floor as defined by the WDEQ/LQD rules and regulations. No stream-laid deposits are present in the general analysis area. Runoff volume from 24-hour storm events in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine is typically small relative to the cumulative storage capacity of reservoirs in the valley bottom and would not be sufficient to support any reliable flood irrigation practices.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-23

Executive Summary

Wetlands Wetland inventories were based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Wetland Inventory (NWI) mapping (USFWS 2007) and a reconnaissance-level field visit throughout the general analysis area. Based on the NWI maps, approximately 64.44 acres of wetlands have been identified in the general analysis area. Of these, 30.7 acres were determined to be potentially jurisdictional wetlands based on field observations; the remaining 33.74 acres were initially determined to be nonjurisdictional non-wetlands (e.g., borrow pits, old impoundments) or no longer present. Only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authorization to determine which wetlands are jurisdictional or nonjurisdictional. A formal wetland inventory and delineation for the portion of the general analysis area that is outside the current mine permit area will be completed as part of future permitting efforts. The specific functions (e.g., agriculture, livestock, and wildlife) of each identified wetland will be determined during that delineation process, and are, therefore, not addressed in detail as part of the EIS analysis. Under the Proposed Action, surface mining would have minor, short-term direct impacts on two NWI inventoried wetlands for a total of approximately 0.48 acre. Under Alternative 2, surface mining could have moderate, short- to long-term impacts on up to 30.7 noncontiguous acres of 12 NWI inventoried wetlands. However, the greatest acreage is west of one or both county roads in the area considered operationally limited by Kiewit; Kiewit does not anticipate relocating either road to access coal reserves. All wetland functions would be lost during mining activities; mitigation will be provided to ensure no net loss of wetlands, in accordance with permit requirements. No additional reaches of Hay Creek would be diverted under either action alternative. Soil Resources Five soil formation processes causing different soil types were noted in the general analysis area. Soil types and depths in the general analysis area are similar to soils currently being salvaged and used for reclamation at the Buckskin Mine and other nearby mines in northern Campbell County. Surface mining would have a direct, long-term effect on soil resources in 478 acres under the Proposed Action and up to 2,847 acres under Alternative 2. Some impacts would occur in the buffer around the final tract configuration associated with mining support activities. Mining in the general analysis area would cause changes to the physical, biological, and chemical properties of the soil resources. Following reclamation, replaced soils would be more uniform in type, thickness, and texture, and would have a more uniform soil chemistry and soil nutrient distribution. Infiltration rates would gradually return to premining levels. Sediment-control measures would be implemented where runoff occurs to preserve reclaimed materials. Average topsoil quality would be improved because soil material that is not suitable to support plant growth would not be salvaged for use in reclamation. The replaced soil would support a stable and productive vegetation community adequate in quality and quantity to support the planned postmining land uses (i.e., wildlife habitat and livestock grazing).

ES-24

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary

Vegetation Resources Eight distinct vegetation communities were identified and mapped in the general analysis area. The proposed tract is dominated (71%) by a variety of common species of upland grasslands; the general analysis area is dominated (71%) by upland grasslands (approximately 40.4%, combined) and agricultural lands (crops, hay fields, and pastures; approximately 30.5%). Sagebrush comprises less than 11% of both the proposed tract and the general analysis area. Under either action alternative, impacts on vegetation during mining would result from active mining and mine-support activities, and would be moderate and short-term. Vegetation would be temporarily and incrementally removed to accommodate mining. Impacts would be greatest on upland grasslands and agricultural lands. Impacts associated with the removal of vegetation could include increased soil erosion and differences between premining and postmining vegetative communities. Reclamation, including revegetation, will immediately follow as mining progresses through the area. Estimates of the time elapsed from topsoil stripping through reseeding of any given area range from two to five years; that time-frame would be considerably longer for areas occupied by mine-related facilities and infrastructure. Reestablished vegetation would be dominated by species mandated in the reclamation seed mixtures, which are approved by the WDEQ/LQD. The majority of these species would be native to the general analysis area. Erosion will be monitored to determine if corrective action is needed during establishment of vegetation. Controlled grazing will be used during revegetation as a management tool and to determine the suitability of the reclaimed land for postmining land uses. Any decrease in plant diversity would not seriously affect the potential productivity of the reclaimed areas, and the proposed postmining land use (wildlife habitat and rangeland) should be achieved even with the changes in vegetation composition and diversity. Wildlife Resources Under either action alternative, direct impacts of surface coal mining on wildlife would occur during mining and would be short-term. They include: injuries or mortalities causes by mine-related traffic; direct losses of less mobile wildlife species; restrictions on wildlife movement created by fences, spoil piles and pits; displacement of wildlife from existing habitat in areas of active mining (including abandonment of nests or nesting and breeding habitat for birds); increased competition between animals in areas adjacent to mining operations; and increased noise, dust, and human presence. Little (less than 1% of total area) aquatic habitat is present in the general analysis area, so few aquatic species would be lost during mining operations. Indirect impacts are longer-term and include alterations in topography and vegetative cover following mining and reclamation, which may decrease wildlife carrying capacity and habitat diversity. Because the general analysis area is dominated (71% combined) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats for most wildlife species compared to those in the premining landscape.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-25

Executive Summary

The general analysis area does not include any unique or crucial big game habitat; and habitat disturbance would be incremental, with reclamation progressing as new disturbance occurs. No bald eagle nests or winter roosts have ever been documented in the general analysis area or surrounding lands; sightings of this species in the vicinity of the general analysis area have averaged only 0.5 per winter over the last 25 years. No mountain plovers have ever been documented in the vicinity of the general analysis area during that period. Additionally, typical suitable habitat (short and sparse vegetation) for this species is not present in the area. None of the 18 migratory bird species of management concern for Wyoming coal mines that have historically been observed in the vicinity are regularly seen in the general analysis area. The upland grasslands and agricultural lands that dominate the area lack the specific characteristics (shrubs, wetlands, prairie dog colonies, or shorter, less dense grasses) typically associated with the species of greatest concern. Up to three intact raptor nests could be impacted in the general analysis area. Due to their respective locations and histories, only one of the three intact nests is likely to be impacted by future mining operations under either action alternative. That nest is in a tree grove in the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing permit area and, thus, is already subject to disturbance from previously permitted mine operations. All appropriate mitigation measures will be taken for that nest, in keeping with the current USFWS-approved monitoring and mitigation plan. No sage-grouse leks have been documented in the general analysis area over the last 25 years of annual monitoring. The nearest sage-grouse lek (Hay Creek) is within the existing permit area approximately 0.5 mile to the southeast and, thus, is already subject to disturbance from previously permitted activities. The McGee sage-grouse lek is on private surface approximately 1.25 miles north of the general analysis area. That site is on the far side of multiple ridges that provide a visual and audio buffer, and it is not likely to be affected by mine operations. The Daly sage-grouse lek is approximately 1.75 miles southwest of the general analysis area; that lek has been inactive for the last 16 consecutive years and is considered abandoned by the WGFD (2006). Sage-grouse were last observed at the Hay Creek lek in 2001 and the McGee lek in 2004; both are considered occupied by the WGFD (2006). Two occupied sharp-tailed grouse leks occur within the general analysis area. The McGee II lek is in the overlap area with the current permit area and the McGee III lek is immediately north of the overlap area (Alternative 2). Due to their locations, those leks have been or would be disturbed by previously permitted mining of existing leases. The McGee I sharp-tailed grouse lek is approximately 0.25 mile north of the general analysis area. It would not be in view of the general analysis area due to the ridgeline that separates the two sites, but it could be affected by noise from within the general analysis area. The Stickel lek is approximately 0.75 mile southeast of the general analysis area and within the existing permit area; this site has been or would be disturbed by previously permitted activities on existing leases. Sharp-tailed grouse were last recorded at the McGee II lek in 2004 and the McGee III lek in 2005. The McGee I lek was last active in 2001, and the Stickel lek in 2002.

ES-26

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary

As described previously, the prevalence of upland grasslands and the limited presence of surface water reduce the area’s value to sagebrush obligates such as the sage-grouse. No grouse nests or broods for either species have been recorded in the general analysis area during targeted surveys or incidental to surveys for other species. No sage-grouse have been observed during winter, though site visits occur less often at that time of year. No sharp-tailed grouse have ever been observed on the proposed tract during any season, though flocks of as many as a dozen birds have infrequently been recorded in the general analysis area, feeding in fallow agricultural fields and perched in the tree shelterbelt near the junction of the Collins and McGee county roads in winter. No sharp-tailed grouse have been seen in those locations since at least 2003. The general analysis area is not included in or adjacent to any sage-grouse core breeding areas, as defined by the Governor of Wyoming’s Sage-Grouse Implementation Team (Sage-Grouse Implementation Team 2008). The sage-grouse lek with the most recent (2004) activity is approximately 1.25 miles from and beyond view of the general analysis area. The sharp-tailed grouse lek with the most recent (2005) activity is immediately north of that general analysis area. In the long term, following reclamation, wildlife habitat diversity may be somewhat reduced due to gentler topography, less diverse vegetative cover, and reduction in sagebrush density. However, sagebrush comprises less than 11% of the general analysis area, so impacts on sagebrush-obligates would be reduced. Efforts have been initiated in recent years by mining companies to increase the diversity of postmine topography and to increase the amount of sagebrush in the reclamation, as appropriate. Threatened and Endangered Species The action alternatives discussed in this EIS will have no effect on threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Three such species occur in Campbell County: the Ute ladies’-tresses orchid, blow-out penstemon, and black-footed ferret. Areas of suitable habitat for the Ute ladies’-tresses orchid within the general analysis area were surveyed during the appropriate survey window in August 2004 and annually from 2006 through 2009; no individuals were located. Surveys conducted for potential blowout penstemon habitat in the general analysis area in 2008 and 2009 confirmed that no suitable habitat for this species is present in the area. In addition, the general analysis area is not located within the documented historical range of the blowout penstemon in Wyoming, which is located approximately 170 miles northwest of the known Nebraska sites and approximately 225 miles northeast of the Wyoming occurrences. The black-footed ferret is a nocturnal mammal that depends almost entirely upon the prairie dog for its survival. No black-footed ferrets have ever been documented at the Buckskin Mine or in the surrounding region, and no black-tailed prairie dog colonies (potential ferret habitat) are present within the general analysis area.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-27

Executive Summary

Land Use and Recreation The entire surface of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and general analysis area is privately owned by individuals or companies, while most of the subsurface minerals (all of the coal and the majority of oil and gas reserves) are federally owned. Wildlife habitat and livestock grazing are the primary present and historical land uses in the general analysis area. Secondary land uses include pastureland (ranching), dryland cropland, transportation, and CBNG development. All CBNG production facilities located in the proposed tract are privately owned; facilities in the rest of the general analysis area under a mix of federal and private ownership. Coal mining at the Buckskin Mine is and has been the dominant land use to the east and south of the general analysis area since the mid-1980s. No conventional oil and gas wells are located in the general analysis area. Under both action alternatives, active mining would have minor to moderate short-term impacts on most other land uses. Grazing uses of the general analysis area would be more limited in disturbance areas during mining, though grazing is used as a management tool in reclaimed areas. Oil and gas development would be curtailed and CBNG that is not recovered prior to mining would be irretrievably lost as the coal is removed. Due to the lack of public lands, opportunities for recreational use and public grazing would not be affected. Existing coal and transportation activities, infrastructure, and facilities would remain in the area; coal production and transportation would continue at their current rates. Kiewit does not anticipate relocating any roads or securing occupied residences to access new coal reserves. Within 10 years after initiation of each reclamation phase, rangeland and wildlife use is expected to return to near premining levels. Cultural Resources The entire general analysis area has been reviewed for previous cultural surveys at the Class I level, and inventoried for cultural resources at a Class III level. Of the 14 sites identified in that area, 6 are prehistoric and 8 are historic (Newberry 2008). Historic site categories documented in the general analysis area fall under the context of rural settlement. Specifically, the historic sites in the general analysis area are associated with homesteading and stock-raising circa the 1910s to the 1940s. All prehistoric and historic sites are determined not eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. No further protection is afforded these sites and no further work is required. No sites of Native American religious or cultural importance have been identified in the general analysis area. Appropriate action must be taken to address concerns related to any cultural or Native American sites identified at a later date. Visual Resources Mining activities in the general analysis area would be visible from U.S. Highway 14-16 and two county roads (Collins and McGee Roads), though the extent and duration of visibility would vary under the three alternatives analyzed. In some cases, future operations would be farther from these roads than allowed under existing conditions. Mining would affect landscapes classified

ES-28

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary

by BLM as visual resource management Class IV, and the landscape character would not be significantly changed following reclamation. No unique visual resources have been identified in or near the general analysis area. Noise One occupied residence is located within the general analysis area, less than 0.25 mile north of the existing mine permit area. This residence is in direct line-of-sight of the current mine pit and associated support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling), and will experience increased noise levels under Alternative 2. Noise associated with the Proposed Action would be farther from the home than currently allowed under existing conditions. Mine-related noise would continue for up to six additional years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate, depending on the size of the final tract configuration. Most occupied dwellings are located in one of three housing developments west of the existing permit area and on the far side of Highway 14-16. Those residences are currently closer to the existing permit area than they would be to new mining under either action alternative. The high rolling terrain between most residences and the general analysis area provides a visual and audio buffer from current and future mine operations. Additionally, the increase in noise levels would not be considered a significant noise impact because the rate of mining would not change and the western limit of expansion of the mine would be constrained due to the required setbacks at the Collins Road and Highway 14-16. Noise levels in wildlife habitat adjacent to the expansion area might increase, but anecdotal observations indicate wildlife can adapt to mine noise, especially since similar mining operations have been conducted in the area for many years. No increase in average daily railroad traffic or railroad noise would occur under any of the alternatives analyzed. Transportation Transportation facilities in and near the general analysis area include a U.S. highway, a state highway, two gravel county roads, various unimproved local and access roads; the improved Buckskin Mine access road; the Buckskin Mine rail spur; oil and gas pipelines; electric corridors; and associated rights-of-way. Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract could impact one public roadway, two overhead power lines, and three oil and gas pipelines. Under Alternative 2, mining could impact two public roadways, eight overhead power lines, and five oil and gas pipelines. Most of the power lines in the vicinity are associated with on-going mine operations. No rail lines would be affected under either action alternative. Temporary surface disturbance from mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling) in the combined buffer area could affect one additional power line and three additional pipelines. Existing road and rail infrastructure would remain in place for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate, depending on the size of the final tract delineation. Vehicular traffic levels to and from the mine would also continue for up to six years additional years, though the rate of

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-29

Executive Summary

road and rail use is not expected to increase during that period. Two public roads (Collins and McGee roads) are located within the general analysis area. Lands within 100 feet of the outside edge of the right-of-way of a public road are considered unsuitable for mining; however, they could be included in the final tract configuration to allow for maximum recovery of all the minable coal adjacent to the 100-foot buffer zones. Active pipelines and utility/power lines would have to be relocated in accordance with previous agreements, or agreements would have to be negotiated for their removal or relocation. Hazardous and Solid Waste Potential sources of hazardous or solid waste could include spilled, leaked, or dumped substances, petroleum products, and solid waste associated with coal and oil and gas exploration, oil and gas development, utility line installation and maintenance, or agricultural activities. No such hazardous or solid wastes are known to be present in the general analysis area. Impacts associated with hazardous waste would be negligible and short-term. Hazardous and solid wastes generated in the course of mining the proposed tract would be similar to those currently being created by existing mining operations, but they would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate under the Proposed Action, and up to six years beyond that estimate under Alternative 2. Wastes generated by mining the proposed tract would be handled in accordance with the existing regulations using the procedures currently in use, and in accordance with WDEQ/LQD-approved waste disposal plans at the Buckskin Mine Socioeconomics Both action alternatives would have negligible beneficial impacts on local employment; current employees would be retained but no new hires are expected. Impacts on federal and state revenues would be substantial and beneficial under both action alternatives, and would be extended from two to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate, depending on the final tract configuration. The potential additional federal revenue from the general analysis area would range from approximately $69 to $241 million, depending on the alternative selected and the bonus price when the coal is leased. The potential additional revenue to the state of Wyoming from the general analysis area would range from $91 to $300 million, depending on the alternative selected, the bonus price when the coal is leased, and the selling price of the coal. Because average annual coal production rates would not increase, no new employees would be hired and therefore no new impacts on the local housing market or increased demands on the existing community facilities or services in the county would occur. Environmental Justice Economic and demographic data indicate that neither minority populations nor people living at or below the poverty level comprise a “meaningfully greater increment” of the total population in Gillette or Campbell County than they do in the state as a whole. Also, the Native American population is smaller than in the state as a whole and no known Native American sacred sites are present in or near the general analysis area.

ES-30

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary

Greenhouse Gas Emissions The annual Equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2Eq) emissions at the Buckskin Mine are not expected to increase under either action alternative. The maximum annual coal production would not be affected; average strip ratios and haul distances would be substantially equivalent to those already encountered at the mine. Conversely, projected CO2Eq emissions over the life of the mine would increase under either action alternative. Although annual average production is not expected to increase, the additional coal reserves would extend the mine life by approximately two years under the Proposed Action and up to six years under Alternative 2, which would also extend the period for associated CO2Eq emissions. The 2008 Buckskin Mine emissions total represents 0.33% of the 2010 statewide CO2Eq emissions. Carbon Sequestration Carbon sequestration, the process of carbon capture, separation, and storage or reuse, is being researched as a means to stabilize and reduce concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. Direct options for carbon sequestration would involve means to capture CO2 at the source (e.g., power plant) before it enters the atmosphere coupled with “value-added” sequestration (e.g., use of captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery operations). Indirect sequestration would involve means of integrating fossil fuel production and use with terrestrial sequestration and enhanced ocean storage of carbon (U.S. Department of Energy 2007a). The PRB has geologic formations and producing oil and gas reservoirs that are potential target candidates for both enhanced oil recovery and/or deep geologic sequestration. The current limiting factor is the lack of pipeline infrastructure and economic feasibility for CO2 transmission and use. No geologic carbon sequestration projects currently exist or are currently planned in the PRB at this time.

Mitigation
The Buckskin Mine’s currently approved mining permit includes extensive baseline information, ongoing monitoring information and commitments, and mitigation measures that are required by the SMCRA and Wyoming State Law. Compliance, mitigation, and monitoring measures that are required by regulation are considered to be part of the Proposed Action and Alternative 2 considered in this EIS. These regulatory requirements, mitigation measures, and monitoring commitments are in place for the No Action Alternative as part of the currently approved mining and reclamation plan for the mine and would be included in the permitting process that would be required to mine the final tract configuration. If impacts are identified during the leasing process that are not mitigated by existing required mitigation measures, the BLM can include additional mitigation measures, in the form of stipulations on a new lease, within the limits of its regulatory authority. Any special stipulations identified by the BLM where additional or increased monitoring measures are recommended to be added to the BLM leases are included in appendix D of the EIS.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-31

Executive Summary

Cumulative Impacts
Cumulative impacts result from the incremental impacts of an action added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions, regardless of who is responsible for such actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor, but collectively significant, actions occurring over time. Since decertification of the Powder River Federal Coal Region in 1990, 20 coal leases containing more than 5.8 billion tons of federal coal have been issued following competitive sealed-bid sales. Three exchanges of federal coal in the Wyoming portion of the Powder River Federal Coal Region have also been completed. Thirteen additional coal lease applications, including the Hay Creek II coal lease application, are currently pending. The pending LBA applications contain over 3.8 billion tons of coal. Currently, the BLM is completing a regional technical study, called the PRB Coal Review, to help evaluate the cumulative impacts of coal and other mineral development in the PRB. The study evaluates current conditions as of a baseline year (2002 or 2003) and projects development levels and potential associated cumulative impacts related to coal and coal-related development, oil and gas and related development, and other development through 2020. Due to variables associated with future coal production, two projected coal production scenarios (representing an upper and a lower production level) were developed. The projected development levels are based on projected demand and coal market forecasts and include production at the Buckskin Mine during the baseline year and projected production for 2010, 2015, and 2020. The Wyoming portion of the PRB is the primary focus of the PRB Coal Review, but the Montana portion of the PRB is included in some studies. Results for those PRB Coal Review studies that have been completed are summarized in chapter 4.0 of the EIS. The remaining studies will be incorporated into the final report as they become available. Cumulative impacts vary by resource, with potential impacts on air quality, groundwater quantity, wildlife habitat, and socioeconomics generally representing the greatest concerns. The original PRB Coal Review air quality study documented the modeled air quality impact of existing operations during a baseline year, 2002, and of projected development activities in 2010. BLM updated the model in 2008 and conducted the cumulative air quality impact analysis using a revised baseline year of 2004 with development levels projected for year 2015. The model was used to evaluate impacts of baseline and projected source emissions on several source groups, including near-field receptors in Wyoming and Montana, receptors in nearby federally designated Class I areas, and receptors at Class II sensitive areas. The EPA guideline CALPUFF model system was used for the modeling analysis. The existing regional air quality conditions are generally very good, but the modeling showed substantial impacts at some receptors for years 2004 and 2015. The model results should not be construed as predicting an actual exceedance of any standard, but are at best forecasts that indicate potential impacts. Table ES-2 presents the maximum modeled impacts on ambient air quality at the near-field receptors in Wyoming and Montana for 2004 and for the 2015 upper and lower coal development scenarios.
ES-32 Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary

Table ES-2.

Projected Maximum Potential Near-Field Impacts (µg/m3)
Averaging Time
Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour

Pollutant
WYOMING NEAR-FIELD NO2 SO2

Base Year (2004) Impacts
31.3 15.3 112.3 462.0 13.4 87.6 38.4 250.4 3.3 409.0 1.6 16.1 65.0 162.9 1.0 10.2 2.8 29.1

2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario Impacts
46.7 16.2 119.6 814.1 18.7 179.5 53.5 512.8 6.5 826.3 1.7 16.5 66.5 166.6 1.8 15.4 5.2 44.0

2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Impacts
47.4 16.2 119.6 814.1 21.4 179.5 61.0 512.9 6.5 826.4 1.7 16.6 66.5 166.6 1.9 20.6 5.3 58.5

NAAQS
100 80 365 1,300 15 35 — 150 100 — 80 365 1,300 — 15 35 — 150

Wyoming AAQS
100 60 260 1,300 15 35 50 150 — — — — — — — — — —

Montana AAQS
—1 — — — — — — — 100 564 80 365 1,300 1,300 15 35 50 150

PSD Class II Increments
25 20 91 512 — — 17 30 25 — 20 91 512 — — — 17 30

PM2.5 PM10 MONTANA NEAR-FIELD NO2 SO2

Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour Annual 1-hour Annual 24-hour 3-hour 1-hour

PM2.5 PM10
3

Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour

µg/m = microgram per cubic meter; NAAQS = National Ambient Air Quality Standards; AAQS = Ambient Air Quality Standards; PSD = prevention of significant deterioration; NO2 = nitrogen dioxide ; SO2 = sulfur dioxide;
 PM2.5 = particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter; PM10 = particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter 
 1 No standard or increment.
 Bold values indicate projected exceedance of standards 
 Source: Powder River Basin Coal Review Task 3A Report (BLM 2008a) 


Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

ES-33

Executive Summary

Table ES-3 lists the projected modeled visibility impacts for 2004 for all analyzed Class I and sensitive Class II areas. For the upper and lower coal production scenarios, it shows the number of additional days that the impacts were projected to be greater than 1.0 deciview for each site in 2015.

Table ES-3.

Modeled Change in Visibility Impacts at Class I and Sensitive Class II Areas
Base Year (2004) 2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
26 0 2 2 10 0 2 3 32 2 1 4 5 8 5 18 2 2 20 1 34 18 4 25 6 10 1

2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
26 0 2 2 10 0 2 3 47 2 1 4 9 10 5 19 2 3 20 3 36 18 4 25 7 10 1

Location
CLASS I AREAS Badlands National Park Bob Marshall Wilderness Area Bridger Wilderness Area Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area Fort Peck Indian Reservation Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area Grand Teton National Park North Absaroka Wilderness Area North Cheyenne Indian Reservation Red Rock Lakes Scapegoat Wilderness Area Teton Wilderness Area Theodore Roosevelt National Park UL Bend Wilderness Area Washakie Wilderness Area Wind Cave National Park Yellowstone National Park SENSITIVE CLASS II AREAS Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area Black Elk Wilderness Area Cloud Peak Wilderness Area Crow Indian Reservation Devils Tower National Monument Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Fort Laramie National Historic Site Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area

No. of Days >10%
218 8 144 91 105 55 70 61 243 42 27 57 178 77 83 262 84 101 251 331 236 126 360 274 66 260 79

ES-34

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Executive Summary
2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
19 2 1 36 4 18 10 2

Base Year (2004) Location
Jewel Cave National Monument Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area Mount Naomi Wilderness Area Mount Rushmore National Monument Popo Agie Wilderness Area Soldier Creek Wilderness Area Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area Wind River Indian Reservation

2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
21 2 1 36 4 18 10 5

No. of Days >10%
261 97 51 222 139 268 130 217

Source: Powder River Basin Coal Review Task 3A Report (BLM 2008a)

The PRB Coal Review provides an assessment of the cumulative impact on surface and groundwater resources associated with future projected levels of coal mining, coal mine dewatering, CBNG groundwater withdrawal and surface disposal, and coal mine and conventional oil and gas surface disposal of groundwater. The groundwater portion of the impact analysis has not yet been completed. The surface water analysis addresses the cumulative impacts on surface water quality and channel stability as a result of surface discharge of groundwater by CBNG development and coal mine dewatering. The surface water quality portion of this analysis has been completed, but the channel stability portion is not yet complete. A number of modeling analyses have previously been conducted to help predict the impacts of surface coal mining on groundwater resources in the PRB. In addition, each mine must monitor groundwater levels in the coal and underlying and overlying aquifers and assess the probable hydrologic consequences of mining as part of the mine permitting process. The monitoring programs track the extent of groundwater drawdown propagation to the west and the extent of recharge and quality of the water in the backfill areas of the mines. The monitoring data indicate that recharge is occurring in the backfill and that water from the backfill will generally be acceptable for premining uses (primarily livestock watering). Modeling and monitoring indicate that the groundwater drawdown impacts of coal mining and CBNG development are overlapping. The PRB Coal Review studies include an evaluation of the impacts on wildlife and aquatic species as of 2003 and an evaluation of the projected levels of disturbance in the PRB in 2010, 2015, and 2020, based on the projected development levels in those years. As discussed above, impacts on wildlife and fisheries can be classified as no impact (threatened and endangered species), short-term, and long-term. Short-term impacts are related to habitat disturbance during mining and reclamation and through the time the reclamation bond is released. Long-term impacts result from changes in habitat after reclamation is completed. Habitat fragmentation can result from activities such as roads, well pads, mines, pipelines, and overhead electrical power lines, as well as increased noise, elevated human presence, dispersal of noxious and invasive weed species, and dust from unpaved road traffic. The cumulative impacts of energy
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application ES-35

Executive Summary

development (coal mining, oil and gas) in the PRB contribute and will continue to contribute to a reduction in hunting opportunities for some animals, particularly big game, with lesser effects on species with limited hunting seasons, such as sage-grouse. The PRB Coal Review used the Policy Insight regional economic model to project cumulative employment and population levels and associated impacts in the PRB for the upper and lower coal production scenarios in 2010, 2015, and 2020. Table ES-4 presents the recent and projected population levels for the counties included in the PRB Coal Review socioeconomic analysis.

Table ES-4.
Year
CENSUS 2000 2003 2007 2010 2015 2020 2010 2015 2020

Recent and Projected Powder River Basin Population
Campbell County
33,698 36,438 40,433 45,925 48,905 50,995 47,662 51,558 54,943

Converse County
12,104 12,314 12,868 13,103 13,671 14,193 13,160 13,763 14,313

Crook County
5,895 5,986 6,284 6,542 6,759 6,989 6,570 6,802 7,045

Johnson County
7,108 7,554 8,142 8,389 8,867 9,326 8,424 8,924 9,403

Sheridan County
26,606 27,115 27,998 28,459 30,016 31,467 28,579 30,214 31,733

Weston County
6,642 6,671 6,854 7,108 7,174 7,208 7,137 7,219 7,266

Six County PRB Total
92,053 95,078 102,579 109,526 115,392 120,178 111,532 118,480 124,703

LOWER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

UPPER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

PRB = Powder River Basin Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2007) and PRB Coal Review Task 3C Report (BLM 2005a).

ES-36

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................... ES-1
  
Introduction.................................................................................................................. ES-1
   Background ................................................................................................................. ES-1
   Evaluation and Environmental Review Process .......................................................... ES-3
   Purpose and Need ...................................................................................................... ES-4
   Proposed Action and Alternatives ............................................................................... ES-5
   Resources Addressed in this Environmental Impact Statement .................................. ES-9
   General Setting ......................................................................................................... ES-11
   Summary of Impacts ................................................................................................. ES-13
   Alternative 1 (No Action Alternative) ............................................................... ES-13
   Proposed Action and Alternative 2 ................................................................. ES-13
   Mitigation................................................................................................................... ES-31
   Cumulative Impacts ................................................................................................... ES-32
  

1.0  INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................1-1
  
1.1  Background ......................................................................................................... 1-1
   1.1.1  Buckskin Mine Application ........................................................................ 1-2
   1.1.2  BLM Coal Leasing Process ...................................................................... 1-2
   1.1.3  Existing Buckskin Mine ............................................................................. 1-8
   Purpose and Need for Action............................................................................. 1-15
   Regulatory Authority and Responsibility ............................................................ 1-16
   Relationship to BLM Policies, Plans, and Programs .......................................... 1-18
   Conformance with Existing Land Use Plans ...................................................... 1-18
   Consultation and Coordination .......................................................................... 1-20
   1.6.1  Initial Involvement ................................................................................... 1-20
   1.6.2  Future Involvement ................................................................................. 1-22
  

1.2  1.3  1.4  1.5  1.6 

2.0  PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES........................................2-1
  
2.1.  Background ......................................................................................................... 2-1
   2.2.  Description of the Proposed Action and Alternatives ........................................... 2-2
   2.2.1.  Proposed Action ....................................................................................... 2-2
   2.2.2.  Alternative 1 (No Action) ........................................................................... 2-7
   2.2.3.  Alternative 2.............................................................................................. 2-8
   2.3.  Eliminated Alternatives ...................................................................................... 2-10
   2.3.1.  Alternative 3............................................................................................ 2-10
   2.3.2.  Alternative 4............................................................................................ 2-12
  

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

i

Contents

2.4.	 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring .......................................... 2-14
     2.5.	 Summary of Coal Production and Disturbance under the Proposed 
   Action and Alternatives ...................................................................................... 2-18
  

3.0	 AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL 
   CONSEQUENCES..................................................................................3-1
  
3.0.1	 Background .............................................................................................. 3-1
     3.0.2	 Resources Analyzed in this EIS ................................................................ 3-3
     3.0.3	 Summary of Mine Disturbance Area and Impacts..................................... 3-4
     General Setting.................................................................................................. 3-18
   3.1.1	 General Location and Characteristics ..................................................... 3-18
     3.1.2	 Climate and Meteorology in the General Analysis Area.......................... 3-18
     Topography ....................................................................................................... 3-23
   3.2.1	 Affected Environment ............................................................................. 3-23
     3.2.2	 Environmental Consequences ................................................................ 3-24
     3.2.3	 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring................................ 3-25
     3.2.4	 Residual Impacts .................................................................................... 3-26
     Geology, Mineral Resources, and Paleontology ................................................ 3-26
   3.3.1	 General Geology and Coal Resources ................................................... 3-26
     3.3.2	 Other Mineral Resources ........................................................................ 3-31
     3.3.3	 Paleontology ........................................................................................... 3-37
     Air Quality .......................................................................................................... 3-40
   3.4.1	 Background ............................................................................................ 3-40
     3.4.2	 Particulate Emissions ............................................................................. 3-42
     3.4.3	 Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides and Ozone .............................................. 3-58
     3.4.4	 Visibility................................................................................................... 3-64
     3.4.5	 Acidification of Lakes .............................................................................. 3-69
     3.4.6	 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring................................ 3-72
     3.4.7	 Residual Impacts on Air Quality .............................................................. 3-72
     Water Resources ............................................................................................... 3-72
   3.5.1	 Groundwater ........................................................................................... 3-72
     3.5.2	 Surface Water......................................................................................... 3-78
     3.5.3	 Water Rights ........................................................................................... 3-82
     3.5.4	 Residual Impacts .................................................................................... 3-85
     Alluvial Valley Floors ......................................................................................... 3-86
   3.6.1	 Affected Environment ............................................................................. 3-86
     3.6.2	 Environmental Consequences ................................................................ 3-88
     3.6.3	 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring................................ 3-89
     3.6.4	 Residual Impacts .................................................................................... 3-90
    
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.1	  

3.2	  

3.3	  

3.4	  

3.5	  

3.6	  

ii

Contents

3.7 

3.8 

3.9 

3.10 

3.11 

3.12 

3.13 

Wetlands ........................................................................................................... 3-90
   3.7.1  Affected Environment ............................................................................. 3-90
   3.7.2  Environmental Consequences ................................................................ 3-94
   3.7.3  Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring................................ 3-96
   3.7.4  Residual Impacts .................................................................................... 3-96
   Soils................................................................................................................... 3-96
   3.8.1  Affected Environment ............................................................................. 3-96
   3.8.2  Environmental Consequences ................................................................ 3-97
   3.8.3  Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring................................ 3-99
   3.8.4  Residual Impacts .................................................................................... 3-99
   Vegetation ......................................................................................................... 3-99
   3.9.1  Affected Environment ............................................................................. 3-99
   3.9.2  Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-104
   3.9.3  Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-106
   3.9.4  Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-107
   Wildlife ............................................................................................................. 3-108
   3.10.1 General Setting ..................................................................................... 3-108
   3.10.2 Survey Requirements and History ........................................................ 3-109
   3.10.3 Big Game.............................................................................................. 3-112
   3.10.4 Other Mammals .................................................................................... 3-114
   3.10.5 Raptors ................................................................................................. 3-117
   3.10.6 Upland Game Birds .............................................................................. 3-122
   3.10.7 Other Birds ........................................................................................... 3-136
   3.10.8 Amphibians, Reptiles, and Aquatic Species ......................................... 3-144
   3.10.9 Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Candidate Animal 
 Species, and BLM Sensitive Species ................................................... 3-146
   3.10.10  Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation and Monitoring ............................ 3-147
   3.10.11  Residual Impacts ................................................................................ 3-149
   Land Use and Recreation ................................................................................ 3-149
   3.11.1 Affected Environment ........................................................................... 3-149
   3.11.2 Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-156
   3.11.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-157
   3.11.4 Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-158
   Cultural Resources and Native American Consultation ................................... 3-158
   3.12.1 Cultural Resources ............................................................................... 3-158
   3.12.2 Native American Consultation .............................................................. 3-164
   Visual Resources............................................................................................. 3-165
   3.13.1 Affected Environment ........................................................................... 3-165
  

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iii

Contents   3.13.2 Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-166
 3.13.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-167
   3.13.4 Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-167
   Noise ............................................................................................................... 3-167
   3.14.1 Affected Environment ........................................................................... 3-168
   3.14.2 Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-171
   3.14.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-174
   3.14.4 Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-174
   Transportation ................................................................................................. 3-174
   3.15.1 Affected Environment ........................................................................... 3-175
   3.15.2 Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-178
   3.15.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-180
   3.15.4 Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-180
   Hazardous and Solid Waste ............................................................................ 3-182
   3.16.1 Affected Environment ........................................................................... 3-182
   3.16.2 Environmental Consequences .............................................................. 3-182
   3.16.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-183
   3.16.4 Residual Impacts .................................................................................. 3-183
   Socioeconomics .............................................................................................. 3-183
   3.17.1 Local Economy ..................................................................................... 3-183
   3.17.2 Population............................................................................................. 3-188
   3.17.3 Employment.......................................................................................... 3-191
   3.17.4 Housing ................................................................................................ 3-193
   3.17.5 Local Government Facilities and Services ............................................ 3-195
   3.17.6 Social Setting........................................................................................ 3-197
   3.17.7 Environmental Justice........................................................................... 3-198
   3.17.8 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-199
   3.17.9 Residual Effects .................................................................................... 3-200
   The Relationship Between Local Short-Term Uses of the Human 
 Environment and the Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-Term 
 Productivity ...................................................................................................... 3-200
   3.18.1 Local Area ............................................................................................ 3-201
   3.18.2 Human Health Impact Assessment....................................................... 3-203
   3.18.3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions ................................................................. 3-205
   3.18.4 Carbon Sequestration ........................................................................... 3-208
   3.18.5 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring.............................. 3-208
     Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitments of Resources ............................... 3-209


3.14 

3.15 

3.16 

3.17 

3.18 

3.19
  

iv

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Contents

4.0

CUMULATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES .........................4-1
4.1 Past, Present, and Reasonably Foreseeable Development ................................ 4-2 
 4.1.1 Coal Development .................................................................................... 4-4 
 4.1.2 Oil and Gas Development....................................................................... 4-19
 4.1.3 Other Development Activity .................................................................... 4-24 
 Cumulative Environmental Consequences ........................................................ 4-31 
 4.2.1 Topography and Physiography ............................................................... 4-33 
 4.2.2 Geology, Mineral Resources, and Paleontology ..................................... 4-34 
 4.2.3 Air Quality ............................................................................................... 4-36 
 4.2.4 Water Resources .................................................................................... 4-47 
 4.2.5 Channel Stability ..................................................................................... 4-60 
 4.2.6 Alluvial Valley Floors............................................................................... 4-61
 4.2.7 Soils ........................................................................................................ 4-62 
 4.2.8 Vegetation, Wetlands and Riparian Areas .............................................. 4-63 
 4.2.9 Wildlife and Fisheries.............................................................................. 4-66
 4.2.10 Land Use and Recreation ....................................................................... 4-77 
 4.2.11 Cultural Resources and Native American Concerns ............................... 4-81 
 4.2.12 Transportation and Utilities ..................................................................... 4-85 
 4.2.13 Socioeconomics ..................................................................................... 4-87 
 4.2.14 Coal Mining and Coal-Fired Power Plant Related Emissions 
 and By-Products ................................................................................... 4-106 





4.2

5.0  CONSULTATION AND COORDINATION ..............................................5-1
  
5.1.  5.2.  5.3.  5.4.  5.5.  5.6.  5.7.  Regional Coal Team Consultation ....................................................................... 5-1
   Governor’s Consultation ...................................................................................... 5-1
   Public Notice ....................................................................................................... 5-1
   Department of Justice Consultation ..................................................................... 5-2
   Other Consultations ............................................................................................. 5-2
   List of Preparers .................................................................................................. 5-3
   Distribution List .................................................................................................... 5-6 


6.0

References Cited ...................................................................................6-1
6.1. 6.2. Printed References .............................................................................................. 6-1 
 Personal Communication .................................................................................. 6-23 





7.0 8.0

GLOSSARY............................................................................................7-1 INDEX OF KEY WORDS ........................................................................8-1 





Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Contents

LIST OF TABLES 

ES-1.  ES-2.  ES-3.  ES-4. 1-1.  1-2.  1-3.  2-1.  2-2.  2-3.  2-4.  3.0-1.  3.0-2.  3.2-1.  3.3-1.  3.4-1.  3.4-2.  3.4-3.  3.4-4.  3.4-5  3.4-6.  3.7-1.  3.7-2.  3.7-3.  Comparison of Additional Coal Production, Surface Disturbance, Mine Life, and Revenues under the Proposed Action and Alternatives ...................................................................................... ES-8
   Projected Maximum Potential Near-Field Impacts (µg/m3)...............................................................ES-33
     Modeled Change in Visibility Impacts at Class I and Sensitive Class II Areas .................................ES-34
   Recent and Projected Powder River Basin Population .....................................................................ES-36
 Coal Leases Issued and Exchanges Completed Since Decertification of the Federal Coal 
   Region in 1990, Powder River Basin, Wyoming ....................................................................................1-4
   Pending Coal Leases by Application, Powder River Basin, Wyoming ...................................................1-7
   Summary of Land Status Acreage at the Buckskin Mine through December 2008 .............................1-13
   Legal Description of the Proposed Tract ...............................................................................................2-4
   Legal Description of the BLM Study Area ..............................................................................................2-8
 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring Measures for Surface Coal Mining
   Operations Legally Required for All Alternatives .................................................................................2-14
 Comparison of Additional Coal Production, Surface Disturbance, Mine Life, and Revenues
   under the Proposed Action and Alternatives .......................................................................................2-19
 Comparisons of Disturbance Acres and Estimated Recoverable Coal Reserves under the 
   Proposed Action and Alternatives in the General Analysis Area and at the Buckskin Mine ..................3-5
 Summary Comparison of Magnitude and Duration of Direct and Indirect Impacts in the General 
   Analysis Area under the Proposed Action and Alternatives...................................................................3-6
   Overburden/Coal Thickness and Postmining Elevation Change .........................................................3-24
   Stratigraphic Relationships and Hydrologic Characteristics, Powder River Basin, Wyoming ..............3-27
 Six Criteria Air Pollutant Concentrations and Applicable Standards in the Powder River Basin 
 (µg/m3) ................................................................................................................................................3-43
     Buckskin Mine Annual PM10 Monitoring Results and Production (µg/m3)............................................3-45
   Northern PRB Mines: 24-Hour PM10 Monitoring Results by Year (µg/m3)...........................................3-48
   Annual Ambient NO2 Concentration Data (µg/m3)...............................................................................3-64
   Distances and Directions from the General Analysis Area to Sensitive Air Quality Areas ...................3-65
   Existing Acid-Neutralizing Capacity in Sensitive Lakes .......................................................................3-70
   NWI Wetlands in the General Analysis Area .......................................................................................3-91
   NWI Wetlands Determined to Be Non-Wetlands in the General Analysis Area ...................................3-92
   Wetland Impacts under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2...........................................................3-95


vi

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Contents 3.9-1.  3.10-1.  3.10-2.  3.10-3.  3.11-1.  3.11-2.  3.12-1.  3.17-1.  3.17-2.  3.17-3.  3.17-4.  3.17-5.  3.18-1.  4-1. 4-2. 4-3. 4-4. 4-5. 4-6. 4-7. 4-8. 4-9. 4-10. 4-11. 4-12. Vegetation Communities in the General Analysis Area .....................................................................3-103
   Potential Impacts on Raptor Nest Sites (Intact and Former) in the General Analysis Area
 (through 2008) Under the Proposed Action and Alternatives ............................................................3-118
   Peak Grouse Attendance at Leks in the Vicinity of Buckskin Mine (1984–2008)...............................3-130
   Forty Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern for Wyoming Coal Mines: Historical
 Occurrence and Status in or within 0.5 Mile of the Buckskin Mine Permit Area (2006–2008) ...........3-137
   Distribution of Oil and Gas Ownership in the Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area .........................3-150
   Current Federal Oil and Gas Leases in the General Analysis Area ...................................................3-153
   Cultural Sites Previously Identified in the General Analysis Area ......................................................3-162
   Contribution of Coal Mining to 2008 Assessed Valuation of Campbell County..................................3-186
   Projected Major Revenue Increases under the Proposed Action and Alternatives............................3-187
   Population Change, 2000 to 2008 ..................................................................................................... 3-189
   Demographic Characteristics, 2000................................................................................................... 3-190
   Campbell County Housing Inventory, 2000 and 2007 .......................................................................3-193
   Estimated Annual CO2Eq Emissions at the Buckskin Mine ...............................................................3-207
   Status and Ownership of Wyoming PRB Coal Mines for 2003 (PRB Coal Review Baseline
 Year)......................................................................................................................................................4-7
 Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine Development, Lower Coal Production 
 Scenario ..............................................................................................................................................4-11
 Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine Development, Upper Coal Production 
 Scenario ..............................................................................................................................................4-12
 Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal-Related Development Scenario ............................4-13 
 Past, Present, and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine and Coal-Related Development 
 Scenario ..............................................................................................................................................4-19
 Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Conventional Oil and Gas Development Scenario ........4-20 
 Baseline Year and Projected CBNG Development Scenario for Wyoming PRB .................................4-22 
 Wyoming PRB Conventional Oil and Gas, CBNG, and Related Development Disturbance and 
 Water Production.................................................................................................................................4-22
 U.S. Nuclear Resources Commission Applications for In-Situ Recovery Uranium Projects in 
 the Wyoming PRB Study Area.............................................................................................................4-26
 Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Total Development Scenario—Task 3 Study Area ........4-31 
 Projected Maximum Potential Near-field Impacts (µg/m3)...................................................................4-41 
 Maximum Predicted PSD Class I and Sensitive Class II Area Impacts (µg/m3) ..................................4-42 


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vii

Contents 4-13. 4-14. 4-15. 4-16. 4-17. 4-18. 4-19. 4-20. 4-21. 4-22. 4-23. 4-24. 4-25. 4-26. 4-27. 4-28. 4-29. Modeled Change in Visibility Impacts at Class I and Sensitive Class II Areas ....................................4-44 
 Predicted Total Cumulative Change in Acid Neutralizing Capacity of Sensitive Lakes .......................4-45 
 Recoverable Groundwater in the Fort Union/Wasatch Aquifer System ...............................................4-48 
 Water Use as of 2002 in the Powder/Tongue River Basin...................................................................4-55 
 Surface Water Availability in the Powder/Tongue River Basin ............................................................4-56 
 Water Use as of 2002 in the Northeast Wyoming River Basins ...........................................................4-56 
 Surface Water Availability in the Northeast Wyoming River Basins ....................................................4-57 
 Summary of Proposed Limits for SAR and EC ....................................................................................4-59
 Impact of CBNG Production Water on Perennial Streams ..................................................................4-61 
 Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Pronghorn Ranges from Development Activities—Lower 
 and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected) .........................................................4-68 
 Potential Cumulative Disturbance to White-tailed Deer Ranges from Development Activities—
 Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected) ...............................................4-68 
 Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Mule Deer Ranges from Development Activities—Lower 
 and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected) .........................................................4-69 
 Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Elk Ranges from Development Activities—Lower and
 Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected).................................................................4-69
 Potential Cumulative Impacts on Greater Sage-grouse Leks from Coal Mine Development—
 Upper and Lower Coal Production Scenarios ......................................................................................4-77
 PRB Land Use by Surface Ownership.................................................................................................4-78
 Animal Unit Months and Acres of Cropland Estimated Unavailable on Lands Disturbed and Not 
 Yet Reclaimed as a Result of Development Activities .........................................................................4-79 
 Square Miles of Projected Cumulative Disturbance and Number of Potentially Affected Cultural 
 Resource Sites in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 Study Area—Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios ..........................................................................................................................4-84
 PRB Rail Lines Coal Hauling Capacity and Projected Use.................................................................. 4-87 
 Recent and Projected PRB Population ................................................................................................4-92
 Rental Housing Vacancy Rates ...........................................................................................................4-95
 Total Housing Stock in 2000 and 2005 ................................................................................................4-95
 Monthly Housing Rents in 2006 in the PRB Study Area and Percent Change from 2004 ...................4-96 
 Summary of Mineral Development Tax Revenues Associated with Energy Resource 
 Production under the Lower Coal Production Scenario (million $) ....................................................4-103 
 Summary of Mineral Development Tax Revenues Associated with Energy Resource 
 Production under the Upper Coal Production Scenario (million $) ....................................................4-104 


4-30. 4-31. 4-32. 4-33. 4-34. 4-35. 4-36.

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Contents 4-37. 4-38. 4-39. 4-40. 4-41. 5-1.  5-2.  5-3.  5-4.  Estimated Annual Equivalent CO2 Emissions (metric tons) from Coal Production at Mines with Pending LBAs.................................................................................................................................... 4-114 
 Projected Percent of CO2 Emissions by Source (2007 and 2030) .....................................................4-115 
 Projected Percent of CO2 Emissions by Source (2007 and 2030) Under a Reduced CO2
 Emissions Scenario ........................................................................................................................... 4-116 
 2004 Percent Contribution to Worldwide Anthropogenic Mercury Emissions ....................................4-120 
 Summary Comparison of Magnitude and Duration of Cumulative Impacts .......................................4-125 
 Federal, State, and Local Governmental Agencies Consulted in Preparation of the 
   Environmental Impact Statement...........................................................................................................5-2
   List of Contributors and Reviewers ........................................................................................................5-3
   List of Preparers ....................................................................................................................................5-5
   General BLM Information Distribution List for Coal Leasing ..................................................................5-6


Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Contents

LIST OF MAPS AND FIGURES 

Map ES-1.  Map ES-2.  Map ES-3.  Map ES-4A.  Map ES-4B.  Map ES-5A.  Map ES-5B.  Map ES-6.  Map 1-1. Map 1-2. Map 2-1. Map 3.0-1. Figure 3.1-1. Figure 3.1-2. Figure 3.1-3. Figure 3.3-1. Map 3.4-1. Figure 3.4-1. Map 3.4-2. Map 3.4-3. Map 3.4-4A. Map 3.4-4B. Figure 3.4-2. Map 3.5-1. General Location Map with Federal Coal Leases and LBA Tracts ..............................................ES-2
   Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area ..........................................................................................ES-6
   General Analysis Area............................................................................................................... ES-12
   2011 Maximum Modeled PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air 
   Boundary ................................................................................................................................... ES-17
 2012 Maximum Modeled PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air 
   Boundary ................................................................................................................................... ES-18
 Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity 
   of the General Analysis Area ..................................................................................................... ES-20
 Enlargement—Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops
   in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area ...............................................................................ES-21
   Extent of Drawdown under the Proposed Action .......................................................................ES-22
 General Location Map with Federal Coal Leases and LBA Tracts .................................................1-3 
 Buckskin Mine’s Federal Coal Leases and Proposed Tract ...........................................................1-9
 Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area .............................................................................................2-3
 General Analysis Area ....................................................................................................................3-2
 Average Diurnal Temperature by Season at Buckskin Mine ........................................................3-20 
 Wind Rose for the Buckskin Mine .................................................................................................3-21
 Average Diurnal Wind Speed by Season at the Buckskin Mine ...................................................3-22 
 North-South and East-West Geologic Cross Sections .................................................................3-29
 Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Monitoring Network ...........................................................................3-46
 Buckskin PM10 Monitoring History ................................................................................................3-47 
 2011 Maximum Modeled PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air 
 Boundary ......................................................................................................................................3-51
 2012 Maximum PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Boundary ...........3-52 
 Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity 
 of the General Analysis Area ........................................................................................................3-54
 Enlargement—Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops
 in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area .................................................................................. 3-55 
 Visibility in the Badlands National Park and Bridger Wilderness Area..........................................3-67 
 Currently Active Groundwater Monitoring and Water Supply Wells at Buckskin Mine .................3-73 


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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Contents Map 3.5-2. Map 3.5-3. Map 3.7-1. Map 3.10-1. Figure 3.10-1. Figure 3.10-2. Map 3.11-1. Map 3.11-2. Figure 3.14-1. Map 3.15-1. Map 3.15-2. Map 4-1. Figure 4-1. Figure 4-2. Map 4-2. Figure 4-3. Figure 4-4. Figure 4-5. Extent of Drawdown under Proposed Action................................................................................3-77
 Surface Water Features in the General Analysis Area .................................................................3-80
 Wetlands and Other Waters in the General Analysis Area ...........................................................3-93 
 Raptor Nests and Grouse Leks in the Wildlife Survey Area .......................................................3-111 
 Average Male Sage-grouse Lek Attendance within the Northeast Wyoming Local Working 
 Group Area (1967–2008)............................................................................................................ 3-127 
 Average Number of Males per Lek Counted in Wyoming (1960–2008) with a Minimum of 
 100 Leks Checked Each Year .................................................................................................... 3-128 
 Surface Ownership in the General Analysis Area....................................................................... 3-151 
 Oil and Gas Ownership, Leases, and Facilities in the General Analysis Area............................3-152 
 Relationship Between A-Weighted Decibel Readings and Sounds of Daily Life ........................3-169 
 Transportation Facilities in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area .........................................3-176 
 Oil and Gas Pipelines in the General Analysis Area................................................................... 3-177 
 Wyoming Study Area for PRB Coal Review Studies Evaluating Current and Projected 
 Levels of Development ...................................................................................................................4-3
 Tons of Federal Coal Leased Versus Tons of Coal Mined Since 1990 ..........................................4-5 
 Projected Total Coal Production from Campbell and Converse Counties under the Lower
 and Upper Production Scenarios..................................................................................................4-10
 Wyoming Task 3 Study Area for PRB Coal Review Studies Evaluating Projected 
 Environmental Consequences......................................................................................................4-32
 Projected Campbell County Population and Employment to 2020 ...............................................4-93 
 Projected Housing Demand in the PRB Study Area under the Lower Coal Production
 Scenario .......................................................................................................................................4-97
 Projected School Enrollment to 2020 under the Lower Coal Production Scenario .....................4-100 


Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Contents

LIST OF APPENDICES 

Appendix A. Appendix B. Appendix C. Appendix D. Appendix E. Appendix F. Appendix G. Appendix H. Appendix I. Appendix J. Federal and State Agencies and Permitting Requirements Unsuitability Criteria Coal Lease-by-Application Flow Chart Bureau of Land Management Special Coal Lease Stipulations and Form 3400-12 Coal Lease CBNG and Conventional Oil and Gas Wells Capable of Production in the General Analysis Area Air Quality Technical Support Document Non-Mine Groundwater and Surface Water Rights Environmental Quality Council Ruling Respective of Hay Creek Tract as an Alluvial Valley Floor Biological Assessment Bureau of Land Management Sensitive Species Evaluation

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Contents

ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS USED IN THIS REPORT 

µeq/L µg/m3 AML AQRV AVF B.P. bcf BLM BNSF Btu C2P2 CAA CBNG CCP CCSD CERCLA CFR cfs CO CO2 CO2Eq Collins Road Corps dB dBA DM&E DOE dv EC EIS microequivalent per liter micrograms per cubic meter abandoned mine land air quality related value alluvial valley floor before present billion cubic feet U.S. Bureau of Land Management Burlington Northern Santa Fe British thermal units Coal Combustion Products Partnership Clean Air Act coal bed natural gas coal combustion product Campbell County School District Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended Code of Federal Regulations cubic feet per second carbon monoxide carbon dioxide equivalent carbon dioxide Campbell County Road 23 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decibel A-weighted decibel Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad Corporation U.S. Department of Energy deciview electrical conductivity environmental impact statement

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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Contents

EPA EPRI ESA F FLPMA FMR GAGMO GHG GSP Highway 14-16 Highway 59 IMPROVE IPCC Kiewit LBA LDN Leq LRPL McGee Road mmgpy mmtpy MRPL MSHA MW NAAQS NCDB NEAP NEPA NIOSH NO2 NOx NRHP

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Electric Power Research Institute Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended Fahrenheit Federal Land Policy Management Act federal mineral royalties Gillette Area Groundwater Monitoring Organization greenhouse gas gross state product U.S. Highway 14-16 Wyoming State Highway 59 Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Kiewit Mining Properties, Inc. lease by application day-night noise levels equivalent noise level least restrictive proposed limit Campbell County Road 73 million gallons per year million tons of coal per year most restrictive proposed limit Mine Safety and Health Administration megawatts National Ambient Air Quality Standards National Compliance Data Base Natural Events Action Policy National Environmental Policy Act National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health nitrogen dioxide nitrogen oxides National Register of Historic Places

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Contents

NWI NWLSWG O3 OSHA OSM P&M PM10 PM2.5 PRB PRRCT PSD RMP ROD RV SAR SARA SEO SHPO SIP SMCRA SO2 TDS TEOM TSP UP USFWS USGS USGS CHIA USNRC VOC VRM WAAQS

National Wetland Inventory Northeast Wyoming Local Sage-Grouse Working Group ozone Occupational Safety and Health Administration Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Pittsburg and Midway Coal Mining Company particulate matter measuring 10 micrometers or less in diameter particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter Powder River Basin Powder River Regional Coal Team prevention of significant deterioration resource management plan record of decision recreational vehicle sodium adsorption ratio Superfund Amendments and Re-authorization Act State Engineeer’s Office State Historic Preservation Office state implementation plan Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 sulfur dioxide total dissolved solids Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance total suspended particles Union Pacific U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Geological Survey Cumulative Potential Hydrologic Impacts of Surface Coal Mining in the Eastern Powder River Structural Basin, Northeastern Wyoming U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission volatile organic compound visual resource management Wyoming Ambient Air Quality Standards
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Contents

WDEQ WDEQ/AQD WDEQ/LQD WDEQ/WQD WGFD WSO-RMG Wyoming PRB Oil and Gas EIS

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Air Quality Division Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Land Quality Division Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Water Quality Division Wyoming Game and Fish Department BLM Wyoming State Office–Reservoir Management Group Final Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Plan Amendment for the PRB Oil and Gas Project

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1.0 Introduction

1.0 INTRODUCTION
This environmental impact statement (EIS 1) presents the analysis of impacts that would result from leasing federal coal reserves in the Hay Creek II lease by application (LBA) tract (Proposed Action). The EIS also analyzes alternatives to the Proposed Action. This EIS was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and associated rules and guidelines. As administrator of the federal coal leasing program for surface and underground mining under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considered the lead agency, under NEPA, responsible for the preparation of this EIS. The BLM will use this impact analysis to make a leasing decision for federal coal reserves adjacent to the Buckskin Mine, an operating surface coal mine in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of northeast Wyoming. A federal coal lease does not authorize mining to occur, but is the first step in that process. The lease merely grants the lessee the exclusive right to pursue a mining permit for the coal tract subject to the terms of the lease, the mining permit itself, and all applicable state and federal laws. Permits to mine are issued by authorized federal and/or state agencies only after a lease has been secured and all appropriate agencies have reviewed and approved an extensive permit application. That application document provides information describing a wide range of baseline resources, as well as detailed mining, mitigation, and reclamation plans. Other agencies will also use this EIS analysis to make decisions related to leasing and mining the federal coal in the proposed tract. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), all divisions of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ), the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), and the Wyoming Department of Transportation are cooperating agencies on this EIS. The OSM is primarily responsible for administering federal programs that regulate surface coal mining operations. If a tract is leased, that agency will use this EIS to determine whether approval of the mining plan for the tract complies with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. The WDEQ has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior to regulate surface coal mining operations on federal and nonfederal lands in Wyoming. During the permitting process, the WDEQ incorporates input from the WGFD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ensure that adequate monitoring, mitigation, and reclamation plans are in place for wildlife and fisheries resources and habitats. The Wyoming Department of Transportation may review the EIS if road construction or relocation projects are considered in the analyses.

1.1 Background
The Buckskin Mine is one of several mines currently operating in the PRB, where the coal seams are notably thick and the overburden is relatively thin throughout the region. The mine is
1

Refer to page xiii for a list of abbreviations and acronyms used in this document.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1-1

1.0 Introduction

operated by the Buckskin Mining Company, a directly held subsidiary of Kiewit Mining Properties, Inc. (Kiewit).

1.1.1

Buckskin Mine Application

On March 24, 2006, Kiewit filed an application to lease the federal coal included in a maintenance coal tract under the regulations at 43 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 3425 (Leasing on Application). A maintenance coal tract is tract of federal coal reserves that is adjacent to, and can be mined by, an existing active coal mine. The intent of the tract is to maintain production rather than to expand mine operations. The proposed tract is located northwest of and immediately adjacent to existing federal coal leases for the Buckskin Mine, approximately 12 miles north of Gillette, Campbell County, Wyoming (map 1-1). The BLM, Wyoming State Office, Division of Minerals and Lands, has reviewed Kiewit’s application for the proposed tract. That office determined that the lease application meets the regulatory requirements for an LBA. Map 1-1 shows the proposed tract, other currently pending LBA tracts, and the existing federal leases, including previously leased LBA tracts, in the PRB. The proposed tract was assigned BLM case file number WYW-172684. The 2006 application was subsequently modified in May and November of 2008. The November tract modification is evaluated in this EIS.

1.1.2

BLM Coal Leasing Process

The proposed tract is located in the Powder River Federal Coal Region. That area was decertified2 for coal leasing in 1990 at the recommendation of the Powder River Regional Coal Team (PRRCT). The recommendation was made in response to the declining coal market and reduced interest in leasing sufficient quantities of coal to warrant a regional sale process during the previous eight years. The PRRCT is an independent advisory board of the BLM established to provide advice and guidance regarding the federal coal management program in the PRB. The board is comprised of various federal and state agencies, with voting members limited to the BLM and the state governments of Wyoming and Montana. In a region that is decertified, the BLM can consider leasing individual coal tracts by application to continue or extend the life of an existing mine under the rules of 43 CFR 3425. As part of the 1990 decertification decision, the PRRCT has continued to meet regularly to review the BLM’s leasing activity in the PRB and to offer recommendations based on a regional perspective. That board reviewed the Hay Creek II application at a public meeting held on April 19, 2006, in Casper, Wyoming, and recommended that the BLM process the application. The BLM leasing process does not authorize mining of federal coal reserves; applicants must first obtain permits to retrieve the coal from appropriate federal and/or state agencies. However, because mining is a logical consequence of issuing a maintenance lease to an existing operation, the impacts of mining the coal are considered in this EIS. All impacts identified in this analysis are addressed as part of the permitting process administered by authorized state and/or federal agencies to insure that they are adequately mitigated.
2

A detailed description of the decertification process is provided in the glossary in chapter 7.

1-2

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

0

10 miles


20


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 1-1 General Location Map with Federal Coal Leases and LBA Tracts

1.0 Introduction

The LBA process by law and regulation is open, public, and competitive. A coal lease is issued to the highest bidder at the sale, if a federal sale panel determines that the high bid meets or exceeds the fair market value of the coal as determined by the BLM’s economic evaluation, and if the U.S. Department of Justice determines that no antitrust violations would result from assigning the lease to the high bidder. In return for receiving a lease, a lessee must make the following payments to the federal government: 1) a bonus equal to the amount it bid at the time the lease sale was held (the bonus can be paid in five yearly installments); 2) annual rental payments; and 3) royalty payments when the coal is mined. Federal bonus, rental, and royalty payments are currently equally divided with the state in which the lease is located. Since the Powder River Federal Coal Region was decertified in 1990, 20 federal coal leases have been sold at competitive sealed-bid sales and 3 exchanges of federal coal in the Wyoming portion of that region have been completed (table 1-1). This is the second application for a maintenance coal tract submitted by the Buckskin Mine since decertification (table 1-1 and map 1-1). Table 1-2 summarizes the 12 lease applications that are currently pending.

Table 1-1. Coal Leases Issued and Exchanges Completed Since Decertification of the Federal Coal Region in 1990, Powder River Basin, Wyoming
LBA Name (Lease Number) Applicant Mine Current Lessee Effective Date LEASES ISSUED
Jacobs Ranch LBA (WYW-117924) Jacobs Ranch Mine Jacobs Ranch Coal Co. 10/1/1992 West Black Thunder LBA (WYW-118907) Black Thunder Mine Thunder Basin Coal Co. 10/1/1992 North Antelope Rochelle LBA (WYW-119554) North Antelope and Rochelle Mines Powder River Coal Co.2 10/1/1992 West Rocky Butte LBA (WYW-122586) No Existing Mine3 Caballo Coal Co. 1/1/1993 Eagle Butte LBA (WYW-124783) Eagle Butte Mine Foundation Wyoming Land Co.4 8/1/1995 Antelope LBA (WYW-128322) Antelope Mine Antelope Coal Co.5 2/1/1997 1,708.620 147,423,560 20,114,930.00

Acres Leased1

Mineable Tons of Coal1

Successful Bid (in dollars)

3,492.495

429,048,216

71,909,282.69

3,064.040

403,500,000

86,987,765.00

463.205

56,700,000

16,500,000.00

1,059.180

166,400,000

18,470,400.00

617.200

60,364,000

9,054,600.00

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1.0 Introduction

LBA Name (Lease Number) Applicant Mine Current Lessee Effective Date
North Rochelle LBA (WYW-127221) North Rochelle Mine Ark Land Co. 1/1/1998 Powder River LBA (WYW-136142) North Antelope Rochelle Mine Powder River Coal Co.2 9/1/1998 Thundercloud LBA (WYW-136458) Jacobs Ranch Mine Thunder Basin Coal Co., LLC 1/1/1999 Horse Creek LBA (WYW-141435) Antelope Mine Antelope Coal Co.5 12/1/2000 North Jacobs Ranch LBA (WYW-146744) Jacobs Ranch Mine Jacobs Ranch Coal Co. 5/1/2002 NARO South LBA (WYW-154001) North Antelope Rochelle Mine BTU Western Resources, Inc. 9/1/2004 West Hay Creek LBA (WYW-151634) Buckskin Mine Kiewit Mining Properties, Inc. 1/1/2005 Little Thunder LBA (WYW-150318) Black Thunder Mine Ark Land LT Co. 3/1/2005 West Antelope LBA (WYW-151643) Antelope Mine Antelope Coal Co.5 3/1/2005 NARO North LBA (WYW-150210) North Antelope Rochelle Mine BTU Western Resources, Inc. 3/1/2005 West Roundup LBA (WYW-151134) North Rochelle Mine West Roundup Resources, Inc. 5/1/2005 Eagle Butte West LBA (WYW-155132) Eagle Butte Mine Foundation Wyoming Land Co.4 2/20/20086

Acres Leased1
1,481.930

Mineable Tons of Coal1
157,610,000

Successful Bid (in dollars)
30,576,340.00

4,224.225

532,000,000

109,596,500.00

3,545.503

412,000,000

158,000,008.50

2,818.695

275,577,000

91,220,120.70

4,982.240

537,542,000

379,504,652.00

2,956.725

297,469,000

274,117,684.00

921.158

142,698,000

42,809,400.00

5,083.500

718,719,000

610,999,949.80

2,809.130

194,961,000

146,311,000.00

2,369.380

324,627,000

299,143,785.00

2,812.510

327,186,000

317,697,610.00

1,427.770

255,000,000

180,540,000.00

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1-5

1.0 Introduction
LBA Name (Lease Number) Applicant Mine Current Lessee Effective Date
South Maysdorf (Mt. Logan) (WYW-174407)3 Cordero Rojo Cordero Mining Co. 4/22/2008 North Maysdorf (Mt. Logan) (WYW-154432)7 Cordero Rojo Cordero Mining Co. 1/29/2009 Total Leases Issued

Acres Leased1
2,900.240

Mineable Tons of Coal1
288,081,000

Successful Bid (in dollars)
250,800,000.00

445.890

54,657,000

48,098,424.00

49,183.640

5,781,562,776

3,162,452,451.69

EXCHANGES COMPLETED
EOG (Belco) I-90 Lease Exchange (WYW-150152) EOG Resources (formerly Belco)8 I-90 Lease Exchanged for New Lease 4/1/2000 Pittsburgh & Midway Coal Exchange (WYW-148816)Pittsburgh & Midway Coal Mining Co. Private Land Exchanged for Federal Coal 1/27/2005 Powder River Coal Company Gold Mine Draw (WYW-003397 and WYW-83394)Powder River Coal Co.2 AVF Coal Lease 6/30/2006 Total Exchanges Completed 599.170 106,000,000 Lease rights to Belco I-90 Lease (WYW0322794)

2,045.530

84,200,000

6,065.77 acres of land and some minerals in Lincoln, Carbon, and Sheridan Counties, Wyoming Lease rights to 921.6 acres of leased federal coal underlying an AVF exchanged for adjacent bypass coal

623.000

47,700,000

3,267.70

237,900,000

LBA = lease by application AVF = Alluvial Valley Floor 
 1 Information from sale notice.
 2 Name changed to Powder River Coal, LLC, in August 2006. 
 3 The West Rocky Butte LBA was originally leased to Northwestern Resources Company. The lease has been assigned and incorporated into the Caballo 
 Mine. 4 Ownership of the Eagle Butte Mine and Belle Ayr Mine changed from Foundation Coal West, Inc., to Alpha Coal West, Inc., as of July 31, 2009. Notification of ownership submitted to the BLM in August 2009. 5 Notification of name change to Antelope Coal, LLC, submitted to the WDEQ in August 2008. 6 Sale date. 7 The applied-for LBA (original and modified) was classified under one serial number (WYW-154432) until later determination had been made to split into North and South. 8 The EOG Resources Belco Exchange lease is now owned by the Buckskin Mine. Source: BLM Lease by Application Data Sheets (BLM 2009b)

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1.0 Introduction

Table 1-2. Pending Coal Leases by Application, Powder River Basin, Wyoming
LBA Name (Lease Number) Applicant Mine
Belle Ayr North (WYW-161248) Belle Ayr Mine West Antelope II (WYW-163340) Antelope Mine North Hilight Field (WYW-164812) Black Thunder Mine South Hilight Field (WYW-174596) Black Thunder Mine West Hilight Field (WYW-172388) Black Thunder Mine West Coal Creek (WYW- 172585) Coal Creek Mine Caballo West (WYW-172657) Caballo Mine West Jacobs Ranch (WYW-172685) Jacobs Ranch Mine Hay Creek II (WYW-172684) Buckskin Mine Maysdorf II (WYW-173360) Cordero Rojo Mine North Porcupine (WYW-173408) North Antelope Rochelle Mine South Porcupine (WYW-176095) North Antelope Rochelle Mine Total LBAs Pending
LBA = lease by application; EIS = environmental Impact Statement
1

Application Date
7/6/2004

Acres as Applied for
1,578.74

Estimated Coal1 as Applied for (million tons)
191.90

Status
Draft EIS available 10/24/2008 Public hearing 11/19/2008 Final EIS in preparation Final EIS available 12/19/2008 Record of decision in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7/29/2009 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7/29/2009 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7/29/2009 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available 10/24/2008 Public hearing 11/19/2008 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available 10/24/2008 Public hearing 11/19/2008 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7//29/2009 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS in preparation Public hearing 12/03/2009 Draft EIS available 10/24/2008 Public hearing 11/19/2008 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7/29/2009 Final EIS in preparation Draft EIS available June 2009 Public hearing 7/29/2009 Final EIS in preparation

4/6/2005

4,108.60

429.70

10/7/2005

2,613.50

263.40

10/7/2005

1,976.69

213.60

1/17/2006

2,370.52

377.90

2/10/2006

1,151.26

57.00

3/15/2006

777.49

81.80

3/24/2006

5,944.37

669.60

3/24/2006; Modified 5/19/2008 and 11/28/2008 9/1/2006

419.04

77.2

4,653.84

474.50

9/27/2006; Modified 10/12/2007 9/29/2006; Modified 10/12/2007

5,795.78

601.20

3,185.96

309.70

34,575.79

3,747.50

Estimated tons of in-place or mineable coal, as reported in the lease application, or of recoverable coal as reported by the applicant, depending on the mine.

Source: BLM Lease by Application Data Sheets (BLM 2009b).

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

1-7

1.0 Introduction

1.1.3 1.1.3.1

Existing Buckskin Mine General Description

The WDEQ/Land Quality Division (LQD) approved the current Buckskin Mine permit (Permit 500 Term T7) on May 22, 2006. The existing Buckskin Mine permit area is 8,011.5 acres and encompasses previously permitted federal and state coal leases (5,877.9 and 659.5 acres, respectively) Map 1-2 shows the permit area and existing leases. Approximately 6,727.8 acres will be disturbed by activities related to extracting these reserves. The total disturbance area exceeds the leased area because of the need for highwall reduction, topsoil removal, and other mine support activities outside the lease boundaries. The permit area is larger than the leased or disturbed area to ensure that all disturbed lands are within the permit boundary and to allow an easily defined legal land description. As of December 2008, Kiewit estimates the in-place coal reserves in the existing Buckskin Mine to be 460.9 million tons, of which 344.3 million tons are recoverable. Through December 2008, the mine has produced a total of 339.8 million tons of coal. Annual production averaged 20.6 million tons over the previous six years, with a maximum of 25.3 million tons in any single year (Buckskin Mining Company 2002 through 2007). Buckskin Mine’s current air quality permit, as approved by WDEQ/Air Quality Division (AQD), allows mining of as much as 42 million tons of coal per year. Kiewit estimates that the average annual production at the mine after January 1, 2009, will be 25 million tons per year. If production continues at rate, Kiewit estimates that the post-2008 recoverable reserves at the Buckskin Mine would be depleted within approximately 14 years. The surface of the existing permit area is entirely private and owned by Kiewit. Existing land uses on the proposed tract include rangeland livestock grazing, wildlife habitat, pastureland, dryland cropland, and coal bed natural gas (CBNG) development. All oil and gas production facilities located in the proposed tract are privately owned. Surface ownership is discussed further in section 1.5, and ownership of oil and gas estates is discussed in section 3.11.

1.1.3.2

Mine Facilities and Employees

The Buckskin Mine uses one coal crushing facility, which is located at the coal preparation plant. Five active coal storage silos are currently in use at the mine. These facilities provide the capacity to produce, store, and distribute coal at the permitted tonnage. All coal transfer location points and crushing operations are controlled by baghouse-type dust collectors, dry fog systems, or passive enclosure control systems. The truck dumping operation uses a stilling shed to control fugitive dust. While sufficient production and storage capacity currently exist at the Buckskin Mine, future modifications to those facilities may be constructed to improve operating efficiency and air quality protection. The Buckskin Mine work force currently totals 338 employees. Buckskin Mine is currently seeking 10 additional employees to meet staffing need for current mining operations.

1-8

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0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 1-2 Buckskin Mine’s Federal Coal Leases and Proposed Tract

1.0 Introduction

1.1.3.3

Mining Methods and Activities

Prior to disturbance and in advance of mining, mine support structures such as roads, power lines, substations, and flood- and sediment-control measures are built as needed, and any public utility lines and oil and gas pipelines are be relocated, as necessary. During mining, surface disturbance typically occurs in an area larger than the lease itself to recover all of the coal reserves within the lease. Surface disturbance outside the coal lease is due to activities such as overstripping, matching reclaimed topography to premining contours, and constructing flood- and sediment-control structures. The first step of the mining process is soil salvage with suitable heavy equipment such as rubber-tired scrapers. Topsoil—the upper portion of a soil that is usually darkly colored and rich in organic material—is removed during initial pit development. Whenever possible, topsoil is hauled from salvage areas and placed directly on recontoured lands, but some topsoil is temporarily stockpiled due to scheduling for later use in pit closure and reclamation. If stockpiling is necessary, topsoil is seeded with a temporary plant mix approved by the WDEQ/LQD to provide vegetative cover and prevent wind and water erosion. After soil salvage operations are complete, overburden removal is conducted primarily with trucks and shovels. Other equipment used during this phase includes dozers, scrapers, excavators, front-end loaders, graders, and water trucks. When necessary, blasting is used to loosen the overburden. Blast holes are drilled down through the overburden—the rock and soil above the coal seam, excluding topsoil—to the top of the upper-most mineable coal seam. The drill holes are then loaded with explosives—a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil—and detonated to fragment the overburden to facilitate efficient excavation. Overburden is placed directly into already mined pits or stockpiled for later use as backfill. Sheer highwalls with vertical heights equal to overburden and interburden—the layer of sedimentary rock that separates two mineable coal beds—if present, plus coal thickness form the perimeter of the open pit. If necessary, streams are diverted into temporary channels around active mining areas or contained in temporary reservoirs to prevent pits from being flooded. Coal is currently produced at the Buckskin Mine from two coal seams, the Anderson (averaging 45 feet thick) and the Canyon (averaging 70 feet thick). The blasting, shovel, and truck methods used to remove overburden are also used to recover the coal. Coal is mined at several working pit faces to enable blending of the coal to meet customer quality requirements, to comply with the BLM lease requirements for maximum economic recovery of the coal resource, and to optimize coal removal efficiency with available equipment. Exposed coal seams are cleaned with a dozer, drilled, and blasted to facilitate efficient excavation. Coal is loaded with electric-powered shovels or hydraulic excavators into off-highway haul trucks for transport to the coal preparation plant. Coal haul roads are temporary structures constructed in the mine areas. Haul roads are watered and sprayed with dust suppressant to protect air quality. Coal from the Buckskin Mine is sold to a variety of domestic power utilities in an open market and is shipped by commercial rail to the purchasing utilities.

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1.1.3.4

Reclamation Activities

Mined-out areas must be restored to approximate original contour or other topographic configuration approved by the WDEQ/LQD. A direct permanent impact of coal mining is topographic moderation (section 3.2). Mined-out areas must be restored to recreate the original contours or other topographic configurations to the extent possible. The postmining topography is typically similar to the premining topography, but is gentler and more uniform. The removal of the coal is partially offset by the swelling that occurs when overburden and interburden are blasted, excavated, and backfilled. The approximate original drainage pattern of all streams in affected areas is also restored (section 3.5). In-channel stockponds and playas (shallow topographic depressions) are replaced to provide livestock and wildlife watering sources. All postmining topography, including reconstructed drainages, must be approved by the WDEQ/LQD. After mining, the land is reclaimed to support the premining uses described in section 1.1.3.1. Oil and gas wells, pipelines, and utility easements are reestablished as required. Most overburden is placed directly into areas where coal has already been removed. Replaced overburden is graded to reflect the original land surface contour, as required by WDEQ and OSM rules. Elevations consistent with an approved postmining topography plan are established as quickly as possible to construct a stable landscape and restore drainage. Once the overburden has been replaced and recontoured, it is sampled and analyzed to verify its suitability as subsoil. Material found to be unsuitable for use in reestablishing vegetation or that could affect groundwater quality due to high concentrations of certain parameters, such as selenium or adverse pH levels, is either removed and treated or adequately covered with suitable overburden material prior to depositing topsoil. Under certain conditions, the postmining topography is not immediately achievable. This occurs when an excess material requires temporary stockpiling, when insufficient material is available from current overburden removal operations, or when future mining could redisturb an area already mined. Once the postmining topography has been completed, the regraded backfill is scored to relieve soil compaction. Topsoil is redistributed using rubber-tired scrapers or haul trucks, dozers, and blades and a seedbed is established. Once a seedbed has been formed, the reclaimed areas are revegetated using native grasses, forbs, and shrubs that are consistent with the postmining land use. Permanent reclamation must be seeded with WDEQ-approved seed mixes. Reseeded areas are monitored for a minimum of 10 years to evaluate the success of vegetation growth and the establishment of a variety of plant species prior to the final (Phase III) release of the reclamation bond. Other parameters, such as successful use of reclaimed areas by livestock and wildlife, also must be demonstrated before Phase III bond release is achieved. All reclamation goes through rigorous monitoring and a process of success verifications dictated by the WDEQ/LQD before bond is released on reclaimed lands. The WDEQ/LQD Coal Rules and Regulations (Chapter 4, Section 2(b)(i)) require that rough backfilling and grading follow coal removal as closely as possible based on the mining conditions (WDEQ/LQD 2005). According to a recent OSM evaluation of the Wyoming coal mining industry, the 2007 reclamation-to-disturbance ratio was approximately 80%

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(12,258 total acres reclaimed versus 15,321 total acres disturbed) (OSM 2008). The remaining 20% of disturbance consists of long-term facilities and infrastructure such as coal storage silos and processing plants, roads, and rail lines. Those lands will be reclaimed when mine operations cease and all infrastructure has been removed from the site. The lengthy period required for final bond release means that the total acres listed as reclaimed for Wyoming coal mines likely includes a combination of areas that have been completely reclaimed and others that are in various stages of reclamation. The WDEQ/LQD also requires that mining companies post a reclamation bond on all acres disturbed by their activities within their own permit boundary. The bond must be large enough to cover the cost of completing reclamation, should the company default on its obligations. One major condition for receiving Phase III bond release is to document that the reclaimed area has achieved the vegetative cover and production and plant species diversity equal to a predetermined native comparison area, the reference area. For example, if shrubs were present during baseline vegetative inventories, the reclaimed area must also have a shrub density of one plant per square meter over 20% of the area. The Buckskin Mine has an annual program of interim vegetation monitoring to ensure that reclamation efforts are proceeding in a positive manner to achieve final bond release. Land Status categories are calculated on an annual basis and reported in the Annual Report to the WDEQ/LQD. The parameters of each phase of bond release are described in detail in WDEQ Guideline 20, available on the agency’s website at http://deq.state.wy.us/lqd/guidelines. Table 1-3 provides a general summary of reclaimed acreages at the Buckskin Mine and their respective stages of bond release. As of December 31, 2008, Buckskin had disturbed approximately 3,815 acres over the life of the mine, of which about 1,035 (273%) are associated with long-term mining facilities that will not be reclaimed until all mining operations have ceased. Approximately 1,256 (33%) of the 3,815 disturbed acres have been permanently reclaimed. Permanently reclaimed areas refer to all affected lands which have been backfilled, graded, re-topsoiled, and permanently seeded according to approved practices specified in the WDEQ/LQD approved Reclamation Plan for the mine. Permanently reclaimed lands must then meet various benchmarks associated with vegetative conditions as well as wildlife and livestock grazing before they achieve Phase III bond release. Reclaimed lands often fall into multiple bond release categories due to two primary factors: the overlap between activities in a given reclamation area; and the time-lag between reclamation actions, such as reseeding with permanent seed mixes, and responses to those actions (e.g., vegetation growth and production) necessary to receive Phase III bond release. Consequently, the reclaimed acreages shown in table 1-3 fall into multiple phases of bond release, and therefore do not total 1,256.

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Table 1-3. Summary of Land Status Acreage at the Buckskin Mine through December 2008
Land Status	
Undisturbed areas	 Disturbed areas	 Long-term facilities1	 Active mining and reclamation	 Reclaimed land2	 Phase I3 bond release 	 Phase II4 bond release	 Phase III5 final bond release	
1	

Acres
4,196 3,815 1,035 1,525 1,256 1,212 250 250

Approximate Percentages
52% of 8,011 total acres in permit area 48% of 8,011 total acres in permit area 27% of disturbance 40% of disturbance 33% of disturbance 96% of reclamation 7% of reclamation 7% of reclamation

Long-term facilities includes stockpiles, hydrologic control structures, mine buildings, coal-loading facilities, main access road, electrical substations, vehicle parking areas, railroad loop, environmental monitoring areas, and other similar structures and features that will not be reclaimed until all mining operations have ceased. Reclaimed land refers to previously disturbed areas that have been planted with permanent seed mixes. Phase I refers to areas where backfilling, re-grading, topsoil replacement, contouring, and drainage control have been completed in a bonded area in accordance with the mine’s approved reclamation plan. Phase II refers to areas that have achieved Phase I release, and also have vegetation species composition commensurate with that of the seed mix(es) and species composition required by the WDEQ/LQD approved Reclamation Plan. Mines often go directly from Phase I to Phase III due to the overlap between Phase II and Phase III. Phase III refers to lands that have been restored to the approved postmine land use and with successful restoration of wildlife habitat; where revegetation performance standards, shrub establishment goals, and tree replacement requirements have been met; the postmining groundwater, and surface water quality and quantity support land uses; any approved postmining road types and corridors on evaluated acreage are in place and functional; and any temporary structures present on lands being evaluated have been removed. Acreage shown includes acres added in 2009.

2	 3	

4	

5	

To achieve Phase III Bond Release, reclaimed lands must also support the postmining land use (i.e., grazing and wildlife), as determined through grazing trials and by monitoring wildlife use during the reclamation period. At the Buckskin Mine, reclamation is typically grazed by fencing multiple fields together to create a larger pasture; multiple pastures are sometimes also combined. The mine first began grazing cattle in 1998 and continued grazing efforts in 9 of the 10 subsequent years (1999 through 2008). The number of cattle grazed during a given session ranged from 107 to 200 during that period, with an average grazing time of 34 days (range 12 to 63 days) in a given pasture. Grazing cattle consisted primarily of cow-calf pairs, with a few bulls included in some years. Annual wildlife monitoring efforts at the Buckskin Mine are described in section 3.10, and have included reclaimed lands as they became established. The WGFD reviews the annual wildlife report each year to ensure that proper survey protocols have been followed and to monitor impacts to wildlife populations in the vicinity of the surface coal mines in the PRB. That agency has not identified any deficiencies in the Buckskin Mine annual wildlife reports.

1.1.3.5

Hazardous and Solid Waste

Wastes produced by current mining activities at Buckskin are handled according to the procedures described in WDEQ/LQD Mine Permit 500 Term T7, approved May 22, 2006. Solid waste produced at the existing Buckskin Mine consists of floor sweepings, shop rags, lubricant

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containers, welding rod ends, metal shavings, worn tires, packing material, used filters, and office and food wastes. A portion of the solid wastes produced at the mine is disposed of within the Buckskin Mine permit boundary in accordance with WDEQ-approved solid waste disposal plans. Solid waste is also disposed of at the Campbell County landfill. Sewage is handled by WDEQ-permitted sewage systems present on the existing mine facilities. Maintenance and lubrication of most of the equipment takes place at existing shop facilities at the Buckskin Mine. Major lubrication, oil changes, and other maintenance operations for most equipment are performed inside the service building bays. Used oil and grease are contained and deposited in storage tanks in that building. All collected used oils and grease are then beneficially recycled off site or used for energy recovery. The Buckskin Mine has reviewed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “Consolidated List of Chemicals Subject to Reporting Under Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Re-authorization Act (SARA) of 1986 (as amended)” and EPA’s “List of Extremely Hazardous Substances,” as defined in 40 CFR 355, (as amended) for hazardous substances used at the mine. Hazardous substances are designated under Section 102 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as amended; extremely hazardous substances are listed in Section 302 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. The mine maintains files containing Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals, compounds, and/or substances that are or would be used during the course of mining. The Buckskin Mine is responsible for ensuring that all production, use, storage, transport, and disposal of hazardous and extremely hazardous materials that occurs as a result of mining activities are in accordance with all applicable existing or future federal, state, and local government rules, regulations, and guidelines. All mining activities involving the production, use, and/or disposal of hazardous or extremely hazardous materials are and would continue to be conducted to minimize potential environmental impacts. The mine must also comply with emergency reporting requirements for releases of hazardous materials. Any release of hazardous or extremely hazardous substances in excess of the reportable quantity, as established in 40 CFR 117, is reported as required by CERCLA, as amended. The materials for which such notification must be given are listed in Section 302 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act and Section 102 of CERCLA, as described above. If a reportable quantity of a hazardous or extremely hazardous substance is released, immediate notice is given to the WDEQ and all other appropriate federal and state agencies. Each mining company is expected to prepare and implement several plans and policies to ensure environmental protection from hazardous and extremely hazardous materials. These plans/policies include: „ spill prevention control and countermeasure plans; „ spill response plans;
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„ stormwater pollution prevention plans; „ inventories of hazardous chemical categories pursuant to Section 313 of SARA, as amended; and „ emergency response plans. In addition, all mining operations must comply with regulations promulgated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), Safe Drinking Water Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Mine Safety and Health Act, and the CAA. In addition, mining operations must comply with all attendant state rules and regulations relating to hazardous material reporting, transportation, management, and disposal. Compliance with these regulations is the current practice at the Buckskin Mine. Kiewit’s acquisition of the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration would not change these practices, nor the type and quantity of any wastes generated and disposed of by the mine.

1.2 Purpose and Need for Action
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to provide a technically and economically feasible method for the Buckskin Mine to pass through a geologic irregularity, known as the Sand Channel Area, to reach low-sulfur compliance coal in the existing Spring Draw lease (WYW-78634). The Proposed Action would not expand operations at the Buckskin Mine, but would maintain current levels of production. The Proposed Action also would extend the life of the mine by approximately two years 3 . The permitting process that follows the lease sale takes several years to complete. Kiewit is applying for the federal coal reserves in the proposed tract now, so that it can secure coal resources to market, enter into new contracts, and complete the permitting processes in time to mine the new lease in a logical progression. More broadly, the Proposed Action responds to the continued demand for coal in the U.S., primarily for the purpose of generating electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration (2008a), the U.S. has the world’s largest known coal reserves. Demand for this coal is driven by the electric power sector, which accounts for about 92% of coal consumption (Energy Information Administration 2008a, 2008b). Approximately half of the electricity currently generated in the U.S. comes from coal (U.S. Department of Energy 2009). Wyoming coal is used to generate electricity in 37 other states (Wyoming Mining Association 2009). The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs federal agencies to undertake efforts to ensure energy efficiency and the production of secure, affordable, and reliable domestic energy. A primary goal of the National Energy Policy is to increase domestic energy supplies from diverse sources such as oil, gas, coal, hydropower, wind, and nuclear power in a long-term effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources. The BLM recognizes that the continued extraction of coal is essential to meet the nation’s future energy needs and goals. Consequently, private
3

Assuming that coal production would continue at the most recent (2008) annual coal production rate of 25 million tons per year.

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development of federal coal reserves is integral to the BLM’s coal leasing program under the authority of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as well as the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976. Under FLPMA, the BLM is mandated to manage public lands for multiple-use so that the lands are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people. FLPMA authorizes the BLM to manage the use, occupancy, and development of public lands through leases and permits (43 CFR 2710). Management of federal coal resources—leasing, mining, and selling—in the PRB contributes to a reliable supply of low-sulfur compliance coal for electric power generation in the U.S. The low-sulfur compliance coal from the PRB enables coal-fired power plants to meet current Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements and increasing demand without potentially significant increases in power costs while new technologies are developed to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Management of federal coal resources in the PRB also generates revenue—in the form of bonus, annual rental, and royalty payments—that is used to fund numerous infrastructure and social projects in Wyoming.

1.3 Regulatory Authority and Responsibility
The authorities and responsibilities of the BLM and other concerned regulatory agencies are described in this section, including a detailed description of the permitting process that follows BLM leasing of federal coal reserves. The Hay Creek II application was submitted and will be processed and evaluated under the following federal authorities: „ Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended; „ Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960; „ NEPA; „ Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976; „ FLPMA; and „ Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). As described previously, the BLM is the lead agency responsible for leasing federal coal reserves under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended by the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act in 1976. The BLM is also responsible for preparing this EIS to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of issuing a coal lease and the subsequent mining of that coal, which would be the logical outcome of any leasing action. As part of the EIS and leasing processes, the BLM also has a responsibility to consult with and obtain the comments and assistance of cooperating agencies, such as the OSM and WDEQ, as well as other state and federal agencies that have jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to potential environmental impacts.

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After a federal coal lease is issued, the SMCRA gives OSM primary responsibility to administer programs that regulate surface coal mining operations, as well as the surface effects of underground coal mining operations. Pursuant to Section 503 of the SMCRA, the WDEQ developed a permanent program authorizing that agency to regulate surface coal mining operations and surface effects of underground mining on nonfederal lands within Wyoming. In November 1980, the Secretary of the Interior approved that program. In January 1987, pursuant to Section 523(c) of the SMCRA, the WDEQ entered into another cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior authorizing that agency to regulate surface coal mining operations and surface effects of underground mining on federal lands within the state; no federal surface is included in any of the analysis areas for this EIS. The net result of those actions was to give the WDEQ the authority to serve as an agent of the OSM to issue permits to mine coal in Wyoming. Before a newly leased area can be disturbed, the lessee must submit an extensive permit application package to the WDEQ/LQD to amend the current permit document to include any proposed coal mining and reclamation operations associated with the newly leased coal reserves. That agency acts as the conduit for distributing the package to other divisions within the WDEQ, as well as other state and federal agencies with a vested interest or cooperator status in the permitting process and future impacts of mining. The WDEQ carefully reviews the permit application package to ensure that it complies with the permitting requirements, and that the coal mining operation will meet the performance standards of the approved Wyoming program. The BLM and other state and federal agencies also review the application package to ensure that it complies with the terms of the coal lease, applicable state requirements, the Mineral Leasing Act, NEPA, and other state and federal laws and their attendant regulations. If the permit application package complies, the WDEQ/LQD issues a permit to the applicant to conduct coal mining operations. The final permit application document and the actual permit are then submitted to OSM, which recommends approval, approval with conditions, or disapproval of the Mineral Leasing Act mining plan to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Land and Minerals Management. Before the mining plan can be approved, the BLM must approve the Resource Recovery Protection Plan for mining the tract. If a proposed LBA tract is leased to an existing mine, the lessee is required to revise its coal mining permit before the coal can be extracted, following the processes outlined above. As a part of that process, a detailed new plan must be developed showing how the newly leased lands would be mined, mitigated, and/or reclaimed. Surface disturbance associated with mining would actually occur in an area larger than the newly leased tract to allow for activities such as overstripping, matching reclaimed topography to premining contours, constructing flood- and sediment-control facilities, and numerous other related activities. Specific impacts on various resources that would occur during the mining and reclamation of an LBA tract would be addressed in the mining and reclamation plan, including specific, detailed measures to mitigate anticipated impacts. As noted, the mining, mitigation, and reclamation plans must all be

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approved by appropriate state and federal agencies before mining can proceed in newly leased coal tracts. The WDEQ/LQD enforces the performance standards and permit requirements for reclamation during a mine’s operation and has primary authority in environmental emergencies. The OSM retains oversight responsibility for this enforcement. Appendix A presents other federal and state permitting requirements that must be satisfied to mine the proposed tract.

1.4 Relationship to BLM Policies, Plans, and Programs
In addition to the federal acts listed under section 1.3, guidance and regulations for managing and administering public lands—including the federal coal reserves in the Kiewit application— are set forth in 40 CFR 1500 (Protection of Environment), 43 CFR 1601 (Planning, Programming, Budgeting), and 43 CFR 3400 (Coal Management). Specific guidance for processing applications follows BLM Manual 3420, Competitive Coal Leasing (BLM 1989) and the 1991 Powder River Regional Coal Team Operational Guidelines for Coal Lease-By-Applications (BLM 1991). The National Environmental Policy Act Handbook (BLM 2008b) has been followed in developing this EIS.

1.5 Conformance with Existing Land Use Plans
The Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976 requires that lands considered for leasing be included in a comprehensive land use plan and that leasing decisions be compatible with that plan. The BLM Approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) for Public Lands Administered by the Bureau of Land Management Buffalo Field Office (BLM 2001a), governs and addresses the leasing of federal coal in Campbell County. The 2001 document is an update of the previous Buffalo Resource Area RMP (BLM 1985), and will be referred to as the 2001 RMP update throughout this EIS. The major land use planning decision that the BLM must make concerning federal coal resources is a determination of which coal reserves are acceptable for further consideration for leasing. The BLM uses four screening procedures to identify these coal reserves. These screening procedures require the BLM to: „ estimate the development potential of the federal coal reserves; „ apply the unsuitability criteria listed in the regulations at 43 CFR 3461; „ make decisions related to multiple land uses that eliminate federal coal deposits from consideration for leasing to protect other resource values; and „ consult with surface owners who meet the criteria defined in the regulations at 43 CFR 3400.0-5(gg)(1) and (2).

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Only those federal coal reserves that pass these screens receive further consideration for leasing. The BLM has applied these coal screens to federal coal reserves in Campbell County several times, beginning in the early 1980s. In 1993, the BLM began the most recent process of reapplying these screens in Campbell, Converse, and Sheridan counties in eastern Wyoming. This screening analysis process, which includes the portion of Campbell County where the proposed tract is located, was adopted in the 2001 RMP update, and the results were included as appendix D of that update. That document can be viewed in the 2001 documents section on the Wyoming BLM website at: http://www.blm.gov/rmp/WY/application/index.cfm/rmpid=101. Under the first coal screening procedure, a coal tract must be located within an area that has been determined to have coal development potential in order to be acceptable for further consideration for leasing (43 CFR 3420.1-4(e)(1)). In the coal screening analyses published in its 2001 RMP update, the BLM identified the proposed tract as being in an area with this coal development potential. The second screening procedure requires the application of coal mining unsuitability criteria listed in the federal coal management regulations (43 CFR 3461). The coal mining unsuitability criteria were applied to lands in the PRB with high to moderate coal development potential, including the proposed tract and surrounding lands, during the coal screening conducted for the 2001 RMP update. Appendix B of this EIS summarizes the unsuitability criteria, describes the general findings for the 2001 RMP update, and presents a validation of these findings for the proposed tract, as well as adjacent unleased federal coal reserves. Chapter 2 provides detailed descriptions of the proposed tract and those adjacent coal reserves, as well as the result of the review of the unsuitability criteria specific to both areas. As indicated in appendix B, several criteria will be further evaluated during the leasing process. The third coal screening procedure consists of a conflict analysis for multiple-use activities on the lands associated with the coal reserves that are under consideration for leasing. In accordance with 43 CFR 3420.1-4(e)(3), that analysis must be completed to identify and “eliminate additional coal deposits from further consideration for leasing to protect resource values of a locally important or unique nature not included in the unsuitability criteria.” The 2001 RMP update addresses two types of multiple land-use conflicts: municipal/residential conflicts and multiple mineral development (coal versus oil and gas) conflicts. The proposed tract does not lie within or near an identified buffer zone surrounding an existing community; therefore, no federal coal reserves within that tract configuration have been eliminated from further consideration for leasing due to municipal/residential conflicts. The 2001 RMP update includes two decisions related to multiple mineral development conflicts in Campbell, Converse, and Sheridan counties. With respect to oil and gas leasing in coal mining areas, it determined that oil and gas tracts that would interfere with coal mining operations would not be offered for lease but that, where possible, oil and gas leases would be issued with specific conditions to prevent a development conflict with coal mining operations. With respect to coal leasing in oil and gas fields, the 2001 RMP update states that coal leasing in producing oil and gas fields would be deferred unless or until coal development would not

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interfere with the economic recovery of the oil and gas resources, as determined on a case-by-case basis. The BLM’s evaluation of the potential for conflict with the development of oil and gas resources within the proposed tract is discussed in section 3.3. The BLM’s policy and guidance on conflicts between surface coal mining and CBNG development is to optimize the recovery of both resources and to ensure that the public receives a reasonable return, as explained in BLM Instruction Memorandum No. 2006-153 (BLM 2006a). The fourth coal screening procedure requires consultation with surface owners who meet the criteria defined in the regulations at 43 CFR 3400.0-5(gg)(1) and (2)4. Surface owner consultation was conducted as part of the coal screening analyses published in the 2001 RMP update. Private surface owners in the Gillette coal development potential area (including Campbell County and northern Converse County) were provided the opportunity to express their preference for or against surface mining of federal coal under their private surface estate during that screening. At that time, no attempt was made to distinguish qualified surface owners. Appendix D of the 2001 RMP update states that “no area should be dropped from further consideration for leasing as a result of responses received from surface owners.” Therefore, no federal coal reserves within the proposed tract have been eliminated from further consideration for leasing due to qualified surface owner conflicts at this time. Private surface owners who are found to be qualified must consent to leasing before the BLM can offer the underlying federal coal reserves for lease. The BLM will review the current surface ownership in the final tract configuration. Prior to offering any tract for lease, consent to leasing must be provided for any lands held by any qualified surface owner. In summary, the proposed tract has been subjected to the four coal planning screens and determined acceptable for further consideration for leasing. Thus, a decision to lease the federal coal reserves in this application would be in conformance with the 2001 RMP update.

1.6 Consultation and Coordination
1.6.1 Initial Involvement
The BLM received the Hay Creek II coal lease application on March 24, 2006. The BLM, Wyoming State Office, Division of Minerals and Lands, initially reviewed the application and ruled that the application and lands involved met the requirements of regulations governing coal leasing on application (43 CFR 3425). The BLM Wyoming State Director notified the Governor of Wyoming that Kiewit had filed a lease application with the BLM for the proposed tract on September 18, 2006. The PRRCT reviewed this lease application at a public meeting held in Casper, Wyoming, on April 19, 2006,
4

Chapter 7 includes a definition of the term “qualified surface owner,” based on these regulations.

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following Kiewit’s presentation about the existing Buckskin Mine and the pending lease application for the proposed tract. The PRRCT recommended that the BLM continue to process this application. The major steps in processing an LBA are shown in appendix C. The BLM published a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement and notice of public meeting in the Federal Register on Friday, December 21, 2007. The publication announced the time and location of a public scoping meeting and requested public comment on the application. Letters requesting public comment and announcing the time and location of the public scoping meeting were mailed to all parties on the distribution list. The BLM published a notice of public scoping meeting in the Federal Register and Gillette News-Record newspaper. A BLM news release announcing preparation of the Hay Creek II coal lease application EIS was issued on January 17, 2008. The public scoping meeting was held on January 31, 2008, in Gillette, Wyoming. At the public meeting, the BLM presented information and accepted public comments about the application. Chapter 5 provides a list of all federal, state, and local governmental agencies that were consulted in preparation of this EIS, all contributors to the information provided in this document and the distribution list for this EIS.

1.6.1.1

Issues and Concerns

Issues and concerns expressed by the public and government agencies relating to the potential impacts of leasing the proposed tract, specifically, and/or to previous coal lease applications in general include: „ potential conflicts between coal mining and both existing and proposed conventional oil and gas development and CBNG development; „ potential cumulative impacts of coal leasing decisions combined with other existing and proposed development in the PRB; „ validity and currency of resource data; „ potential impacts on public access; „ potential impacts on cultural and paleontological resources; „ potential impacts on greater sage-grouse and other wildlife; „ potential impacts on threatened and endangered species and other species of concern; „ potential impacts on wetland resources; „ potential impacts related to coal loss during transport; „ potential impacts on air quality (including cumulative impacts on visibility); „ potential impacts on surface and groundwater quality and quantity;

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„ potential impacts of and possible mitigation for nitrogen oxide emissions resulting from blasting of coal and overburden; „ potential impacts on human health; „ the need to include reasonably foreseeable actions such as the construction and operation of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad and power plants in the cumulative analysis; „ the need to address coal combustion residues and other byproducts from coal-fired power plants; „ the need to address increasing coal production in the PRB in the cumulative analysis; „ the need to lease enough coal that the revenues generated are sufficient for use in the local community; „ the need to address site-specific greenhouse gas emissions; and „ climate change.

1.6.1.2

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Copies of this draft EIS were sent to all parties on the distribution list and copies were made available for review at the BLM offices in Casper, Buffalo, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. The document is also available for review on the BLM Wyoming website at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/cfodocs/HayCreekII.html. The EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the draft EIS. A 60-day comment period on the draft EIS will commence with publication of that notice. The BLM will also publish a notice of availability/notice of public hearing in the Federal Register. That notice will announce the date and time of a public hearing to be held during the 60-day comment period. The purpose of the hearing will be to solicit public comments on the draft EIS and on the fair market value, the maximum economic recovery, and the proposed competitive sale of federal coal from the proposed tract. The BLM will also publish a notice of public hearing in the Gillette News-Record and other local newspapers.

1.6.2 1.6.2.1

Future Involvement Final Environmental Impact Statement

All substantive written comments received on the draft EIS will be included, with agency responses, in the final EIS. Both the BLM and the EPA will publish a notice of availability of the final EIS in the Federal Register. After a 30-day availability period, the BLM will make a decision to hold or not to hold a competitive lease sale for the federal coal reserves in the proposed tract.

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1.6.2.2

Record of Decision

The record of decision (ROD) for the tract will be mailed to all parties on the mailing list and others who commented on the draft EIS during the comment period. Members of the public and/or the applicant can appeal the BLM decision to hold or not to hold a competitive sale and issue a lease for the final tract configuration. The BLM decision must be appealed within 30 days from the date that the notice of availability for the ROD is published in the Federal Register. The decision can be implemented at that time if no appeal is received. If a competitive lease sale is held, it will follow the procedures set forth in 43 CFR 3422, 43 CFR 3425, and BLM Handbook H-3420-1 (Competitive Coal Leasing).

1.6.2.3

Department of Justice Consultation

After a competitive coal lease sale, but before the lease is issued, the BLM must solicit the opinion of the U.S. Department of Justice on whether the planned lease issuance creates a situation inconsistent with federal antitrust laws. The U.S. Department of Justice has 30 days to make this determination. If the Department of Justice has not responded in writing within the 30 days, the BLM can issue the lease.

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

2.0 PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES
This chapter describes the regulations and documents that guide the identification of alternatives to the Proposed Action, explains how the alternatives were developed and how a final tract configuration will be determined, and, finally, provides detailed descriptions of the Proposed Action, alternatives, and tract configurations considered in this EIS1. This draft EIS analyzes three alternatives: the Proposed Action, Alternative 1 (No Action), and Alternative 2 (additional lands added by the BLM). Two additional alternatives were considered but were not analyzed further in this EIS because they were not logistically feasible (Alternative 3 - new mine start) or substantially different (Alternative 4 – delay the lease sale) than analyzed alternatives. Supporting information for excluding these alternatives is provided in section 2.3. In response to direction from the Department of Interior, the BLM has identified Alternative 2 as the preliminary Preferred Alternative in this draft EIS. However, the final Preferred Alternative cannot be developed until the BLM has considered all of the input received on the draft EIS from individuals, agencies, and other interested parties during the public comment period. The comment period begins when the BLM has issued a notice of availability of the draft EIS and lasts for 60 days. This process offers the public sector an opportunity to submit written input during the comment period and oral comments at a public hearing that occurs during that period. The BLM will consider comments on the environmental effects identified in the draft EIS, as well as fair market value and maximum economic recovery factors, geologic data, and coal data. The ultimate Preferred Alternative will be described and analyzed in the final EIS. The ROD will be issued and, if the decision is to offer the tract for lease, then a sale will be held. If a sale is held, the bidding would be open to any qualified bidder.

2.1. Background
To process an LBA, the BLM must evaluate the quantity, quality, maximum economic recovery, and fair market value of the federal coal, and fulfill the requirements of NEPA by evaluating the environmental impacts of leasing that coal. NEPA also requires that the BLM consider and evaluate “reasonable alternatives” to meet the objectives of the Proposed Action while avoiding or minimizing environmental impacts. Reasonable alternatives are defined by NEPA as those that are technically, economically, and environmentally practical and feasible to satisfy the stated purpose and need for the proposed federal action. NEPA also requires the analysis of a “no action” alternative (i.e., the consequence of continuing ongoing activities without a new leasing action). In addition to NEPA requirements, the BLM must meet the requirements contained in the Competitive Coal Leasing Manual (BLM 1989) and follow the regulations for federal coal leasing by application under 43 CFR 3425.1–9. Like NEPA, the Competitive Coal Leasing

1

Refer to page xiii for a list of abbreviations and acronyms used in this document.

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

Manual requires that the BLM evaluate other potential boundaries for federal coal tracts that include and/or are near the proposed tract. In its consideration of alternative tract boundaries, the BLM must meet the following goals: 1) achieve maximum economic recovery of the coal resource; 2) maintain or increase the potential for competition; and 3) avoid future bypass or captive tract situations (i.e., stranding an isolated tract and hindering future recovery of those coal resources). In accordance with these goals, the BLM has identified an area encompassing the proposed tract and adjacent unleased federal coal reserves. This area is referred to as the BLM study area (map 2-1). Based on federal regulations (43 CFR 3425.1-9)2, the BLM could decrease the size of the proposed tract or increase it to include some or all of the federal coal reserves in the BLM study area.

2.2. Description of the Proposed Action and Alternatives
Under the Proposed Action, the BLM would hold a competitive sale and issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in the proposed tract, which is a contiguous block of federal coal reserves adjacent to existing coal leases at the Buckskin Mine (map 2-1). Two alternatives to the Proposed Action are analyzed in this EIS: 1.	 Alternative 1 (No Action): Reject the application to lease federal coal reserves in the proposed tract and not offer a tract for sale at this time. 2.	 Alternative 2 (the BLM preliminary Preferred Alternative): Hold a competitive sale and issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in an alternative tract configuration that would be delineated from some or all of the BLM study area. See section 2.3 for a discussion of other alternatives considered but eliminated from further analysis in this EIS. Under the Proposed Action or Alternative 2, the Buckskin Mine permit area would be enlarged to include the newly leased tract before mining activities could begin. To do this, Kiewit would submit an application with WDEQ/LQD to amend its existing surface mining permit and mining plan, including corresponding monitoring and mitigation plans, to include the new lease area.

2.2.1.

Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, the BLM would hold a competitive sale, as described under section 1.1.2, and would issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in the proposed tract. The Proposed Action assumes that Kiewit would be the successful bidder and would incorporate the proposed tract into its existing mine operations. The Proposed Action would not expand operations at the Buckskin Mine, but would maintain current levels of production for an additional two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.
2	

“The authorized officer may add or delete lands from an area covered by an application for any reason he/she determines to be in the public interest.”

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0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 2-1 Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area

2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

2.2.1.1. Description of the Proposed Tract
The proposed tract is adjacent to existing Buckskin Mine federal coal leases (map 2-1). The proposed tract encompasses approximately 419.04 surface acres; approximately 182 acres (43%) overlap the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. The legal description of the proposed tract is provided in table 2-1. The land description and acreage for the proposed tract are based on the BLM Status of Public Domain Mineral Titles (BLM 2007a and 2008). The coal estate in the proposed tract is federally owned; surface ownership and ownership of oil and gas estates are discussed in section 3.11. As described in that section, the entire surface of the proposed tract is privately owned by individuals or companies, while most of the subsurface minerals (all of the coal and the majority of oil and gas reserves) are federally owned. This results in a split estate situation. The BLM has developed a policy to address the split estate issue, which applies to situations where the surface rights are in private ownership and the rights to development of the mineral resources are publicly held and managed by the federal government.

Table 2-1. Legal Description of the Proposed Tract
Campbell County, Wyoming, Sixth Principal Meridian Township 52 North, Range 72 West
Section 19: Lot 5 (W ½) Lot 6 Lot 7 Lot 10 Lot 11 Lot 12 (W ½) Lot 13 (W ½) Lot 14 Lot 15 Lot 18 Lot 19 Lot 20 (W ½) Total Acres
Source: BLM Status of Public Domain Land and Mineral Titles (2007a and 2008).

Acres
20.71 41.42 42.45 42.31 41.68 20.84 20.93 41.75 41.90 41.97 42.01 21.07 419.04

Kiewit estimates that the tract contains approximately 77.2 million tons of in-place federal coal reserves; however, not all of those coal reserves are currently considered mineable. According to 43 CFR 3480.0-5(23), the BLM defines minable coal as the reserve base that is commercially mineable. In other words, mineable coal includes all reserves that are legally and physically accessible, including the coal that would be left in place during the mining process, such as support pillars, fenders (i.e., catch benches), property barriers, or coal underlying public roads (because they could be relocated). Much of the western boundary of the proposed tract is adjacent to Campbell County Road 23 (Collins Road). In accordance with SMCRA, and as specified under unsuitability criterion 3
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(43 CFR 3461) (appendix B), lands within 100 feet of the outside line of the right-of-way of a public road are considered unsuitable for surface coal mining. Consequently, the coal reserves underlying the Collins Road, its right-of-way, and an associated 100-foot buffer zone cannot be accessed under current conditions. An exception to this prohibition is included in the SMCRA regulations at Section 522(e)(4) and 30 CFR 761.11(d)(2). This exception can be applied if the Campbell County Board of Commissioners allows the public road to be relocated or closed after the following have occurred: a public notice has been issued, an opportunity for a public hearing has been provided, and a finding that the interests of the affected public and landowners will be protected has been issued (30 CFR 761.11[d]). If Kiewit were to obtain approval from the commissioners to move the Collins Road, the exception to the prohibition on mining within its right-of-way and buffer zone could be applied and the unsuitability determination could be reconsidered. In that case, Kiewit would be able to recover the coal underlying the county road and its associated buffer zones. If Kiewit were to not seek or obtain approval to move or close the road, a stipulation would be attached to any new lease stating that no mining activity may be conducted in the portions of the lease within the road right-of-way and 100-foot buffer zone without proper authorization, and the associated federal coal reserves would remain unsuitable for mining and would not be recovered. Neither the applicant nor the Campbell County Board of Commissioners has submitted a proposal to move this road, and Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing that option. Kiewit estimates that approximately 17.1 million tons of mineable coal underlies the Collins Road and its 100-foot buffer zone within the proposed tract. Therefore, of the 77.2 million tons of in-place federal coal reserves in the proposed tract, Kiewit estimates that approximately 60.1 million tons are mineable. Although it may not be recovered as part of the Proposed Action, the coal underlying the road and its buffer area is still considered for leasing because those reserves could be mined under the exception described above. Including this coal in the lease would also allow for maximum recovery of all the mineable coal adjacent to, but outside of, the 100-foot buffer zone, even if the road is not relocated. Based on historical recovery factors, Kiewit considers approximately 54.1 million tons (70 %) of the total in-place coal reserves in the proposed tract to be “recoverable” under normal mining practices. Recoverable coal reserves are defined in 43 CFR 3480.0-5(32) as the minable reserve base excluding all coal that would be left in place during the mining process, even though they might be physically accessible (i.e., mineable). Recoverable coal represents reserves that can be mined economically and excludes areas defined as unsuitable for mining (e.g., in road rights-of-way that are not relocated) as well as the coal that is left behind as support pillars and similar structures, or unavoidably lost through cleaning, loading, and hauling (e.g., spillage), and spontaneous natural fires. The BLM independently evaluates the volume and average quality of the coal resources included in proposed LBA tracts as part of the fair market value determination process. The agency’s estimate of the mineable federal coal reserves included in the proposed tract may not agree with

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

the mineable coal reserve and coal quality estimates provided by the applicant. The BLM estimate would be published in the official notice if the tract is offered for sale. Under its currently approved mining plan, the Buckskin Mine would retrieve its remaining 344.3 million tons of recoverable coal reserves in approximately 14 years, beginning in January 2009. The mine’s current air quality permit as approved by the WDEQ/AQD allows mining of as much as 42 million tons of coal per year. Annual production averaged 20.6 million tons from 2002 through 2007, with a maximum of 25.3 million tons in any single year (Buckskin Mining Company 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007). Under the Proposed Action, Kiewit estimates that the life of the mine would be extended by an additional two years, with an average production rate of 25 million tons per year. Additional details about existing coal reserves and tons mined to date are provided in section 1.1.3.1.

2.2.1.2. Mine Facilities and Employees
Under the Proposed Action, the recovery of additional federal coal reserves would use the existing mine facilities and employees described under section 1.1.3.2. The Proposed Action would not require additional facilities or employees.

2.2.1.3. Mining Methods and Activities
Under the Proposed Action, coal would continue to be produced at the Buckskin Mine from the Anderson and Canyon coal seams, and current production methods would be the same as those described under section 1.1.3.3. The design of the Buckskin Mine seeks to confine disturbance to the active mine blocks. Before any surface disturbance or other mine-related activities would begin in the proposed tract, support infrastructure such as roads, power lines, gas pipelines, and flood- and sediment-control features would be built or relocated, as needed; no public roads are currently being considered for construction or relocation. Topsoil and overburden removal is accomplished using a variety of suitable heavy equipment. Whenever possible, topsoil would be hauled directly to a reclamation area and overburden to open pits; however, if scheduling conflicts arise, they would be temporarily stockpiled in separate areas and topsoil piles would be seeded to prevent erosion. Overburden and coal removal has been and would continue to be conducted using blasting, trucks and shovels to facilitate efficient excavation.

2.2.1.4. Reclamation Activities
Reclamation activities under the Proposed Action would be consistent with those currently in use at the Buckskin Mine, described in section 1.1.3.4. Mined-out areas would be restored to recreate the original contours or other topographic configurations to the extent possible. The approximate original drainage pattern of all streams within affected areas would also be restored (section 3.5). In-channel stockponds and playas (shallow topographic depressions) would be replaced to provide livestock and wildlife watering sources. All postmining topography, including reconstructed drainages, must be approved by the

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WDEQ/LQD. After mining, the land is reclaimed to support the premining uses described in section 1.1.3.1. Oil and gas wells, pipelines, and utility easements are reestablished as required. The reclaimed area would be monitored for a minimum of 10 years to evaluate the success of vegetation growth and the establishment of a variety of plant species prior to the final (Phase III) release of the reclamation bond. Other parameters, such as successful use of reclaimed areas by livestock and wildlife, also must be demonstrated before Phase III bond release is achieved, as described in section 1.1.3.4.

2.2.2.

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under Alternative 1, the No Action Alternative, Kiewit’s application to lease the coal included in the proposed tract would be rejected: federal coal reserves adjacent to the existing Buckskin Mine would not be offered for competitive sale, and the additional coal would not be mined. For the purposes of this EIS, Alternative 1 assumes that the federal coal reserves adjacent to the Buckskin Mine would not be mined in the foreseeable future. However, selection of this alternative would not preclude Kiewit or another company from submitting a future lease application for these adjacent coal reserves. The tract could be leased as a maintenance lease while the adjacent mine is in operation. If it is not leased while the adjacent mine is in operation, it may or may not be leased in the future. The tract evaluated in this EIS does not include enough coal reserves to justify starting a new mine (section 2.3.1); however, the coal reserves included in the tract could be combined with unleased federal coal reserves to the west and north to create a larger tract, which could be mined by a new future operation.

2.2.2.1. Description of Overlap Area
Under Alternative 1, currently permitted mining activities associated with existing coal leases at the Buckskin Mine would not be affected. Approximately 182 acres of the proposed tract and 436.5 additional acres of the BLM study area (618.5 total acres) overlap the existing permit boundary. Therefore, under the No Action Alternative, surface disturbance would occur in this overlap area, but would be limited to highwall reduction, topsoil removal, and other mine support activities related to mining under the existing contiguous leases. Under Alternative 1, average annual production would continue as described under section 1.3.1.1.

2.2.2.2. Mine Facilities and Employees
Under Alternative 1, mine facilities and employees would continue as described under section 1.1.3.2.

2.2.2.3. Mining Methods and Activities
Under Alternative 1, mining methods and activities would continue as described under section 1.1.3.3.

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2.2.2.4. Reclamation Activities
Under Alternative 1, reclamation activities would continue as described under section 1.1.3.4.

2.2.3.

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, the BLM would hold a competitive sale, as described under section 1.1.2, and would issue a lease for the federal coal reserves included in an alternative tract configuration. The alternative tract configuration would be defined by the BLM from lands within the BLM study area (map 2-1) to be technically, economically, and environmentally preferable to the proposed tract. The alternative tract configuration could be smaller than the proposed tract, or include part or all of the BLM study area. As under the Proposed Action, Alternative 2 assumes that Kiewit would be the successful bidder and would incorporate an alternative tract configuration into its existing mine operations. Alternative 2 would not expand operations at the Buckskin Mine, but would maintain current levels of production, described in section 1.1.3.1, for six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.

2.2.3.1. Description of the BLM Study Area
The BLM study area extends north and west of the proposed tract to encompass approximately 1,883 acres (map 2-1). As described under the No Action Alternative, approximately 436.5 acres (23%) of the BLM study area overlap the existing mine permit area. The legal description of the area is provided in Table 2-2.

Table 2-2. Legal Description of the BLM Study Area
Campbell County, Wyoming, Sixth Principal Meridian Township 52 North, Range 72 West
Section 7: Lots 17 through 20 Section 8: Lots 13 through 16 Section 9: Lots 13 through 15 Section 17: Lots 1 through 4, 5 (N. ½), 6 (N. ½), 7 (N. ½), and 8 (N. ½) Section 18: Lots 5 through 11, 12 (N. ½, SW. ¼), 13 (W. ½), 14 through19, and 20 (W. ½) Section 19: Lots 5 (W. ½), 6 through 11, 12 (W. ½), 13 (W. ½), 14 through 19, and 20 (W. ½) Total Acres
BLM = U.S. Bureau of Land Management Source: BLM Status of Public Domain Land and Mineral Titles (2007a and 2008).

Acres
166.91 162.00 120.58 247.39 612.95 573.27 1,883.10

The land descriptions and acreages shown in table 2-2 are based on the same BLM master title plats and coal plats as those listed under section 2.2.1.1 for the Proposed Action. Surface ownership and ownership of oil and gas estates are discussed in section 3.11. In addition to existing surface disturbance associated with the Buckskin Mine, the BLM study area includes small crop areas, two Campbell County roads (the Collins Road and Campbell County Road 73

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[McGee Road]), several overhead electric transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, and three residences. Only one of the three residences is currently occupied. The coal underlying the Collins and McGee roads and their rights-of-way and associated 100-foot buffer zones have been determined unsuitable for surface coal mining in accordance with SMCRA and as specified under unsuitability criterion 3 (43 CFR 3461), unless the applicant pursues an exception to this prohibition by obtaining authorization to close or relocate one or both roads. Under the same unsuitability criterion, the land underlying the occupied residence, discussed above, is also considered unsuitable for mining. Surface disturbance on this land and a 300-foot buffer around it would be prohibited, unless Kiewit were to purchase the surface rights associated with the residence and its buffer zone. Kiewit does not currently plan to pursue efforts to relocate either county road or acquire the surface rights to the land associated with the occupied residence; therefore, the company considers the lands around those features inaccessible and operationally limited. Nevertheless, the coal underlying these features and their respective buffer areas must be considered for leasing by the BLM because those reserves could be mined under the exceptions for unsuitability criterion 3 described in section 2.2.1.1. Including these operationally limited coal reserves in the lease would also allow for maximum recovery of all adjacent mineable coal. Although the coal itself may not be recovered, the surface above the coal would allow for overstripping and other disturbance activities necessary to access previously permitted adjacent reserves. If a lease is issued for lands within the BLM study area, a stipulation will be attached to the lease stating that no mining activity may be conducted within the areas currently identified as unsuitable for mining without proper authorization or acquisition of surface rights, as applicable. Kiewit estimates that the BLM study area contains approximately 269.7 million tons of in-place coal, and considers approximately 149.7 million tons (56%) of it recoverable. Approximately 103.4 million tons (38%) of coal would not be accessible (according to Kiewit’s estimates) because of limitations associated with the occupied residence and public road rights-of-way and buffer zones discussed above. Kiewit estimates that the remaining 16.6 million tons (6%) of coal would be left in place as support pillars and similar structures, or unavoidably lost through spillage and spontaneous natural fires. As for the Proposed Action, the BLM independently evaluates the volume and average quality of the coal resources included in the BLM study area as part of the fair market value determination process. This estimate may not agree with the estimates provided by the applicant. The BLM estimate would be published in the public notice if a tract is offered for sale.

2.2.3.2. Mine Facilities and Employees
Under Alternative 2, Kiewit estimates the life of the mine would be extended by six years with an average annual production rate of 25 million tons. Mine facilities and employees would be the same as those described in section 1.1.3.2 and under the Proposed Action.

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2.2.3.3. Mining Methods and Activities
Mining methods and activities would be the same as those described in section 1.1.3.3 and under the Proposed Action.

2.2.3.4. Reclamation Activities
Reclamation activities would be the same as those described in section 1.1.3.4 and under the Proposed Action.

2.3. Eliminated Alternatives
The following alternatives were considered in the initial phase of this EIS, but were eliminated from further analysis.

2.3.1.

Alternative 3

The environmental impacts of developing a new mine to recover the coal resources within the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration would be greater than under either action alternative or the No Action Alternative due to the need for construction of new facilities and rail lines, increased employment requirements and their associated effects on the local socioeconomics, and the creation of additional sources of particulates (dust). Under this alternative, the BLM would hold a competitive, sealed-bid sale for the federal coal reserves included in the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration. Alternative 3 assumes, however, that the successful bidder would be someone other than the applicant, and that this bidder would plan to open a new mine to develop these coal resources. The BLM currently estimates that a tract would need to include as much as 500 to 600 million tons of in-place coal to attract a buyer interested in opening a new mine in the Wyoming PRB. This estimate is based on two primary assumptions. First, an operator would need to construct facilities capable of producing 30 million tons of coal per year to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by the coal deposits in the PRB. Second, 20 to 30 years of coal reserves would be needed to justify the expense of building those facilities. Given these assumptions, neither the proposed tract (approximately 77 million tons) nor the BLM study area (about 270 million tons) includes sufficient in-place coal resources to justify the costs of opening a new mine, though the coal reserves included in this EIS could be combined with unleased federal coal to the west and north to create a larger tract, which could be mined by a new future operation. A company or companies acquiring this coal for a new stand-alone mine would require considerable initial capital investments, including the construction of new surface facilities (e.g., offices, shops, warehouses, processing facilities, loadout facilities, and rail spur), extensive baseline data collection, and development of new, detailed mining and reclamation plans (rather than simply amending existing plans). A new mine start would also require a large number of

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

new employees, which may not be available from the mining sector workforce (which includes the oil and gas industry) considering the current strong demand for labor and low unemployment in Campbell County and surrounding counties in the PRB. In addition, a company or companies acquiring this coal for a new mine would have to compete for customers with established mines in a competitive market. Based on demand forecasting for the Wyoming PRB mines, existing mine capacity is sufficient to provide for expected coal demand through 2020 (BLM 2005b). While these factors do not mean that no new mines would open, it would be difficult for them to produce coal at a price competitive with the existing operations while also incurring the high capital and start-up costs associated with new facilities and operations. The potential difficulty in obtaining an air quality permit is another factor that could discourage new mine starts in the Wyoming PRB. A new mine would constitute a new source of air pollutants. Under the WDEQ/AQD permitting program, anyone planning to construct, modify, or use a facility capable of emitting designated pollutants into the atmosphere must obtain an air quality permit prior to construction. Surface coal mines fall into this category. Air quality is discussed in detail in section 3.4. To obtain a construction permit, an operator may be required to demonstrate that the proposed activities would not increase air pollutant levels above the state’s 24-hour average annual standards for particulate matter measuring 10 micrometers or less in diameter (PM10). These standards were established by the Wyoming Air Quality Standards and Regulations (Chapter 6), and can be found on the Internet at http://deq.state.wy.us/aqd/standards.asp. The PRB did not experience any exceedances of these PM10 standards through 2000, but recorded an average of five per year from 2001 through 2007; additional details regarding exceedances at the Buckskin Mine are provided in section 3.4. Although many of the previous exceedances were attributed to high winds, concerns about future potential exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) may make it more difficult for a company planning to open a new mine to demonstrate that those operations would not result in additional air pollution levels that are above annual Wyoming standards. If a lease sale is held and the successful bidder is not the original applicant, the new operator would be required to submit a new permit application, including detailed mining, monitoring, mitigation, and reclamation plans (versus a simple amendment of current plans) to the WDEQ/LQD for review. The new operator would also be required to submit a Resource Recovery and Protection Plan to the BLM for review. Before a new mining operation could begin, a Resource Recovery and Protection Plan must be approved by the BLM, a mining permit must be approved by WDEQ/LQD, and a Mineral Leasing Act mining plan must be approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior. In view of these issues, the current economies of mining in the Powder River Federal Coal Region appear to make construction of a new mine economically unfeasible using coal reserves in the proposed tract or BLM study area. Therefore, this alternative is not analyzed further in this EIS.

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2.3.2.

Alternative 4

Under Alternative 4, the BLM would delay the sale of federal coal reserves in the proposed tract and BLM study area. Under this alternative, it is assumed that a tract could be developed later as either a maintenance tract for an existing mine or a new mine start, depending on how long the sale was delayed. Alternative 4 was not analyzed in detail because it would not produce substantially different impacts from other alternatives that were analyzed in more detail. The environmental impacts of mining the coal later as part of an existing mine would be expected to be similar and essentially equal to the action alternatives discussed previously (section 2.2.1 and section 2.2.3). As discussed in section 2.3.1, the environmental impacts from a new mine start would be expected to be greater than if the coal reserves were mined as an extension of an existing mine. Delaying the lease sale would not guarantee that the BLM would receive a higher price during the initial bidding process, or a higher bonus bid or royalties and taxes once the lease is issued due to other reasons that may or may not be related to the quality and/or location of the coal reserves themselves. The price of coal and, thus, the rate of mining, is affected by various factors including, but not limited to, customer demand (sales) and transportation options. For example, coal prices were depressed in the early 2000s, which resulted in lower bid prices during that period. Conversely, damage to train tracks in Wyoming and other states limited coal shipments during much of 2005. Those shipping constraints, combined with increased world energy demand and numerous natural disasters in other parts of the country, led to unusually large increases in coal prices that year. The prices received for coal from the PRB have generally been increasing in recent years. If that trend continues, the fair market value of federal coal reserves could increase and a delayed sale would result in a higher lease bid, as well as higher bonus bid and royalty payments to the government when the lease is issued and coal is mined, respectively. This approach also would allow CBNG resources to be more completely recovered prior to mining. Likewise, if the fair market value of the coal reserves were to decrease, a delayed sale would bring lower initial and bonus bids as well as lower royalty, tax, and annual rental payments. Royalty and tax payments are the largest revenue sources from new leases, but cannot be collected until the coal is permitted and mined; this process requires several years after the lease is issued. Therefore, the price of coal when it is mined (and essentially sold to the customer) affects royalty and tax payments. Higher coal prices result in greater royalty and tax payments, regardless of whether coal lessees have short- or long-term contracts with their customers. The reverse is true when coal prices decrease. Other considerations include the value of making low-sulfur coal available now versus leaving mineable coal in place for future development, in anticipation of cleaner fuel sources being developed in the future. Continued leasing of low-sulfur coal from the PRB enables existing coal-fired power plants to more easily meet current CAA requirements until new technologies are developed to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. This approach provides a stable supply of power to meet increasing demand without a potentially significant increase in power costs for individuals and businesses, and meets current energy requirements while the new
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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

technologies are developed. If cleaner fuel sources are developed in the future, they could be phased in with less economic impact on the public. An economic analysis could be conducted to estimate the range of potential future economic benefits that would result from delaying the lease sale until coal prices rise. However, because it is impossible to predict with any certainty when or if those rates would increase, any projected benefits from delaying the lease sale would be speculation. CBNG resources are currently being recovered from leases in and near the proposed tract and BLM study area. As of May 2008, 30 permits had been issued for drilled or proposed well sites on lands in the BLM study area. Of those, 12 have expired without drilling, 3 are reported as plugged and abandoned, and 15 are currently producing. Another 12 wells are producing CBNG in the area immediately surrounding the BLM study area. Additional information relative to conventional oil and gas and CBNG development in the proposed tract and immediately adjacent area is provided in section 3.3.2. Several existing mechanisms can facilitate the continued recovery of these oil and gas resources prior to mining if the federal coal in the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration is leased under the current timeline: „ The BLM can attach a Multiple Mineral Development stipulation to the lease. Such a stipulation would state that the BLM has the authority to withhold approval of coal mining operations that would interfere with the development of mineral leases issued prior to the coal lease. „ Mining the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration cannot occur until the coal lessee has a permit to mine the tract as approved by the WDEQ/LQD and a Mineral Leasing Act mining plan approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Before that mining plan can be approved, the BLM must approve the Resource Recovery and Protection Plan for mining the tract. Prior to approving the plan, the BLM can review the status of CBNG development in the final tract configuration and the mining sequence proposed by the coal lessee. The permit approval process generally takes several years to complete. This interval would allow additional time for CBNG resources to be recovered from the leased tract. „ The BLM has a policy in place regarding conflicts between CBNG and coal recovery. This policy directs the BLM decision makers to optimize the recovery of both resources and to ensure that the public receives a reasonable return (BLM 2006a). As described previously, rental and royalty provisions from the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration would benefit the U.S. if coal prices increased by the time mining began. Given the mechanisms currently in place, a large portion of the economically recoverable CBNG resources in the area would be expected to be recovered after a lease is issued and before mining occurred. The environmental impacts of mining the coal later as part of an existing mine would be expected to be similar and essentially equal to the action alternatives discussed in section 2.2.1 and section 2.2.3. If a new mine is required to mine the coal, the environmental impacts would be expected to be greater than if each tract were mined as an extension of an existing mine.

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

2.4. Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring
In general, the levels of mitigation and monitoring required for surface coal mining by the SMCRA and Wyoming state law are more rigorous and extensive than those required for other surface disturbing activities. Those regulations and laws require surface coal mines to collect a wide range of detailed baseline information, and implement extensive mitigation measures and monitoring programs. The currently approved permit to conduct mining operations for the Buckskin Mine includes these requirements (i.e., the No Action Alternative). Required mitigation and monitoring programs are also considered to be part of the action alternatives considered in this EIS. These data collection requirements, monitoring commitments, and mitigation plans would be extended to include mining operations in the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration if they are leased and permitted for mining. A mining and reclamation plan would have to be approved for the final tract configuration before any mining operations could be conducted there, regardless of who acquires the tract. The major mitigation and monitoring measures that are required by state or federal regulation are summarized in table 2-3. Specific information about some of these measures (including their results at the Buckskin Mine) is included in chapter 3. If impacts are identified during the leasing process that are not addressed by existing required mitigation measures, the BLM can require additional measures in the form of stipulations on the new lease within the limits of its regulatory authority. The mining and reclamation plan would have to be revised to address any new concerns that are not included under existing procedures.

Table 2-3. Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring Measures for Surface Coal Mining Operations Legally Required for All Alternatives
Resource
Topography and Physiography

Regulatory Compliance or Mitigation Required by Stipulations, State, or Federal Law1
ƒ Restoring to approximate original contour or other approved topographic configuration

Monitoring1
ƒ WDEQ/LQD checks as-built vs. approved topography with each annual report ƒ WDEQ/LQD requires monitoring in advance of mining to detect unsuitable overburden ƒ Monitoring vegetation growth on reclaimed areas to determine need for soil amendments ƒ Sampling regraded overburden for compliance with root zone criteria

Geology and Minerals

ƒ Identifying and selectively placing or mixing chemically or physically unsuitable overburden materials to minimize adverse effects on vegetation or groundwater

Soil

ƒ Salvaging soil suitable to support plant growth for use in reclamation ƒ Protecting soil stockpiles from disturbance and erosional influences ƒ Selectively placing at least 4 feet of suitable overburden on the graded backfill surface below replaced topsoil to meet guidelines for vegetation root zones

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives
Regulatory Compliance or Mitigation Required by Stipulations, State, or Federal Law1
ƒ Dispersion modeling of mining plans for annual average particulate pollution impacts on ambient air ƒ Using particulate pollution control technologies ƒ Using work practices designed to minimize fugitive particulate emissions ƒ Using EPA or state-mandated best available control technology, including: – Fabric filtration or wet scrubbing of coal storage silo and conveyor vents – Watering or using chemical dust suppression on haul roads and exposed soils – Containing truck dumps and primary crushers – Covering conveyors – Promptly revegetating exposed soils – High-efficiency baghouse dust collection systems or passive enclosure control systems or atomizers/foggers on the crusher, conveyor transfer, storage bin and train loadout, meeting a standard of 0.01 grains per dry standard cubic foot of exit volume – Watering active work areas – Reclamation planning to minimize surface disturbances subject to wind erosion – Paving access roads – Haul truck speed limits – Limited material drop heights for shovels and draglines ƒ Following voluntary and required measures to avoid exposing the public to NO2 from blasting clouds, including: – Phoning neighbors and workers to notify them prior to blasting – Monitoring weather and atmospheric conditions prior to decisions to blast – Timing blasts to avoid temperature inversions and to minimize inconvenience to neighbors – Closing public roads when appropriate to protect the public – Minimizing blast sizes – Posting signs on major public roads ƒ Building and maintaining sediment-control ponds or other devices during mining ƒ Restoring approximate original drainage patterns during reclamation ƒ Restoring stockponds and playas during reclamation

Resource
Air Quality

Monitoring1
ƒ On-site air quality monitoring for PM10 and/or TSP ƒ Off-site ambient monitoring for PM10 and/or TSP ƒ On-site compliance inspections

Surface Water

ƒ Monitoring storage capacity in sediment ponds ƒ Monitoring quality of discharges ƒ Monitoring streamflow and water quality ƒ Monitoring wells ƒ track water levels in overburden, coal, interburden, underburden, and backfill ƒ Monitoring wells ƒ track water quality in overburden, coal, interburden, underburden, and backfill ƒ Monitoring to determine restoration of essential hydrologic functions of any declared AVF

Groundwater Quantity

ƒ Evaluating cumulative impacts on water quantity associated with proposed mining ƒ Replacing existing water rights that are interrupted, discontinued, or diminished by mining with water of equivalent quantity

Groundwater Quality

ƒ Evaluating cumulative impacts on water quality associated with proposed mining ƒ Replacing existing water rights that are interrupted, discontinued, or diminished by mining with water of equivalent quality

Alluvial Valley Floors

ƒ Identifying all AVFs that would be affected by mining ƒ WDEQ/LQD determination of significance to agriculture of all identified AVFs affected by mining ƒ Protecting downstream AVFs during mining ƒ Restoring essential hydrologic function of all AVFs affected by mining

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives
Regulatory Compliance or Mitigation Required by Stipulations, State, or Federal Law1
ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ Identifying all wetlands that would be affected by mining U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identification of jurisdictional wetlands Replacing all jurisdictional wetlands that would be disturbed by mining Replacing functional wetlands as required by surface managing agency, surface landowner, or WDEQ/LQD

Resource
Wetlands

Monitoring1
ƒ Monitoring reclaimed wetlands using same procedures used to identify premining jurisdictional wetlands ƒ Monitoring revegetation growth and diversity until release of final reclamation bond (minimum 10 years) ƒ Monitoring erosion to determine need for corrective action during establishment of vegetation ƒ Use of controlled grazing during revegetation evaluation to determine suitability for postmining land uses ƒ Baseline and annual wildlife monitoring surveys ƒ Monitoring for Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming

Vegetation

ƒ Permanently revegetating reclaimed areas according to a comprehensive revegetation plan using approved permanent reclamation seed mixtures consisting predominantly of species native to the area ƒ Reclaiming 20% of reclaimed area with native shrubs at a density of one per square meter ƒ Controlling erosion on reclaimed lands prior to seeding with final seed mixture using mulching, cover crops, or other approved measures ƒ Chemically and mechanically controlling weed infestation ƒ Directly hauling topsoil ƒ Selectively planting shrubs in riparian areas ƒ Planting sagebrush ƒ Creating depressions and rock piles ƒ Using special planting procedures around rock piles ƒ Posting reclamation bond covering the cost of reclamation ƒ Restoring premining topography to the maximum extent possible ƒ Planting a diverse mixture of grasses, forbs, and shrubs in configurations beneficial to wildlife ƒ Designing fences to permit wildlife passage ƒ Raptor-proofing power transmission poles ƒ Using raptor-safe power lines ƒ Creating artificial raptor nest sites ƒ Increasing habitat diversity by creating rock clusters and shallow depressions on reclaimed land ƒ Planting cottonwoods along reclaimed drainages ƒ Replacing drainages, wetlands, and AVFs disturbed by mining ƒ Reducing vehicle speed limits to minimize mortality ƒ Instructing employees not to harass or disturb wildlife ƒ Following USFWS approved avian mitigation plans ƒ Avoiding bald eagle disturbance ƒ Restoring bald eagle perching and foraging areas disturbed by mining ƒ Restoring sage-grouse and mountain plover habitat disturbed by mining ƒ Surveying for sage-grouse, mountain plovers, and black-tailed prairie dogs ƒ Surveying for Ute ladies'-tresses and blowout penstemon ƒ USFWS block clearance from black-footed ferret surveys in project area ƒ Same as Wildlife and Sensitive Species above ƒ Suitably restoring reclaimed area for historic uses (grazing and wildlife)

Wildlife and Sensitive Species

Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Candidate Species Land Use

ƒ Baseline and annual wildlife monitoring surveys

ƒ Monitoring of controlled grazing prior to bond release evaluation

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives
Regulatory Compliance or Mitigation Required by Stipulations, State, or Federal Law1
ƒ Conducting pre-disturbance Class I and III surveys to identify cultural properties on all state and federal lands, and on private lands affected by federal undertakings ƒ Consulting with SHPO to evaluate eligibility of cultural properties for the NRHP ƒ Avoiding or recovering data from significant cultural properties identified by surveys, according to an approved plan ƒ Notifying appropriate agency personnel if historic or prehistoric materials are uncovered during mining operations ƒ Instructing employees of the importance of and regulatory obligations to protect cultural resources ƒ Notifying Native American tribes with known interest in this area of leasing action and requesting help in identifying potentially significant religious or cultural sites ƒ Conducting pre-disturbance surveys to identify paleontological resources on all state and federal lands, and on private lands affected by federal undertakings ƒ Notifying appropriate agency personnel if potentially significant paleontological sites are discovered during mining ƒ Instructing employees of the importance of and regulatory obligations to protect paleontological resources ƒ Restoring landscape character during reclamation through return to approximate original contour and revegetation with native species

Resource
Cultural Resources

Monitoring1
ƒ Monitoring mining activities during topsoil stripping ƒ Ceasing activities and notifying authorities if unidentified sites are encountered during topsoil removal

Native American Concerns Paleontological Resources

ƒ No specific monitoring program ƒ Ceasing activities and notifying authorities if unidentified resources are encountered during topsoil removal ƒ No specific monitoring program; land contours and plant communities monitored as part of topography and vegetation requirements, respectively ƒ Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections ƒ Monitoring conducted by pipeline company per WDEQ requirements ƒ Surveying and reporting to document volume of coal removed ƒ No specific monitoring other than required by these other regulations and response plans

Visual Resources

Noise Transportation Facilities Socioeconomics

ƒ Protecting employees from hearing loss ƒ Relocating existing pipelines, if necessary, in accordance with specific agreement between pipeline owner and coal lessee ƒ Paying royalty and taxes as required by federal, state, and local regulations. No mitigation measures are proposed ƒ Disposing solid waste and sewage within permit boundaries according to approved plans ƒ Storing and recycling waste oil ƒ Maintaining files containing Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals, compounds, and/or substances used during course of mining ƒ Ensuring that all production, use, storage, transport, and disposal of hazardous materials are in accordance with applicable existing or hereafter promulgated federal, state, and government requirements ƒ Complying with emergency reporting requirements for releases of hazardous materials as established under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended ƒ Preparing and implementing spill prevention control and countermeasure plans, spill response plans, inventories of hazardous chemical categories pursuant to section 312 of Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, as amended ƒ Preparing emergency response plans.

Hazardous and Solid Waste

WDEQ/LQD = Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Land Quality Division; PM10 = particulate matter of 10 micrometers or less in diameter;
 TSP = total suspended particulates; EPA = Environmental Protection Agency; NO2 = nitrogen dioxide; AVF = alluvial valley floors; USFWS = U.S. Fish and 
 Wildlife Service; SHPO = State Historic Preservation Office; NRHP = National Register of Historic Places. 

1

These requirements, mitigation plans, and monitoring plans are required by SMCRA and Wyoming state law. They are already in place for the existing Buckskin Mine in its current approved WDEQ/LQD mining and reclamation plan (the No Action Alternative). Under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2, these requirements, mitigation plans, and monitoring plans would need to be addressed in a mining plan revision for the additional leased tract; they would need to be approved before mining could occur.

Source: WDEQ Rules and Regulations.

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

If impacts are identified during the leasing process that are not addressed by existing required mitigation measures, the BLM can require additional mitigation measures (stipulations) on the new lease within the limits of its regulatory authority. In general, the levels of mitigation and monitoring required for surface coal mining by SMCRA and Wyoming state law are more extensive than those required for other surface-disturbing activities; however, concerns are periodically identified that are not monitored or mitigated under existing procedures.

2.5. Summary of Coal Production and Disturbance under the Proposed Action and Alternatives
The decision-making process for public lands and/or federal minerals in Wyoming is conducted in compliance with NEPA, which requires all federal agencies to: „ involve the interested public in their decision-making process; „ consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed actions; „ develop measures to mitigate environmental impacts; and „ prepare environmental documents that disclose the impacts of the proposed actions and alternatives. Table 2-4 describes projected coal production, surface disturbance, mine life, and federal and state revenues for the Buckskin Mine under the Proposed Action and alternatives. These figures are based on an average production rate of 25 million tons per year, which is the current projected life-of-mine rate. Detailed discussions of the direct and indirect environmental impacts under the Proposed Action and analyzed alternatives are provided in chapter 3; a summary of those impacts is provided in table 3-2. Cumulative environmental impacts under the Proposed Action and each analyzed alternative are discussed in chapter 4, and a summary of those impacts is provided in table 4-41. As described in section 2.3, Alternatives 3 and 4 were considered in the initial phase of this EIS, but were eliminated from further analysis because they were not feasible or were not substantially different from other analyzed alternatives, respectively.

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2.0 Proposed Action and Alternatives

Table 2-4. Comparison of Additional Coal Production, Surface Disturbance, Mine Life, and Revenues under the Proposed Action and Alternatives
Existing Buckskin Mine Permit Area
460.9 mmt 361.9 mmt 344.3 mmt 6,438.2 acres 6,727.8 acres7 8,011.5 acres 25 mmt 14 years 338 $563.6 million $417.0 million

Additional Under Alternative 1 (No Action)
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Item
In-Place Coal (as of 12-31-08) Mineable Coal (as of 12-31-08)4 Recoverable Coal (as of 12-31-08)4,5 Potential Lease Area Total Disturbance Permit Area8 Area6

Proposed Action1,3
77.2 mmt 60.1 mmt 54.1 mmt 419.04 acres 478 acres 1,009 acres 0 2 years 0 $90.6–$108.8 million $69.2–$87.3 million

Alternative 22,3
269.7 mmt 166.3 mmt 149.7 mmt 1,883.1 acres 618 acres 2,191.6 acres 0 6 years 0 $250.2–$300.4 million $191.0–$241.1 million

Average Annual Post-2008 Coal Production Remaining Life of Mine (Post-2008)9 Average Number of Employees Total Projected State and Local Revenues (Post-2008)10,11 Total Projected Federal Revenues (Post-2008)12
mmt = million tons
1	

Numbers are based on the entire proposed tract, which includes a 182-acre overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area; that overlap was not factored into calculations for coal reserves for the existing mine, but was included in total disturbance numbers for the existing mine. Numbers were calculated based on the entire BLM study area, which includes a 436.5-acre overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area; that overlap was not factored into calculations for coal reserves for the existing mine, but was included in total disturbance numbers for the existing mine. Coal numbers assume mining of the entire proposed tract or BLM study area. Estimates for total disturbance include additional lands in a buffer outside of those areas within the general analysis area, excluding operationally limited lands west of both county roads and around the occupied residence. Mineable and recoverable coal figures under the Proposed Action and Alternative 1 are maximum estimates and do not account for coal reserves that would not be mined beneath the occupied residence and associated 300-foot buffer zone, or the public road rights-of-way (Collins and McGee roads), their associated 100-foot buffer zones, and other operationally limited lands between the two roads. Recoverable coal figures assume a recovery rate of 95% for coal in the Canyon seam and a 90% for all other coal reserves; they do not include coal left behind as support pillars and similar structures, or unavoidably lost through spillage and spontaneous natural fires during normal mining operations. The total area to be disturbed exceeds the leased area under the existing Buckskin Mine and the Proposed Action because of the need for highwall reduction, topsoil removal, and other mine support activities that cause surface disturbance outside the lease boundaries. The permit area is larger than the leased or disturbed area to ensure that all disturbed lands are within the permit boundary and to allow an easily defined legal land description. The total area to be disturbed does not include lands under public roads, in their rights-of-way or 100-foot buffer zones, in the 300-foot buffer zone around the occupied residence, or in the operationally limited lands west of the Collins and McGee roads; those expected exclusions result in a smaller disturbance area than lease area under Alternative 2. Includes federal and state coal leases currently held by the Buckskin Mining Company. Pending WDEQ permit revision under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2. Assumes average current average annual coal production rate of 25 million tons continues through life-of-mine. Revenues to the State of Wyoming and local governments include severance taxes; property and production taxes (ad valorem); sales and use taxes; and Wyoming’s share of federal royalty payments, bonus bids, annual rental payments, and Abandoned Mine Land fees. State revenues are based on an assumed price of $7.85 per ton of “recoverable coal,” federal royalty of 12.5% of the value less 51% federal share, plus $0.315 per ton for Abandoned Mine Land fees on assumed 25% state share, plus bonus payments of between $0.30 and $0.97 per ton of LBA leased coal per ton (based on average of six LBAs in 2004 and 2005) times the tonnage of recoverable coal times a 50% state share, plus $0.07 per ton estimated sales and use taxes, plus $0.33 per ton estimate for ad valorem taxes, plus $0.415 per ton in severance taxes. Only the sales and use taxes paid directly by the mine are considered (i.e., taxes generated by vendors and suppliers and by consumer expenditure supported directly and indirectly by the mine are not included. These figures could change based on the outcome of recent legislation that changed the percentage of distribution to states. Revenues for Alternative 1 do not include the $4.2 million in scheduled coal lease bonus bids to be paid on the final tract configuration in fiscal year 2009. Federal revenues are based on an assumed price of $7.85 per ton, federal royalty of 12.5% times 51% share, plus $0.315 per ton for Abandoned Mine Land fees times an assumed 75% federal share, plus black lung tax of $0.00261 per ton, plus bonus payments of between $0.30 and $0.97 per ton of LBA leased coal (based on the range of the six LBA sales in 2004 and 2005) times tonnage of recoverable coal minus a 50% federal share. These figures could change based on the outcome of recent legislation that changed the percentage of distribution to states.

2	

3	

4	

5	

6	

7	 8	 9	 10	

11	

12	

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.0	 AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES
This chapter describes the affected environment (existing conditions) and analyzes the environmental consequences (potential direct and indirect impacts) on various resources in the general analysis area resulting from the Proposed Action and alternatives. The Proposed Action and alternatives (including the No Action Alternative) are described in chapter 2. The general analysis area encompasses the BLM1 study area and a 0.25-mile-wide buffer to the north and west (map 3.0-1), a total of approximately 2,847.3 acres. This area represents the maximum surface area that could be disturbed by mining activities analyzed in this EIS. Surface disturbance occurs outside of a coal lease area as a result of activities including, but not limited to, overstripping, highwall back-sloping (including catch benches), highwall reduction after mining to match undisturbed topography, and construction of flood- and sediment-control structures. As described in section 2.2.1.1, the proposed tract encompasses approximately 419 acres and the BLM study area, which includes the proposed tract, encompasses approximately 1,883.1 acres. In keeping with the purpose of an EIS, the analyses presented in this document are based primarily on existing information. The general analysis area is substantially similar to the adjacent existing Buckskin Mine permit area in its physical features and resources present. Detailed site-specific environmental data have previously been collected and environmental analyses prepared to secure the existing coal leases and necessary mining permits for Buckskin. Because data collection and analyses encompassed an area larger than the previous lease and permit boundaries, most results from those efforts also apply to the general analysis area.

3.0.1

Background

Impacts were identified in this EIS based on criteria set forth by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1508.27) and the professional judgment of the specialists completing the analyses. Impacts can be beneficial or adverse, and can be a primary result (direct) of an action or a secondary result (indirect). They can be short-term (persisting during mining and reclamation and through the time the reclamation bond is released) or long-term and/or permanent (persisting beyond reclamation and the life of the mine, respectively). Impacts also vary in terms of significance. Impact significance may range from no impact or negligible impacts to high or substantial impacts. Impacts can also be significant during mining but reduced to insignificance following completion of reclamation.

1

Refer to page xiii for a list of abbreviations and acronyms used in this document.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-1

0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.0-1 General Analysis Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.0.2

Resources Analyzed in this EIS

Resources addressed in this chapter were identified during the scoping process or by an interdisciplinary team review as having the potential to be affected. The BLM requires that certain elements are analyzed when present in the affected environment. The following required elements are present in the general analysis area and are addressed in this EIS: „ air quality (section 3.4); 
 „ water quality (section 3.5); 
 „ wetlands/riparian zones (section 3.7); 
 „ invasive non-native species (section 3.9); 
 „ threatened and endangered species (sections 3.9 and 3.10); 
 „ cultural resources (section 3.12); 
 „ hazardous or solid wastes (section 3.16); 
 „ Native American religious concerns (section 3.17); and 
 „ environmental justice (section 3.17). 
 The following additional resources also are present in the general analysis area and are addressed 
 in this EIS: 
 „ topography and physiography (section 3.2); 
 „ geology, mineral, and paleontological resources (section 3.3); 
 „ other water resources (section 3.5); 
 „ alluvial valley floors (section 3.6); 
 „ soils (section 3.8); 
 „ vegetation (section 3.9); 
 „ wildlife (section 3.10); 
 „ land use and recreation (section 3.11); 
 „ visual resources (section 3.13); 
 „ noise (section 3.14); 
 „ transportation resources (section 3.15); and 
 „ socioeconomics (section 3.17). 
 Five additional aspects considered in this chapter are: 
 „ regulatory compliance; 
 „ mitigation and monitoring; 

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

„ residual impacts; „ the relationship between local short-term uses of the human environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity; and „ any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be associated with the action alternatives (42 United States Code § 4332[C]). The following elements, which are required by the BLM when present in the affected environment, are not present in the general analysis area and are, therefore, not addressed in this EIS: „ areas of critical environmental concern; „ prime or unique farmlands; „ floodplains; „ wild and scenic rivers; and „ wilderness. Individual data reports have been prepared for most resources to provide additional detailed information on the affected environment for the proposed tract and general analysis area. Copies of those reports can be viewed at the BLM Wyoming High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming. As discussed in chapter 2, regulatory compliance, mitigation, and monitoring required by federal and/or state law are considered to be part of the action alternatives and are described for each resource area.

3.0.3

Summary of Mine Disturbance Area and Impacts

Table 3.0-1 provides comparisons of leased and disturbance acreages under the Proposed Action and alternatives. As described in section 3.0, additional disturbance beyond the respective lease boundaries is associated with overstripping and other activities necessary to recover the coal. The numbers presented for Alternative 1 are based on the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing permit boundary (map 3.0-1). Under this alternative, impacts analyzed for this overlap area would result from surface disturbance associated with the recovery of federal coal reserves under existing adjacent leases. Table 1-3 provides a breakdown of the total disturbed and reclaimed acreages for the entire existing Buckskin Mine permit area through December 2008.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Table 3.0-1. 	 Comparisons of Disturbance Acres1 and Estimated Recoverable Coal Reserves under the Proposed Action and Alternatives in the General Analysis Area and at the Buckskin Mine
Alternative 12 (No Action)
Additional Coal Lease Area (Acres) 	 Total Potential Coal Lease Area (Acres) for the Mine3	 % Increase in Potential Coal Lease Area (Acres) for the Mine	 Estimated Potential Additional Disturbance Area (Acres)4	 Estimated Expected Additional Disturbance Area (Acres)4	 Estimated Potential Total Mine Disturbance Area (Acres)4	 Estimated Expected Total Mine Disturbance Area (Acres)4	 % Increase in Estimated Expected Disturbance Area (Acres) 	 Estimated Additional Recoverable Coal (million tons)7	 Estimated Recoverable Coal for Mine as of 12/31/08 (million tons)7 % Increase in Estimated Recoverable Coal as of 12/31/08	
1	 2	

Proposed Action
419.0 6,857.2 6.51 1,009.05 478.06 9,020.55 7,205.86 7.1 54.16 398.46 15.7

Alternative 2
1,883.1 8,321.3 29.2 2,191.65 618.06 10,203.15 7,345.86 9.2 149.76 494.06 43.5

0
6,438.2

0 0 0
8,011.55 6,727.86 0

0
344.36

0

Acreages are rounded to the nearest tenth. Under any alternative, potential surface disturbance could occur in the overlap between the general analysis area and the Buckskin Mine permit area (656 acres, map 3.0-1) to access previously permitted adjacent coal reserves. Approximately 182 acres of the proposed tract and 436.5 acres of the BLM study area are within the overlap area. Includes federal and state coal leases held by the Buckskin Mine. Estimated additional mine disturbance area = coal lease to be mined + associated surface disturbance necessary to access and process coal reserves (e.g., mine facilities, access roads, haul roads, topsoil stripping, highwall reduction, stockpiles). Represents disturbance in the existing or anticipated permit area under each alternative, which would be the actual limit of potential surface disturbance. Estimated expected additional and total mine disturbance areas, and estimated recoverable coal figures exclude lands under public roads, in their rightsof-way or 100-foot-wide buffer zones, in the 300-foot-wide buffer zone around the occupied residence, or in the operationally limited lands west of the Collins and McGee roads. Exact boundaries are presently undetermined. Estimated recoverable coal resources = tons of mineable coal x recovery factor, and excludes all losses (spillage, spontaneous fires) that occur during normal mining operations. Recoverable coal figures assume all recoverable coal (except Canyon) has a recovery rate assumption of 90%. Canyon has a recovery rate assumption of 95%.

3	 4	

5	 6	

7	

Table 3.0-2 presents a comparative summary of the direct and indirect environmental impacts under the Proposed Action and alternatives. Table 4-41 presents the same summary for the cumulative effects under each option. These impacts are analyzed in greater detail in chapter 3 and chapter 4, respectively.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-5

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Table 3.0-2.

Summary Comparison of Magnitude1 and Duration2 of Direct and Indirect Impacts in the General Analysis Area under the Proposed Action and Alternatives3
Magnitude and Duration of Impact No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
No impact Minor to moderate, long-term Minor to moderate, long-term Minor, short-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term

Description of Potential Impact by Resource
3.2 TOPOGRAPHY AND PHYSIOGRAPHY Lower surface elevation ƒ Microhabitat reduction ƒ Habitat diversity reduction ƒ Big game carrying capacity reduction ƒ Reduction in water runoff and peak flows ƒ Increased precipitation infiltration ƒ Reduction in erosion ƒ Potential enhanced vegetative productivity ƒ Potential acceleration of groundwater recharge 3.3 GEOLOGY AND MINERALS Removal of coal Removal and replacement of topsoil and overburden Physical characteristic alterations in replaced overburden

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Moderate, permanent on 419 acres Minor to moderate, long-term on 478 acres; no impact on rough breaks Minor to moderate, long-term on 478 acres Minor, short-term on 478 acres Minor to moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres

Alternative 2
Moderate, permanent on up to 1,883 acres Minor to moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor to moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

Permanent topographic moderation, which could result in:

No impact Moderate, permanent No impact

Moderate, permanent on 419 acres Moderate, permanent on 478 acres Moderate, permanent on 419 acres

Moderate, permanent on up to 1,883 acres Moderate, permanent on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, permanent on up to 1,883 acres

3-6

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Loss of unrecovered CBNG through venting and/or depletion of hydrostatic pressure Loss of access for development of subcoal conventional oil and gas resources and other minerals/loss of resources

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
No impact

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Moderate to substantial, permanent on 419 acres Moderate, short-term on access to 419 acres; minor, short-term on access to 59 surface acres; no impacts on scoria, uranium, or bentonite resources Moderate to high, permanent on 478 acres

Alternative 2
Moderate to substantial, permanent on up to 1,883 acres Moderate, short-term on access to up to 1,883 acres; minor, short-term on access to up to 964 surface acres; minor, permanent on scoria resources; no impacts on uranium, or bentonite resources Moderate to high, permanent on up to 2,847 acres

Minor, short-term on access; minor permanent on scoria resources; no impacts on uranium or bentonite

Destruction of paleontological resources that are not exposed on the surface 3.4 AIR QUALITY Particulate emissions: ƒ Elevated concentrations associated with projected average production rate of 25 mmt per year in compliance with ambient standards ƒ Potential for public exposure to particulate emissions along U.S. Highway 14-16, various county roads, and occupied dwellings in the area

Moderate to high, permanent

Moderate, adverse short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no projected increase or exceedances Minor, short-term for most residences for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); highway and county roads average 0.5 mile away; moderate for one occupied residence within 0.5 mile; high for one occupied residence within 0.25 mile Minor, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no projected increase or exceedances

Moderate, adverse short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations; no projected exceedances Minor, short-term for most residences for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; highway is ≥1 mile away; county road adjacent for 0.6 mile stretch; nearest occupied home > 0.5 mile away

Moderate, adverse short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations; no projected exceedances Minor to moderate, short-term for most residences for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; highway is ≥0.5 mile away; two county roads pass through area; moderate for one occupied residence within 0.25 mile; high for one occupied residence within general analysis area Minor to moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations; Minor to moderate,adverse short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations, no projected exceedances

ƒ Potential for human health impacts as a result of exposure to particulate emissions NOx emissions from machinery: ƒ Elevated concentrations associated with average production of 25 mmt per year in compliance with ambient standards

Low to minor, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations Minor to moderate, adverse short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations, no projected exceedances

Minor to moderate, adverse short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase or exceedances

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-7

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
ƒ Potential for public exposure along U.S. Highway 14-16, various county roads, and occupied dwellings in the area

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
Minor to high, short-term for most residences for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no NOx point sources at Buckskin; highway and county roads average 0.5 mile away; moderate, short-term for one occupied residence within 0.5 mile; high, short-term for one occupied residence within 0.25 mile

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Minor to moderate, short-term for most residences for 2 years beyond current life-of­ mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations, no projected exceedances; highway is ≥1 mile away; county road adjacent for 0.6 mile stretch; nearest occupied home > 0.5 mile away

Alternative 2
Minor to high, short-term for most residences for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; No NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations, no projected exceedances; highway is ≥0.5 mile away; two county roads pass through area; moderate for one occupied residence within 0.25 mile; high for one occupied residence within general analysis area Minor to moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations Low, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no reported events; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations or projected exceedances Low, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no reported or projected events; highway is ≥0.5 mile away; two county roads pass through area; minor for one occupied residence within 0.25 mile and one within general analysis area Low to minor, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations

ƒ Potential for human health impacts as a result of exposure

Minor, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase or exceedances

Minor, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations Low, short-term for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; no reported events; no projected increase in currently approved mining operations or projected exceedances Low, short-term for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; no reported or projected events; highway is ≥1 mile away; county road adjacent for 0.6 mile stretch; nearest occupied home > 0.5 mile away Low, short-term for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations

NOx emissions from blasting (in compliance with Buckskin Mine permit blasting conditions): ƒ Elevated concentrations associated with average production of 25 mmt per year in compliance with ambient standards No impact

ƒ Potential for public exposure along U.S. Highway 14-16, various county roads, and occupied dwellings in the area

No impact

ƒ Potential for human health impacts as a result of exposure

No impact

3-8

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Visibility: ƒ Elevated concentrations of fine particulate matter associated with average production rate of 25 mmt per year Low, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no projected increase or exceedances; no changes in current VRM class; no visual resources unique to area present Low, short-term for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations; no projected changes in current VRM class; no visual resources unique to area present Very low, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no sensitive lakes in vicinity Moderate, short term in vicinity of power plants for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; No sensitive lakes in vicinity Low, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no projected increase or exceedances in currently approved mining operations; no projected changes in current VRM class; no visual resources unique to area present Very low for up to 6 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no sensitive lakes in vicinity Moderate, short term in vicinity of power plants for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; No sensitive lakes in vicinity

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

Acidification of lakes: ƒ NO2 emissions from mining coal at Buckskin ƒ SO2 emissions derived from burning Buckskin Mine coal to produce power 3.5 WATER RESOURCES Groundwater: ƒ Removal of coal and overburden aquifers ƒ Replacement of existing coal and overburden with unconsolidated backfill material ƒ Depressed water levels in overburden and coal aquifers adjacent to mine ƒ Change in hydraulic properties in backfilled areas ƒ Increase in total dissolved solids concentrations in backfilled areas ƒ Use of subcoal aquifers for water supply ƒ Decrease in water supply for groundwater-right holders within the 5-foot drawdown area No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact Moderate, permanent on 419 acres Moderate, permanent on 419 acres Moderate, short- to long-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Low, long-term to permanent for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, long-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Negligible, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, permanent Moderate, permanent on up to 1,883 acres Moderate, permanent on up to 1,883 acres Moderate, short- to long-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Low, long-term to permanent for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, long-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Negligible, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, permanent Very low, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years); no NOx point sources at Buckskin; no sensitive lakes in vicinity Moderate, short term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) in vicinity of power plants; no sensitive lakes in vicinity

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-9

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Surface water: ƒ Diversion and disruption of surface drainage systems Significant temporary; moderate, shortterm for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) Permanent Significant, temporary; minor to moderate short-term due to use of flood- and erosion-control structures and reseeding Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, long-term Moderate, long-term Significant temporary on 478 acres; moderate, short-term on surface drainage for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no channel diversions Permanent on 478 acres Significant, temporary on 478 acres; minor to moderate short-term due to use of flood- and erosion-control structures and reseeding Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, long-term on 478 acres Minor, long-term on 478 acres; no connected drainages Significant temporary on up to 2,847 acres; moderate, short-term on surface drainage for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no channel diversions expected Permanent on up to 2,847 acres Significant, temporary on up to 2,847 acres; minor to moderate, short-term due to use of flood- and erosion-control structures and reseeding Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

ƒ Reconstruction of surface drainage systems ƒ Increased runoff and erosion rates on disturbed lands due to vegetation removal ƒ Increased infiltration on reclaimed lands due to topographic moderation ƒ Increased runoff on reclaimed lands due to loss of soil structure ƒ Potential for adverse downstream effects as a result of sediment produced by large storms Water rights: ƒ Disruption of water supply for waterrights holders with wells completed in the coal or overburden aquifer within the 5-foot drawdown area or with surface water rights within the disturbance area 3.6 ALLUVIAL VALLEY FLOORS Removal and restoration of AVFs Disruptions to streamflows supplying downstream AVFs

Moderate, adverse long-term for wells until recharge/moderate, adverse longterm for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); up to two surface water rights

Moderate, adverse long-term for wells until recharge/minor, adverse long-term for one surface water right; no connected drainages; impacts for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate

Moderate, adverse long-term for wells until recharge/moderate, adverse long-term for up to two surface water rights and up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate , no new creek diversions

No impact No impact; stream diversions constructed for existing approved mining operations maintain streamflow

No impact No impact; closed drainage prevents streamflow

No impact No impact; stream diversions constructed to maintain streamflow

3-10

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
3.7 WETLANDS Removal of jurisdictional wetlands and loss of wetland function until reclamation occurs Moderate, short-term for current life-ofmine estimate (14 years); 2 potential jurisdictional wetlands Moderate, short- to long-term; 1 nonjurisdictional wetland Minor, short-term on 478 acres for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; 2 potential jurisdictional wetlands, total of 0.48 acre; no net loss No impact Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; up to 12 potential jurisdictional wetlands, total of 30.7 acres; no net loss Moderate, short- to long-term on up to 2,847 acres; 6 nonjurisdictional wetlands

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

Removal of nonjurisdictional wetlands 3.8 SOILS

Changes in physical properties after reclamation would include: ƒ Increased near surface bulk density and decreased soil infiltration rate resulting in increased potential for soil erosion ƒ More uniformity in soil type, thickness, and texture ƒ Decreased runoff due to topographic modification Moderate, long-term Moderate, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term

Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres

Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

Changes in biological properties in soils that are stockpiled before reclamation would include: ƒ Reduction in organic matter ƒ Reduction in microorganism population ƒ Reduction in seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and live plant parts Changes in chemical properties would include: ƒ More uniform soil nutrient distribution Moderate, beneficial, long-term Moderate, beneficial, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, beneficial, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short- to long-term Moderate, short- to long-term Moderate, short- to long-term Moderate, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, long-term on 478 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-11

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
3.9 VEGETATION During mining: ƒ Progressive removal of existing vegetation ƒ Increased erosion ƒ Wildlife habitat and livestock grazing loss After revegetation: ƒ Changes in vegetation patterns ƒ Reduction in vegetation diversity ƒ Reduction in shrub density ƒ Decreased big game habitat carrying capacity ƒ Decreased habitat for shrub dependent species ƒ Potential invasion of non-native plant species 3.10 WILDLIFE Big game displacement from active mining areas Increased competition on adjacent undisturbed or reclaimed lands, especially big game Restriction of wildlife movement, especially big game Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term on 478 acres for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term on 478 acres for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Negligible, long-term Negligible, long-term Minor, long-term; shrubs less than 11% composition Low, long-term Minor, long-term; shrubs less than 11% composition Moderate, short-term Negligible, long-term on 478 acres Negligible, long-term on 478 acres Minor, long-term on 478 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Low, long-term on 478 acres Minor, long-term on 478 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Negligible, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Negligible, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor, long-term on up to 2,847 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Low, long-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor, long-term on up to 2,847 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years)

3-12

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Increased mortality of small mammals Displacement of small and medium-sized mammals Surface and noise disturbance of occupied sage-grouse leks

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) No surface impact, minor noise impact, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); 1 sage-grouse lek within 0.5 mile; last active in 2001, confirmed inactive in 13 of last 14 years Minor, short-term; shrubs less than 11% composition Minor, long-term; long shrub restoration process Negligible, short-term Low, short-term; 1 intact nest present; nest trees scheduled for eventual disturbance; USFWS approved mitigation plan in place to protect active nests; pair documented as acclimated to disturbance

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Moderate, short-term on 478 acres for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate No impact; no sage-grouse leks on or within1.5 mile

Alternative 2
Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate No surface impact, minor noise impact, shortterm for up to 6 years beyond current life-of­ mine estimate; 1 sage-grouse lek within 0.5 mile; last active in 2001, confirmed inactive in 13 of last 14 years Minor, short-term on up to 2,847 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Minor, long-term on up to 2,847 acres; long shrub restoration process Negligible, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Low, short-term; 3 intact nests present; nest trees at one site scheduled for eventual disturbance, other two sites in residential shelterbelts not scheduled for disturbance; USFWS approved mitigation plan will be updated to protect active nests; pairs documented as acclimated to disturbance Negligible, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Negligible, short-term on up to 2,847 acres

Disturbance of potential sage-grouse nesting habitat during mining Loss of sage-grouse nesting habitat after reclamation Alteration of plant and animal communities after reclamation Abandonment of raptor nests

Minor, short-term on 478 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition Minor, long-term on 478 acres; long shrub restoration process Negligible, short-term on 478 acres Low, short-term; 1 intact nest present; nest trees scheduled for eventual disturbance under No Action Alternative; USFWS approved mitigation plan will be updated to protect active nests; pair documented as acclimated to disturbance Negligible, short-term on 478 acres Negligible, short-term on 478 acres

Loss of foraging habitat for raptors Loss of nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern (including the bald eagle) Reduction in waterfowl nesting and feeding habitat

Negligible, short-term Negligible, short-term

Negligible, short-term; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence

Negligible, short-term on 478 acres; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence

Negligible, short-term on up to 2,847 acres; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-13

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Loss of habitat for aquatic species during mining Road kills by mine-related traffic Reduction in habitat carrying capacity and habitat diversity on reclaimed lands Potential reduction in microhabitats on reclaimed lands

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
Negligible, short-term; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence Minor, short-term Minor, short-term Minor to moderate, long-term

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Negligible, short-term on 478 acres; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence Minor, short-term on 478 acres Minor, short-term on 478 acres Minor to moderate, long-term on 478 acres

Alternative 2
Negligible, short-term on up to 2,847 acres; few water bodies present, ephemeral or limited seasonal presence Minor, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor to moderate, long-term on up to 2,847 acres

Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, And Candidate Species (Appendix I) Black-footed ferret Blowout penstemon Ute ladies’-tresses 3.11 LAND USE AND RECREATION Reduction of livestock grazing Loss of wildlife habitat Loss of access for sub-coal oil and gas development Removal of oil and gas production facilities Minor, short-term Minor to moderate, short-term Minor, short-term for access Minor, short-term on 478 acres Minor to moderate, short-term on 478 acres Moderate, short-term for access on 419 acres; minor, short-term for access on 59 surface acres Moderate, short-term on 478 acres; no conventional oil and gas production No impact; entirely private surface Minor, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Minor to moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term for access on up to 1,883 acres; minor, short-term for access on up to 964 surface acres Moderate, short-term for access on up to 2,847 acres; no conventional oil and gas production No impact; entirely private surface No effect No effect No effect No effect No effect No effect No effect No effect No effect

Moderate, short-term; no conventional oil and gas production No impact; entirely private

Loss of access to public land available for recreation and grazing

3-14

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Cultural Resources ƒ Sites that are not eligible for NRHP ƒ Sites that are eligible for NRHP Ineligible sites in existing approved mining operations may be destroyed without protection or further work No known sites; impacts on eligible sites discovered during operations would be avoided or mitigated through data recovery prior to mining No known unevaluated sites; impacts on unevaluated sites are not permitted; unevaluated sites would be evaluated prior to mining No impact identified Ineligible sites on 478 acres may be destroyed without protection or further work No known sites on 478 acres; impacts on eligible sites discovered during operations would be avoided or mitigated through data recovery prior to mining No known unevaluated sites on 478 acres; impacts on eligible sites discovered during operations would be avoided or mitigated through data recovery prior to mining No impact identified on 478 acres Ineligible sites on up to 2,847 acres may be destroyed without protection or further work No known sites on entire 2,847 acres; impacts on eligible sites discovered during operations would be avoided or mitigated through data recovery prior to mining No known unevaluated sites on entire 2,847 acres; impacts on eligible sites discovered during operations would be avoided or mitigated through data recovery prior to mining No impact identified on entire 2,847 acres

No Action Alternative4	 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

3.12 CULTURAL RESOURCES AND NATIVE AMERICAN CONSULTATION

ƒ Sites that are unevaluated for NRHP eligibility	

Native American Heritage Sites 3.13 VISUAL RESOURCES During mining: ƒ Alteration of landscape by mining facilities and operations ƒ Visibility of mining operations from highway Following reclamation: ƒ Smoother sloped terrain ƒ Reduction in sagebrush density

Moderate, short-term Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years); highway is 0.5 to 2.5 miles away Minor to moderate, permanent Minor, long-term; shrubs less than 11% composition

Moderate, short-term on 478 acres Low, short-term for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate; highway is ≥1 mile away

Moderate, short-term on up to 2,847 acres Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; highway 0.5 to 1.5 miles away Minor to moderate, permanent on up to 2,847 acres Minor, long-term on up to 2,847 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition

Minor, permanent on 478 acres; no rough breaks Minor, long-term on 478 acres; shrubs less than 11% composition

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-15

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
3.14 NOISE Increased noise levels No impact to high, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); one occupied residence within 0.25 mile, most homes ≥1 mile away on far side of active roads or hills for audio buffer No impact to moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; 0.75 mile to nearest occupied residence; most homes on far side of active roads or hills for audio buffer No impact to moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; 1 mile to nearest occupied residence; most homes on far side of active roads or hills for audio buffer

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1 Proposed Action

Action Alternatives5 Alternative 2

3.15 TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES Use of railroads to ship coal Employee and service contractor use of highways to and from mine sites Relocation of pipelines Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) Moderate, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) No impact; all lines already addressed for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) Negligible, short-term; all or most lines already addressed for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) Minor, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no roads expected to be closed or relocated Moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; 3 pipelines affected Low, short-term for 2 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; 2 overhead power lines affected, both within existing permit area Moderate, short-term for 2 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; 0.6 mile along 1 county road; no roads expected to be closed or relocated Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; 5 pipelines affected Minor, short-term for up to 6 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; 8 overhead power lines affected, 7 in existing permit area Moderate, short-term for up to 6 years beyond currently life-of-mine estimate; approximately 3 miles along 2 county roads; no roads expected to be closed or relocated

Relocation of utility lines

Mining operations near the Collins and McGee roads

3.16 HAZARDOUS AND SOLID WASTE Waste generated by mining operations 3.17 SOCIOECONOMICS Employment Negligible, beneficial, short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years); no new hires expected Negligible, beneficial, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no new hires expected Negligible, beneficial, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate; no new hires expected Negligible, short-term for current life-of­ mine estimate (14 years) Negligible, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Negligible, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate

3-16

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Magnitude and Duration of Impact Description of Potential Impact by Resource
Revenues from royalties and taxes to the state and local government Revenues from royalties and taxes to the federal government Economic development Additional housing and infrastructure needs

No Action Alternative4 Alternative 1
Substantial, beneficial short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) Substantial, beneficial short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) Moderate, beneficial short-term for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years) No new impact for current life-of-mine estimate (14 years)

Action Alternatives5 Proposed Action
Substantial, beneficial, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Substantial, beneficial, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, beneficial, short-term for 2 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate No new impact for 2 years beyond current lifeof-mine estimate

Alternative 2
Substantial, beneficial, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Substantial, beneficial, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate Moderate, beneficial, short-term for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate No new impact for up to 6 years beyond current life-of-mine estimate

mmt = million tons; NOx = oxides of nitrogen; WDEQ/AQD = Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Air Quality Division; WDEQ/LQD = Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality/Land Quality Division; VRM = visual resource management; SO2 = sulfur dioxide; AVF = alluvial valley floor; NRHP = National Register of Historic Places
1	 2	 3	 4	

Refer to sections 3.2 through 3.17 for discussions on magnitude of impacts for each resource under each alternative. Short-term impacts persist during mining and reclamation and through the time the reclamation bond is released; long-term and/or permanent impacts persist beyond reclamation and the life of the mine, respectively. All impacts are assumed adverse unless noted otherwise. Impacts under the No Action Alternative apply to the overlap area between the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. These impacts would be limited to surface disturbance associated with mine support (e.g., topsoil stripping) and reclamation activities (described in section 1.1.3.3 and section 1.1.3.4, respectively) for currently permitted mining in existing coal leases. These impacts would occur under the action alternatives, as well. Kiewit estimates that actual physical disturbance from mining and mine support and reclamation activities would be 478 acres under the Proposed Action and 618 acres under Alternative 2. Those est imates assume that no roads would be closed or relocated and that surface disturbance would not encroach on the occupied residence and its 300-foot buffer. Mine support and reclamation activities (described in section 1.1.3.3 and section 1.1.3.4, respectively) would occur in a buffer area to the north of the proposed tract (under the Proposed Action) or 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration (under Alternative 2). The maximum potential disturbance area under Alternative 2, if Kiewit were to pursue road closures/relocations or surface rights for the occupied residence, would be approximately 2,847 acres. This area of maximum potential disturbance was analyzed in this EIS, and is referred to throughout as the general analysis area.

5	

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.1 General Setting
This section provides an overview of the physical setting and climatic characteristics of the general analysis area and surrounding region.

3.1.1

General Location and Characteristics

The general analysis area is adjacent to one of the northern-most operating mines in the PRB, in the part of the Northern Great Plains that includes most of northeastern Wyoming. This region is also within the Great Plains Steppe and Shrub Province of the Dry Domain ecoregion of the continent (USDA Forest Service 2009). Ecoregions are comprised of large areas of similar climate where ecosystems are present in predictable patterns. The defining characteristic of a dry climate is that annual losses of water through evaporation at the earth's surface exceed annual water gains from precipitation. As a result of that overall water deficiency, no permanent streams originate in dry climate zones. The Dry Domain ecoregion is the most extensive in the world, and occupies one-quarter or more of the earth's land surface. Wyoming has a relatively cool climate due to its elevation. Away from the mountains, the mean maximum temperatures in July range between 85 and 95° F and the mean minimum temperatures that month range from 50 to 60 ° F (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1985.). January is typically the coldest month, with minimum temperatures often ranging from 5 to 10°F. Early freezes in the fall and late in the spring are characteristic of the state, and result in long winters and short (average 125 days) growing seasons. Sunshine dominates the area, with approximately 60% of winter days and about 75% of summer days. Spring and summer are the wettest months, though rainfall amounts are highly variable and can be somewhat localized. Relative humidity ranges from 5 to 75%, depending on the season, with an average of 25 to 30% on the warmer summer days. Wyoming is quite windy, with frequent periods of wind speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour in winter. Snow typically falls from November through May, with light to moderate levels at lower elevations. The low relative humidity, high percentage of sunshine, and higher average winds all contribute to a high rate of evaporation across the state. The vegetation in the general analysis area consists of species common to eastern Wyoming and is consistent with vegetative communities in the adjacent Buckskin Mine permit area. The proposed tract is dominated (approximately 71%) by various upland grasslands. The general analysis area is comprised primarily of upland grasslands (approximately 40%) and agricultural lands (croplands and pastures, 31%). Section 3.9 provides a detailed discussion on vegetation resources.

3.1.2

Climate and Meteorology in the General Analysis Area

As indicated, the climate in the general analysis area is typical of a semi-arid, high plains environment with relatively large seasonal and diurnal variations in temperature (figure 3.1-1). Summers are relatively short and warm, while winters are longer and cold. The average daily
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

mean temperature at the adjacent Buckskin Mine meteorological station from 1986 through 2007 was 46º Fahrenheit (F). The highest recorded temperature at the mine during that period was 106º F and the lowest was minus 33º F. July is the warmest month, with a mean daily temperature of 72º F, and January is the coldest month, with a mean daily temperature of 26º F. The frost-free period for this area lasts between 100 and 130 days (Curtis 2004). Precipitation occurs predominantly during the spring and fall, with approximately 10% in the form of snow. The average annual precipitation measured at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorological station (Gillette 9ESE) located about 14 miles southeast of the Buckskin Mine was 15.67 inches (Western Regional Climate Center 2008). May (2.67 inches) and June (2.69 inches) are the wettest, while January (0.57 inch) and February (0.56 inch) are the driest. Snowfall averages 56.4 inches per year at the Gillette 9ESE station, with the highest monthly averages occurring in March (10.4 inches) and April (8.4 inches). In keeping with the Dry Domain ecoregion, evapo-transpiration, at approximately 31 inches of water per year, exceeds annual precipitation (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1969). Surface wind speeds at the Buckskin Mine meteorological station average 10.5 miles per hour throughout the year. Prevailing winds are from the north-northwest and south-southeast directions (figure 3.1-2), depending on the season. The area experiences extreme wind gusts, especially during thunderstorm activity in June, July, and August. Distinct diurnal changes occur, with average wind velocities increasing during the day due to solar insolation, and decreasing during the night (figure 3.1-3). Local variations in wind speed and direction are primarily due to differences in topography. Wind speeds at the mine’s meteorological station are highest in the winter and spring. From May through September, winds are calmer and directions are more random, although winds from the north or southeast still occur slightly more often than from other directions. During periods of strong wind, dust may affect air quality across the region. Air quality can also be affected when air is trapped by poor ventilation due to persistent light or calm winds, and by the presence of inversions. Such episodes are referred to as air stagnation events (Wang and Angell 1999). An average of 15 air-stagnation events occurs annually in the PRB with an average duration of two days each (BLM 1974).

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90

80

70

60
Temperature F

50

Winter Spring Summer

40

Fall

30

20

10

0 0 4 8 12 Hour of Day 16 20 24

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.1-1 Average Diurnal Temperature by Season at Buckskin Mine



No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.1-2 Wind Rose for the Buckskin Mine

16

14
Wind Speed miles per hourper hour (mph) Wind Speed miles (mph)

12

10 Winter Spring Summer Fall

8

6

4

2

0 0 4 8 12 Hour of Day 16 20 24

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.1-3 Average Diurnal Wind Speed by Season at the Buckskin Mine

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.2 Topography
This section describes the affected environment as it relates to topography in the general analysis area, and identifies potential impacts on topography that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.2.1

Affected Environment

The northern portion of the PRB is a high plains area within the unglaciated Missouri Plateau subregion of the Great Plains Province in northeast Wyoming. The PRB is both a topographic drainage and geologic structural basin. The structural basin is an elongated, asymmetrical syncline approximately 120 miles east to west and 200 miles north to south. It is bounded in Wyoming by the Black Hills on the east; the Big Horn Mountains on the west; and the Hartville Uplift, Casper Arch, and Laramie Mountains on the south. The northern extent of the structural basin is the Miles City Arch and the Yellowstone River in Montana. The axis of the structural basin trends from the southeast to the northwest near the western margin of the syncline. The general area is located on the gently dipping eastern limb of the structural basin. In general, geologic strata along the eastern limb of the structural PRB dip to the west at 1 to 2 degrees toward the axis of the basin. The Powder River Basin is so named because it is drained by the Powder River, although it is also drained in part by other major rivers, including the Big Horn, Tongue, Little Missouri, Belle Fourche, and Cheyenne rivers. The general analysis area is within the Powder River drainage basin. Hay Creek and Dry Fork Little Powder River, tributaries of the Powder River, are the most prominent natural topographic features in the general analysis area, though Rawhide Creek, Little Rawhide Creek, and Calf Creek also drain the immediate area. Broad plains, rolling hills, and tablelands dominate the PRB landscape. Internally-drained playas are common in the basin, as are buttes and plateaus capped by sandstone or clinker (baked and fused rock resulting from in-place burning of coal deposits). Elevations throughout the PRB range from less than 2,500 feet to more than 6,000 feet above mean sea level. The major river valleys have wide, flat floors and broad floodplains. The drainages dissecting the basin are incised and typically are intermittent (do not flow year-round) or ephemeral (respond only to rainfall or snowmelt events) and, thus, do not provide year-round water sources. The general analysis area is characterized by gently rolling uplands and relatively level agricultural fields. Many hills are dissected by drainages that create moderate variations in local relief. The overall topographic trend of hills is roughly northwest to southeast. Topography in the southern portion of the general analysis area exhibits a local southwest-to-northeast trend associated with an ephemeral drainage in sections 18 and 19. Map 3.0-1 identifies sections in the general analysis area. Slopes range from flat in the northwestern part of the general analysis area to greater than 30% in the northeast. Topographic elevations range from about 4,080 feet above mean sea level along Hay Creek in section 16 (northeast) to about 4,380 feet above mean sea level in the east-central
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

portion of section 19 (southwest). Local relief is greatest in sections 8 and 9 (north-northeast), where drainages deeply dissect the uplands and create relatively steep slopes and prominent bluffs of sandstone that are resistant to erosion. The flattest portion of the general analysis area is in the broad valley bottom of Hay Creek in the north-central portion of section 18. A topographic depression encompassing about 8.8 acres is located in the west-central portion of that section.

3.2.2 3.2.2.1

Environmental Consequences Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining would permanently alter the topography of the proposed tract through blasting, hauling, and stockpiling of overburden and interburden, as described in section 1.1.3.3. Mining would remove overburden and interburden to a combined average depth of approximately 250 feet and coal to a combined total depth of about 100 feet over approximately 419 acres. Mining support activities, described in section 1.1.3.3, would cause temporary surface disturbance a buffer area to the north of the proposed tract. The postmining topography would be recontoured using methods described in section 1.1.3.4 to resemble the premining topography, but would be approximately 60 feet lower (table 3.2-1) and somewhat gentler and more uniform. The removal of coal would be partially offset by the swelling that occurs when overburden and interburden are blasted, excavated, and backfilled. Direct adverse impacts resulting from topographic moderation include a reduction in habitat diversity and microhabitats (e.g., cutbank slopes). These impacts would be greater in those areas characterized as rough breaks. Potential effects of topographic moderation on wildlife species are described in section 3.10. A direct beneficial impact of the lower and flatter terrain would be reduced water runoff, which would allow increased infiltration and a minor reduction in peak flows. This may help counteract the potential for increased erosion that could occur because of higher density of reclaimed soils near the surface (section 3.8.2.1). It may also increase vegetative productivity and potentially accelerate recharge of groundwater. In-channel stockponds and playas (i.e., shallow topographic depressions) would be replaced to provide livestock and wildlife watering sources. These topographic changes would not conflict with regional land use, and the postmining topography would be designed to adequately support the anticipated future land use. All postmining topography and water features must meet the specifications outlined in the mining and reclamation plan approved by the WDEQ/LQD.

Table 3.2-1.

Overburden/Coal Thickness and Postmining Elevation Change
250 feet 100 feet 11% 90% –61 feet

Average overburden thickness (including interburden) Average coal thickness Overburden swell factor Coal recovery factor Postmining elevation change1
1

Reclaimed (postmining) elevation surface change is calculated as:
 (overburden + unrecovered coal thicknesses) x (overburden swell) – (overburden + coal thicknesses )


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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.2.2.2

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.2.2.3

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining would permanently alter the topography as described under the Proposed Action but over an area of up to 1,883 acres. Temporary surface disturbance from mining support activities would affect a 0.25-mile-wide area around the final tract configuration. The existing diversion of Hay Creek in the general analysis area would be expanded to direct flow into temporary channels around active mining areas, as needed, or that flow would be contained within temporary reservoirs to prevent pits from being flooded. Kiewit does not anticipate any further diversions on Hay Creek due to the operationally limited lands west of the county road. Additional mining and reclamation activities and postmining topography would be the same as described under the Proposed Action.

3.2.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

WDEQ/LQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 4) require that topography be restored as closely as possible to premining contour and that it blend into the existing, undisturbed topography as much as possible. If one of the action alternatives is implemented Kiewit will reconstruct features such as hills and draws to mimic premining conditions. Some local relief will be reduced after coal removal. The amount of coal that would be removed and the degree to which the overburden spoils would change in volume due to excavation would be considered in the postmine topography design. These designs will be developed for approval as part of the required mining and reclamation plans. All topographic features such as upland draws, channel bottoms, and elevations will be reconstructed to closely mimic premining conditions and ensure proper drainage of water across the reclaimed spoils. The WDEQ/LQD monitors topographic restoration by regularly checking the as-built topography in the annual reports filed by the mines to see if it conforms to the approved topography. Under either of the action alternatives, Kiewit will reestablish vegetation in all reclaimed areas and implement sediment-control measures where runoff occurs to preserve reclaimed materials. Kiewit will monitor success of revegetation and erosion-control measures routinely, per WDEQ/LQD guidelines, and will implement mitigation measures, as necessary, to correct any deficiencies.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.2.4

Residual Impacts

Topographic moderation is a permanent consequence of mining. Reclaimed landforms are expected to mimic premining topography, but will have less topographic variation and will be slightly lower in elevation. Any indirect impacts of topographic moderation on wildlife habitat diversity would also be considered permanent. See section 3.10 for indirect impacts on wildlife as a result of topographic moderation.

3.3 Geology, Mineral Resources, and Paleontology
This section discusses the topographic, geologic, and mineral resources in the general analysis area and adjacent Buckskin Mine permit area, including assessments of premine topography and pertinent information regarding geology, as well as coal, CBNG, and scoria resources.

3.3.1 3.3.1.1

General Geology and Coal Resources Affected Environment

The general analysis area contains the following stratigraphic units (layers) (in descending order from the surface): Quaternary (recent) deposits, the Eocene Wasatch Formation, and the Paleocene Fort Union Formation. The Paleocene Fort Union Formation contains the coal seams that would be mined under the action alternatives. Table 3.3-1 shows the stratigraphic relationships of the geologic units in the general analysis area. These stratigraphic units are discussed below. Quaternary deposits in the general analysis area consist of unconsolidated stream-laid deposits, slope wash, wind-blown deposits, colluvium, residuum, and scoria. Stream-laid deposits occur in portions of the Hay Creek valley bottom and some associated upland draws beyond the general analysis area for this EIS. Those deposits consist of a loose mix of sand, gravel, and silt deposited by stream flow within Hay Creek and its tributaries. Slope wash occurs along the bottom slopes of hills and in channel bottoms, including the Hay Creek valley bottom in section 18, and consists of reworked sediment deposited by flow over the ground surface (e.g., runoff). Some surface sands are concentrated into small areas comprised predominately of fine-grained sand. Residuum (residual material) deposits commonly cover and are derived in place from the underlying Wasatch deposits, and may occur on relatively steep terrain. Colluvium is comprised of material that has been transported downslope by rock falls, slides, and slumps, and occurs along steep hill sides. This material generally consists of large, angular scoria and rock fragments residing in an unsorted matrix of sand, silt, and clay. Materials above some of the shallow coal seams in the general analysis area have been altered by the natural combustion (burning) of underlying coal seams, producing scoria which dominates portions of the hillsides in sections 8 and 9.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Table 3.3-1.
Geologic Unit
Recent Alluvium (Holocene)

Stratigraphic Relationships and Hydrologic Characteristics, Powder River Basin, Wyoming
Hydrologic Characteristics
Typically fine grained and poorly sorted in intermittent drainages. Occasional very thin, clean interbedded sand lenses. Low yields and excessive dissolved solids generally make these aquifers unsuitable for domestic, agricultural and livestock usage. Low infiltration capacity unless covered by sandy eolian blanket. Baked and fused bedrock resulting from burning coal seams which ignite on the outcrop from lightning, manmade fires or spontaneous combustion. The reddish clinker (locally called scoria or red dog) formed by melting and partial fusing from the burning coal. The baked rock varies greatly in the degree of alteration; some is dense and glassy while some is vesicular and porous. It is commonly used as a road construction material and is an aquifer wherever saturated. Lenticular fine sands interbedded predominantly very fine grained siltstone and claystone may yield low to moderate quantities of poor to good quality water. The discontinuous nature and irregular geometry of these sand bodies result in low overall permeabilities and very slow groundwater movement in the overburden on a regional scale. Water quality in the Wasatch formation generally does not meet Wyoming Class I drinking water standards due to the dissolved mineral content. Some wells do, however, produce water of considerably better quality which does meet the Class I standard. Wyodak Formation Splits: Anderson/ Canyon Seams The coal serves as a regional groundwater aquifer and exhibits highly variable aquifer properties. Permeability and porosity associated with the coal arise almost entirely from fractures. Coal water typically does not meet Class I or Class II (irrigation) use standards. In most cases, water from coal wells is suitable for livestock use. The coal water is used throughout the region as a source of stock water and occasionally for domestic use. The Lebo Member, also referred to as “The Lebo Confining Layer,” has a mean thickness of 711 feet in the PRB and a thickness of about 400 feet in the vicinity of Gillette. The Lebo typically yields small quantities of poor quality groundwater. Where sand content is locally large, caused by channel or deltaic deposits, the Lebo may yield as much as 10 gpm. The Tullock Member has a mean thickness of 785 feet in the PRB and a mean sand content of 53% which indicates that the unit generally functions well as a regional aquifer. Yields of 15 gpm are common buy vary locally and may be as much as 40 gpm. Records from the State Engineer’s Office indicate that maximum yields of approximately 300 gpm have been achieved from this aquifer. Water quality in the Tullock Member often meets Class I standards. The extensive sandstone units in the Tullock Member are commonly developed regionally for domestic and industrial uses. The City of Gillette is currently using eight wells completed in this zone to meet part of its municipal water requirements. Sandstone and interbedded sandy shales and claystone provide yields generally of less than 20 gpm. Higher yields are sometimes achieved where sand thicknesses are greatest. Water quality is typically fair to good. Sandstone and sandy shales yield up to 200 gpm, however, yields are frequently significantly less. The water quality of the Fox Hills is generally good with TDS concentrations commonly less than 1000 milligrams per liter. This unit is comprised predominantly of marine shales with only occasional local thin sandstone lenses. Maximum yields are minor and overall the unit is not water bearing. Water obtained from this unit is poor with high concentrations of sodium and sulfate as the predominant ions is solution.

Clinker (Holocene to Pleistocene)

Wasatch Formation (Eocene)

Tongue River Member

Lebo Member Fort Union Formation (Paleocene)

Tullock Member

Lance Formation (Upper Cretaceous)

Upper Lance

Fox Hills Sandstone

Lewis Formation (Upper Cretaceous)

Pierre Shale

gpm = gallons per minute
 Sources: Hodson et al. (1973) and Lewis and Hotchkiss (1981).


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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

The Wasatch Formation in the general analysis area consists of sandstone, siltstone, shale, and thin coals that extend from the surface to the Anderson coal seam; that seam defines the top of the underlying Fort Union Formation. The Wasatch Formation is somewhat sandier than the underlying Fort Union Formation, especially near the surface, where sands can be traced laterally for considerable distances. The Rider coal seam occurs in the Wasatch Formation; it is present in much of the western portion of the general analysis area, but in the east the coal layer thins out, is eroded out, or is burned. The Rider seam is up to 15 feet thick in the general analysis area, but is not a target coal for mining. The Wasatch Formation, in combination with any overlying Quaternary deposits, is considered overburden relative to the shallow-most (Anderson) coal seam that is targeted for mining in the general analysis area. The overburden thickness varies from about 30 to 200 feet. It is thinnest in low-lying draws in sections 8 and 9 and in the valley bottom of Hay Creek in section 18. The Fort Union Formation lies between the Anderson and Canyon coal seams, and consists primarily of sandstones, siltstones, shales, mudstones, and coal. The formation is divided into the Tongue River, Lebo, and Tullock members. Two coal seams are present in the Tongue River Member of the Fort Union Formation, both of which are targeted for mining in the BLM study area (the maximum extent of leasable coal in the general analysis area). Two geologic cross sections through the proposed tract are shown on figure 3.3-1. The Anderson seam resides at the top of the Fort Union Formation and defines the contact between the Fort Union and the overlying Wasatch formations. The Canyon coal seam is lower in the Tongue River member, typically 150 to 190 feet beneath the Anderson, but it is within 40 feet of the Anderson where the seams are present in the northeastern portion of the BLM study area. The Anderson coal seam is present in most of the western portion of the BLM study area (maximum coal lease boundary), but it is discontinuous and absent in most of the northern and eastern portions. Where present, it averages about 45 feet thick and ranges from about 30 to 65 feet thick. The Canyon coal seam is present in most of the western portion of the BLM study area, but it is absent in most of the eastern portion. Where present, it averages about 70 feet thick and ranges from about 55 to 75 feet thick. The Canyon and Anderson coal seams are sub-bituminous and are generally low-sulfur, low-ash coals. In the BLM study area, the heating value of the coal seams is expected to range from 8,000 to 8,500 British thermal units (Btu) per pound. The ash content in the coal seams is expected to vary from 3.5 to 7.0%, the sulfur content from 0.2 to 0.5%, and the moisture content from 28 to 31%.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

Elevation (feet above mean sea level)

Elevation
 (feet above mean sea level)


Figure 3.3-1 North-South and East-West Geologic Cross Sections

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.3.1.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining would permanently alter the stratigraphic layers in the proposed tract from the base of the lowest coal seam mined to the surface. The Proposed Action would have a significant and permanent impact on geology and coal resources in the proposed tract. An average of about 250 feet of overburden and interburden, 30 feet of Anderson coal, and 70 feet of Canyon coal would be removed over about 419 acres. Approximately 54 million tons of coal would be recovered from the 77 million tons of in-place reserves. Overburden removed during mining would be replaced with a mixture of partially compacted rock and soil that would be significantly altered from the original distinct layers. Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance on an additional buffer area north of the proposed tract. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Coal removal and associated impacts would continue as currently permitted on existing coal leases, including surface and subsurface disturbance in the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Those disturbances would be related to mining the existing contiguous leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, overburden and coal would be removed in the same manner and to the same average depths as under the Proposed Action, but would occur over an area up to 1,883 acres. Up to 149.7 million tons of coal would be recovered from about 270 million tons of in-place reserves. Changes to premining stratigraphic layers and postmining backfill described under the Proposed Action would also occur under Alternative 2, but would affect more surface and underground areas. Alternative 2 would have a significant and permanent impact on geology and coal resources in the general analysis area. Temporary surface disturbance from mining support activities would affect a 0.25-mile-wide area around the final tract configuration.

3.3.1.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation and Monitoring

WDEQ/LQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 4) require that land be restored to conditions equal to or greater than the highest previous use. To accomplish this, the Buckskin Mine will continue the drilling and sampling programs conducted on existing leases to identify overburden material that may be unsuitable for reclamation (i.e., material that is unsuitable for revegetation in disturbed areas or that may affect groundwater quality due to high concentrations of certain elements). As part of the mine permitting process, the mine will develop a management plan to ensure that this unsuitable material is not placed in areas where it may affect groundwater quality or revegetation success. The mine will also develop a backfill monitoring plan as part of the
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

mine permitting process to evaluate the quality of the replaced overburden. These plans are in place for the existing Buckskin Mine and will be revised under either action alternative if a lease sale is held.

3.3.1.4

Residual Impacts

The action alternatives would have permanent significant impacts on the coal resources and geology in the general analysis area extending vertically from the base of the Canyon coal seam to the surface. Coal would be removed from the area, and the current layered stratigraphy would be transformed into a mixture of unconsolidated backfill material.

3.3.2 3.3.2.1

Other Mineral Resources Affected Environment

The PRB contains large reserves of fossil fuels including oil, natural gas (from conventional reservoirs and from coal beds), and coal, all of which are currently being produced. In addition, uranium, bentonite, and scoria are mined in the PRB (Wyoming State Geological Survey 2003). Conventional Oil and Gas The Powder River structural basin is one of the richest petroleum provinces in the Rocky Mountain area. As of December 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the mean levels of undiscovered oil and non-coal bed natural gas resources in the PRB as 639 million barrels of oil, 1.16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 131 million barrels of natural gas liquids (USGS 2006). Conventional oil and natural gas (excluding CBNG) have been produced in the PRB for more than 100 years, with an estimated 500 fields producing oil or natural gas from oilbearing strata during that period. Depths to conventional gas and oil-bearing strata generally range from 4,000 and 13,500 feet below grade, though some wells are as shallow as 250 feet. No conventional oil and gas wells are located in the general analysis area. Coal Bed Natural Gas PRB coal bed methane (also known as CBNG) is naturally occurring methane trapped by water pressure in the coal or by impermeable strata above it. In the PRB, this gas is primarily biogenic in origin and is generated by large, subsurface, naturally occurring microbial communities residing in the coal (Ulrich and Bower 2008). The BLM has completed numerous environmental assessments and three EISs analyzing CBNG projects in Wyoming. The most recent of these analyses is the Final EIS and Proposed Plan Amendment for the PRB Oil and Gas Project, referred to as the Wyoming PRB Oil and Gas EIS (BLM 2003). The EIS covers almost 12,500 square miles, encompasses almost the entire PRB and spans all or parts of Campbell, Converse, Johnson, and Sheridan counties, and covers private, state, and federal lands. It analyzes potential environmental impacts of CBNG development in the PRB, and assumes that approximately 39,400 new CBNG wells would be

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

drilled, completed, and produced over the next 10 years, in addition to the more than 12,000 CBNG wells that had been drilled or were permitted for drilling when the EIS was prepared. Under favorable geologic conditions, methane can be trapped at shallow depths in and above coal seams; this commonly occurs in the PRB. CBNG has been commercially produced in this region since 1989 when production began at the Rawhide Butte Field, approximately 5 miles southwest of the general analysis area (De Bruin and Lyman 1999). CBNG exploration and development are currently ongoing throughout the PRB. The predominant CBNG production to date in the general analysis area has occurred from the Wyodak-Anderson coal zone, which includes the Anderson and Canyon coal seams at and adjacent to the Buckskin Mine. The Wyodak-Anderson zone appears to be gas-bearing throughout the PRB and, as described above, the methane in the coal beds has been determined to be biogenic in origin. CBNG is also produced from deeper coal beds in the PRB, below the Anderson and Canyon seams. In order for CBNG to be collected, the hydrostatic pressure in the coal must be reduced to a level that can vary from seam to seam, which allows the gas to desorb (release) from the coal. This is accomplished by removing water from the coal bed. CBNG reservoirs can be affected by any nearby activities, including coal mining, that reduce the hydrostatic pressure in the coal bed or by the introduction of atmospheric oxygen or other substances which interfere with the metabolic processes of the methane producing bacteria which naturally occur there. The BLM Wyoming State Office–Reservoir Management Group (WSO-RMG) has recently prepared a variety of detailed analyses of CBNG resources in the lands near the existing surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB for coal leasing and other actions. The WSO-RMG completed a report in 2006 that describes the existing/affected environment of the coal mining areas and adjacent lands with respect to CBNG resources, and documents the observed and inferred resource depletion that has and will continue to occur (WSO-RMG 2006). WSO-RMG and the USGS have collected coal gas content data from coal cores near the mines and in other areas of the PRB. Measured gas content was minimal in all of the WyodakAnderson coal cores collected in 2000 at locations near the surface coal mines, indicating that the coal seams were already substantially depleted of CBNG in the vicinity of the mines at that time. Average total gas content from the core desorption analyses was approximately 6.8 standard cubic feet per ton near the coal mines in 2000, compared with an average measured gas content of 37.6 standard cubic feet per ton from coal cores taken outside the mining areas. Analyses performed by WSO-RMG, USGS, CBNG operators, and others have shown that dewatering of the coal beds, by both CBNG production and mine dewatering, reduces the hydrostatic pressure in the coals and allows the gas to desorb and escape from the coal, and decreases the anaerobic production of methane. These effects have been ongoing, and it is likely that desorption and decreased production has continued since 2000; as a result, coal gas content and the gas-in-place adjacent to the existing mines would currently be expected to be less than in 2000. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission well data from the mining townships generally shows that operator interest in the eastern PRB mining areas peaked prior to 2000 and

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declined rapidly following 2001. Activity had declined to almost negligible levels during 2005 (WSO-RMG 2006). The Anderson and Canyon seams tapped for CBNG are the same seams that are being mined at Buckskin Mine. CBNG occurs in these seams within the general analysis area and is common in equivalent seams throughout the PRB. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records indicate that as of May 2008, 30 CBNG wells have been completed in the general analysis area (appendix E). Fifteen wells (13 in the Canyon seam and 2 in the Anderson seam) are producing and 3 wells (2 in the Canyon and 1 in the Anderson) have been shut in and may be re-instated for production in the future. Twelve other wells are no longer producing, have been permanently abandoned, or have expired permits (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2009). Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records indicate that no CBNG wells have been completed below the Anderson and Canyon seams within the general analysis area. Manufactured Methane from Coal Beds A large percentage of the discovered natural gas (methane) reserves are believed to have been generated through the anaerobic microbial process of methanogenisis (Rice and Claypool 1981). Methane gas produced in this manner is often referred to as biogenetic methane. This process uses a group of predominantly anaerobic microorganisms that metabolizes the complex organic molecules in hydrocarbon deposits and produces the gas as a waste product. Biogenic methane has been detected in a wide variety of unconsolidated sediment and rock types around the world, including PRB coals (Law et al. 1991; Rice 1993). Luca Technologies Inc. has developed a method of producing biogenetic methane through methanogenisis. The company transforms uneconomically producing CBNG wells and uses the existing infrastructure for its coal conversion and methane production operations, which are handled by their directly owned subsidiary, Patriot Energy Resources. The company has completed a test project near Sheridan, Wyoming, and has begun operations using a chemical nutrient to feed the microbacteria currently residing in the PRB coal seams. These communities are currently capable of producing up to 30 million cubic feet per day when provided nutrients (DeBruyn pers. comm.). Methane produced in this manner has been commercially produced since 2007. The amount of coal converted through methanogenisis is less than 1% at the current level of technology. The future rate of the technological development and production of methane using microbacteria is unknown at this time but it is expected that, with continued success and public demand for either methane, hydrogen, or other biological metabolic byproducts of the microbial consortia, such operations could remain in place for the foreseeable future and produce a product until the coal has been converted into carbon and other remnant components of PRB coal such as ash and sulfur. The company is exploring the possibility of developing the same technology to produce methane and/or other by-products from non-coal hydrocarbon substrates and deposits (DeBruyn pers. comm.).

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Other Minerals Bentonite, uranium, and scoria also are commercially produced in the PRB, though to a far lesser degree than the other resources discussed in this section. Layers of bentonite (decomposed volcanic ash) of varying thickness are present throughout the PRB. Some of the thicker layers are mined where they are near the surface, mostly around the edges of the basin. Bentonite has a large capacity to absorb water, making it usable in a number of common processes and products. Bentonite reserves have not been identified in the general analysis area. Substantial uranium resources are found in southwestern Campbell and northwestern Converse counties. Uranium exploration and mining were quite active in the 1950s, when numerous claims were filed in the PRB. A decreased demand combined with increased foreign supply reduced uranium mining activities in the early 1980s, although staking of mining claims is currently increasing. No known uranium reserves exist in the general analysis area. Scoria is present in the general analysis area and can be used for construction aggregate as well as a road treatment to provide traction in winter. Scoria occurs in relative abundance on portions of the hillsides in sections 8 and 9, along the northern edge of the general analysis area.

3.3.2.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining would have permanent impacts on oil and gas (conventional and CBNG) resources in and above the mined coal seam within the proposed tract (419 acres), but would have no impact on reserves below the lowest mined seam. Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance on an additional buffer area north of the proposed tract. This action alternative would have no impact on bentonite, uranium, or scoria resources, because they are not present in the proposed tract. During mining, other minerals present in the proposed tract could not be developed. Some of these other minerals could, however, be developed after coal mining and reclamation are completed. No conventional oil and gas wells are present in the proposed tract. No documented bentonite, uranium, or scoria resources are present either. Thirteen producing CBNG wells are present in the general analysis area, which includes that tract. Before mining operations could begin, all active CBNG wells would have to be plugged and abandoned, and all gas production equipment would have to be removed. CBNG resources that have not been recovered from the Canyon and Anderson coal seams prior to mining would be lost when the coal is removed. Dewatering wells and active mining would combine with ongoing CBNG production to deplete the hydrostatic pressures and methane resources adjacent to mining areas a short time after mining would begin. It is also likely that any undrilled spacing units in the proposed tract will have been drained by production from the existing wells and nearby mining activity prior to initiation of mining. Mining operations within the proposed tract would not begin until permitting is completed, which generally requires several years after a
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lease is acquired. By that time, it is likely that most of the economically recoverable CBNG resource would have been produced. Oil and gas (conventional and CBNG) reservoirs located below the mineable Canyon and Anderson coal seams would not be directly disturbed by coal removal. Those resources could be drilled and plugged prior to mining. Following mining and reclamation, oil and gas lessees could drill new wells to recover those resources from any productive reservoirs below the lowest mined coal seam. Redeveloping deep oil, gas, and CBNG reservoirs would likely occur only if the lessee believes that the value of the reserves justifies the expense of recompleting or drilling wells. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Acton Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Coal removal and associated impacts would continue as currently permitted on existing coal leases, including surface and subsurface disturbance in the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area related to mining the existing contiguous leases. Those activities would have permanent impacts on scoria reserves in portions of the overlap area. Gas resources could be developed uninterrupted. Indirect impacts on CBNG resources, described above, would continue as a result of dewatering activities in the overlap area. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining would have permanent impacts on oil and gas (conventional and CBNG) reserves in and above the mined coal seam as described under the Proposed Action, but would have no impact on reserves below the lowest mined seam. Impacts would occur over an area of up to 1,883 acres. Gas reserves below the lowest mined coal seam would still be accessible to operators after mining and reclamation have been completed. No conventional oil and gas wells, bentonite, or uranium resources are present in the general analysis area. Mining would remove or reduce the scoria hills along the northern extent of the general analysis area, resulting in a permanent loss of those resources and a change in topographic relief. Temporary surface disturbance from mining support activities would affect a 0.25-mile-wide area around the final tract configuration.

3.3.2.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

The potential does exist for conflicts between coal operations and CBNG and conventional oil and gas wells completed, ongoing, or possible in formations and coal beds below the Canyon and Anderson seams.

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If the federal coal in the tracts is leased and conflicts do develop between the various industry operators under the action alternatives, several mechanisms are in place that can be used to facilitate recovery of the conventional oil and gas and CBNG resources prior to mining. These mechanisms include: „ The BLM could attach a multiple mineral development stipulation to the federal coal lease, which states that the BLM has the authority to withhold approval of coal mining operations that would interfere with the development of mineral leases issued before the coal lease (see appendix D). „ Conventional oil and gas wells could be abandoned during mining and reclamation operations, then be recompleted or redrilled following mining. „ The BLM could offer royalty incentives to CBNG operators to accelerate production, as provided for in the BLM Instruction Memorandum (2003-253), to recover the natural gas while simultaneously allowing uninterrupted coal mining operations. This memorandum also states that it is the policy of the BLM to encourage oil and gas and coal companies to resolve conflicts between themselves; when requested, the BLM will assist in facilitating agreements between the companies. „ Mining the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration cannot occur until the coal lessee has a permit to mine the tract approved by the WDEQ/LQD and a Mineral Leasing Act mining plan approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Before the mining plan can be approved, the BLM must approve the Resource Recovery Protection Plan for mining the tract. Prior to approving the plan, the BLM can review the status of CBNG and conventional oil and gas development and the mining sequence proposed by the coal lessee. The permit approval process generally takes the coal lessee several years, during which time CBNG resources can be recovered. „ Prior to mining the federal coal reserves, Kiewit could negotiate an agreement with owners and operators of existing oil and gas and pipeline facilities, regarding removal and relocation of their infrastructure. Scoria is often removed during mining because its use in construction is deemed viable enough to segregate it from other overburden materials. It may be feasible to recover scoria from the overburden in sections 8 and 9 as part of the overburden removal process. Scoria not disturbed by mining under the action alternatives could also be removed after mining.

3.3.2.4

Residual Impacts

Scoria deposits excavated for construction or other uses would be permanently removed. CBNG resources not recovered before mining would be vented to the atmosphere and permanently lost. Oil and gas resources (conventional and CBNG) below the lowest coal seam to be mined could be recovered when mine operations are completed.

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3.3.3 3.3.3.1

Paleontology Affected Environment

Two formations exposed on the surface of the proposed tract could contain paleontological resources: the Paleocene Fort Union Formation and the Paleocene and Eocene Wasatch Formation (Breckenridge 1974; Love and Christiansen 1985). Both of these sedimentary formations are known to yield vertebrate fossils in Wyoming (Estes 1975; Roehler 1991; Secord 1998; Robinson et al. 2004). The BLM’s Potential Fossil Yield Classification system ranks geologic formations based on their potential to yield significant paleontological resources. The five main classes in the system are: „ class 1 – very low „ class 2 – low „ class 3 – moderate or unknown „ class 4 – high „ class 5 – very high Additional subcategories have been identified within some classes. Under this classification system, the Fort Union Formation in the PRB is considered to be class 4 and the Wasatch Formation in that region is a class 3a (Hanson pers. comm.). A more detailed description of the two classifications for the Fort Union and Wasatch formations is provided below. Class 3—Moderate or Unknown. Fossiliferous sedimentary geologic units where fossil content varies in significance, abundance, and predictable occurrence; or sedimentary units of unknown fossil potential. „ often marine in origin with sporadic known occurrences of vertebrate fossils; „ vertebrate fossils and scientifically significant invertebrate or plant fossils known to occur intermittently, predictability known to be low; or „ poorly studied and/or poorly documented; potential yield cannot be assigned without ground reconnaissance. Class 3a—Moderate Potential. Units are known to contain vertebrate fossils or scientifically significant nonvertebrate fossils, but these occurrences are widely scattered. Common invertebrate or plant fossils may be found in the area, and opportunities may exist for hobby collecting. The potential for a project to be sited on or impact a significant fossil is low but is somewhat higher for common fossils.

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Class 4—High. Geologic units containing a high occurrence of significant fossils. Vertebrate fossils or scientifically significant invertebrate or plant fossils are known to occur and have been documented but may vary in occurrence and predictability. Surface-disturbing activities may adversely affect paleontological resources in many cases. Class 4a—Unit is exposed with little or no soil or vegetative cover. Outcrop areas are extensive with exposed bedrock areas often larger than 2 acres. Paleontological resources may be susceptible to adverse impacts from surface-disturbing actions. Illegal collecting activities may impact some areas. Class 4b—Areas underlain by geologic units with high potential but have lowered risks of human-caused adverse impacts and/or lowered risk of natural degradation due to moderating circumstances. The bedrock unit has high potential, but a protective layer of soil, thin alluvial material, or other conditions may lessen or prevent potential impacts on the bedrock resulting from the activity. –	 Extensive soil or vegetative cover; bedrock exposures are limited or not expected to be impacted. –	 Areas of exposed outcrop are smaller than 2 contiguous acres. –	 Outcrops form cliffs of sufficient height and slope so that impacts are minimized by topographic conditions. –	 Other characteristics are present that lower the vulnerability of both known and 
 unidentified paleontological resources (BLM 2007b). 
 As a result of the 2007 paleontological survey findings (described below), the classifications for the Fort Union and Wasatch formations in the PRB have changed. The Fort Union Formation was upgraded from a class 3 to a class 4 statewide average and the Wasatch Formation in the PRB was downgraded to class 3a, although outside the PRB the Wasatch is a class 5 statewide (Hanson pers. comm.). Fossils other than vertebrates that occur in the Fort Union Formation include gastropods (limpets, snails and slugs), bivalves (oysters, mussels, and clams) and plant fossils. Fossils that occur in the Wasatch Formation include mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles (Jones & Stokes 2007). A pedestrian reconnaissance survey for fossils was conducted in November 2007 for the general analysis area. All outcrops were closely inspected, including bare, sparsely vegetated, or thin soil areas; stream and drainage bank exposures; large colluvium, lag areas, and colluvium near outcrops. Several fossil types were found during the survey in four locations. Of the four localities, three were outside of the proposed tract but in the general analysis area, and one was within the BLM study area. Fossils found include: crocodilian scutes (bone plates under the skin); a short segment of a limb bone from a large mammal; a small unidentifiable bone fragment (possibly crocodile); gastropod shell fragments; and small, highly weathered, fossilized wood fragments from the Fort Union. None of these fossils is considered significant or of high scientific value. While the occurrences of crocodilian scutes, the limb bone, and small bone

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fragments are notable because they are the only vertebrate fossils currently known from the PRB Fort Union Formation, they are not considered to be of high scientific value because they were solitary finds, and no sign of other vertebrate fossils was observed in the immediate area. In addition, the mammalian species to which the limb bone segment belongs could not be determined: neither the taxon nor element represented by the bone fragment could be identified (Jones & Stokes 2007). While these findings indicate other vertebrate fossils could be found in the general analysis area, the likelihood of such a find would be minimal. No significant or unique paleontological resources or localities have been recorded within the general analysis area, no specific mitigation was recommended for paleontology, and no further paleontological work was recommended or required.

3.3.3.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining would have no impact on significant or unique paleontological resources on the surface of the proposed tract; however, paleontological resources beneath the surface of the proposed tract (419 acres) could be permanently lost. No significant fossils were found in the outcrops of the Fort Union and Wasatch formations exposed on the surface of the proposed tract. However, fossils with scientific significance could be present but not exposed at the surface. Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance on an additional buffer area north of the proposed tract. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Coal removal and associated impacts on paleontological resources, similar to those described above, would only occur in the overlap between the general analysis area and existing permit area as a result of currently permitted mining activities. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining would have no impact on significant or unique paleontological resources on the surface of the general analysis area; however, paleontological resources beneath the surface could be permanently lost on up to 1,883 acres. Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance within a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration.

3.3.3.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If a tract is leased under one of the action alternatives, the BLM will attach a stipulation (appendix D) to the lease requiring the operator to report significant paleontological finds to the

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authorized federal agency and suspend production in the vicinity of the find until an approved paleontologist can evaluate the paleontological resource.

3.3.3.4

Residual Impacts

Paleontological resources not identified and removed prior to or during mining operations would be permanently lost. No such incidents have occurred within the existing Buckskin Mine lease, or elsewhere in the PRB coal region.

3.4 Air Quality
This section summarizes the affected environment in the general analysis area and the potential air quality impacts of the Proposed Action and alternatives. Appendix F provides background information on the air quality regulatory framework, regional conditions, modeling efforts, and the best available control technology (BACT) process. That appendix also provides the history of monitoring for particulate matter in the PRB. The information presented in this section and in appendix F is based on data provided by the Buckskin, Eagle Butte, Rawhide, Dry Fork, and Wyodak mines and from various state and federal sources. Existing and projected cumulative air quality impacts are discussed in chapter 4.

3.4.1 3.4.1.1

Background Air Quality Determinants

The air quality of any region is controlled primarily by the magnitude and distribution of pollutant emissions and the regional climate. The transport of pollutants from specific source areas is strongly affected by local topography, winds (speed and direction), and precipitation. In the mountainous region of the western U.S., topography is particularly important in channeling pollutants along valleys, creating upslope and downslope circulations that may entrain airborne pollutants, and blocking the flow of pollutants toward certain areas. Local effects, however, are commonly superimposed on the general widespread weather regime and are only important during those periods when the large-scale wind flow is weak. Wyoming can be characterized as having a combination of both highland and mid-latitude semiarid climates. The dominant factors that affect the climate of the area are elevation, local relief, and the mountain barrier effect. This barrier effect can produce marked temperature and precipitation differences between windward and leeward slopes. Generally, temperatures decrease and precipitation increases with increasing elevation. Section 3.1.1 contains additional information about the meteorology and climate in the general analysis area. The general analysis area (map 3.0-1) is located in the northern portion of the PRB. The topography is primarily rolling plains and tablelands of moderate relief with occasional valleys and buttes. Elevations range from about 4,080 to 4,380 feet above mean sea level. The Big

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Horn Mountains lie approximately 60 miles to the west and the Black Hills lie approximately 60 miles to the east.

3.4.1.2

Applicable Air Quality Standards and Regulations

The CAA requires the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and welfare. These standards define the maximum level of air pollution allowed in the ambient air. The CAA established NAAQS for six pollutants, known as “criteria” pollutants, which “… cause or contribute to air pollution which may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare and the presence of which in the ambient air results from numerous or diverse mobile or stationary sources.” The six, present-day criteria pollutants are lead, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), where PM10 is coarse particulate with mean aerodynamic diameters less than 10 microns and PM2.5 is fine particulate with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. Both particle sizes are small enough to penetrate into the lungs; PM2.5 in particular can cause serious health problems. Air quality regulations applicable to surface coal mining include the NAAQS, Wyoming Ambient Air Quality Standards (WAAQS), prevention of significant deterioration (PSD), new source performance standards, and the Federal Operating Permit Program (Title V). These regulatory programs are described in appendix F. Air pollution impacts are limited by local, state, tribal, and federal air quality regulations and standards, and state implementation plans (SIPs) established under the CAA and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. In Wyoming, air pollution impacts are managed by the WDEQ/AQD under the Wyoming Air Quality Standards and Regulations and the EPA-approved SIP. A memorandum of agreement dated January 24, 1994, between EPA and the State of Wyoming allows the WDEQ/AQD to use particulate monitoring in lieu of short-term modeling to assess 24-hour compliance and to predict short-term ambient impacts from mining. Annual impacts are predicted using the industrial source complex long-term model, version 3 (ISC3LT). Appendix F contains a more detailed discussion of compliance and BACT demonstration.

3.4.1.3

Emissions Sources in the General Analysis Area

Air quality conditions in rural areas are typically better than in large, urban, or heavily industrialized areas. The northern PRB is a semi-industrial area containing six surface coal mines, multiple power plants, numerous natural gas wells and conventional oil and gas wells, and supporting rail and road infrastructure. Occasional high concentrations of CO, O3, and particulate matter may occur in this region as well as in the urban areas of Gillette, Sheridan, and Buffalo, especially under stable atmospheric conditions that occur during winter. The major types of emissions that come from surface coal mining activities are in the form of fugitive dust and tailpipe emissions from large mining equipment. Activities such as blasting, excavating, loading and hauling overburden and coal, and the large areas of disturbed land produce fugitive dust. Stationary or point sources are associated with coal crushing, storage, and handling facilities. In general, PM10 particulate matter is the major significant pollutant from
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coal mine point and fugitive sources. Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from blasting and mining equipment exhaust can also be significant, particularly at the larger surface mines in the southern PRB. As discussed in appendix F, NO2 is a product of incomplete combustion at sources such as gasoline- and diesel-burning engines or from mine blasting activities. Generally, blasting-related NOx emissions are more prevalent at operations that use the technique referred to as cast blasting (Chancellor pers. comm.). This describes a type of direct blasting in which the explosion is designed to cast the overburden from on top of the coal into the previously mined area. The Buckskin mine does not use this technique and does not anticipate doing so in the future. The higher strip ratios (ratio of overburden to coal) at Buckskin do not lend themselves to dragline excavation, with which cast blasting is commonly associated. Concentrations of the six criteria pollutants in the PRB and applicable standards are shown in table 3.4-1. Non-mining air pollutant emission sources in the region include: „ emissions exhaust (primarily CO and NOx) from existing natural-gas-fired compressor engines used in production of natural gas and CBNG; „ gasoline and diesel vehicle tailpipe emissions of combustion pollutants, volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide (CO2), NOx, PM10 particulate matter, PM2.5 particulate matter, and SO2; „ dust (particulate matter) generated by vehicle travel on unpaved graded roads, windblown dust from neighboring areas, agricultural activities such as plowing, and paved road sanding during the winter months; „ transport of air pollutants from emission sources located outside the region; „ emissions from railroad locomotives used to haul coal (primarily NO2 and PM10); and „ SO2 and NOx from power plants.

3.4.2 3.4.2.1

Particulate Emissions Affected Environment

Particulates include solid particles and liquid droplets that can be suspended in air. Particulates, especially fine particulates such as PM2.5, have been linked to numerous respiratory related illnesses and can adversely affect individuals with pre-existing heart or lung diseases. They are also a major cause of visibility impairment in many parts of the U.S. While individual particles cannot be seen with the naked eye, collectively they can appear as black soot, dust clouds, or gray hazes.

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Table 3.4-1.
Criteria Pollutant
CO NO2 O3 SO2

Six Criteria Air Pollutant Concentrations and Applicable Standards in the Powder River Basin (µg/m3)
Averaging Time1
1-hour 8-hour Annual 8-hour 3-hour 24-hour Annual

Background Concentration
3,3364 1,381 55 706 1817 627 137 549 139 1310 410

Primary NAAQS2
40,000 10,000 100 147 — 365 80 150 — 35 15

Secondary NAAQS2
40,000 10,000 100 147 1,300 — — 150 — 35 15 40,000 10,000

PSD Class I Increments
— — 2.5 — 25 5 2 8 4 — —

PSD Class II Increments
— — 25 — 512 91 20 30 17 — —

WAAQS

100 147 1,300 260 60 150 50 65 15

PM108 PM2.58

24-hour Annual 24-hour Annual

µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter; NAAQS = National Ambient Air Quality Standards; WAAQS = Wyoming Ambient Air Quality Standards; PSD = Prevention of Significant Deterioration increment values; CO = carbon monoxide; NO2 = nitrogen dioxide; 03 = ozone; SO2 = sulfur dioxide; PM10 = particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less in diameter; PM2.5 = particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter.
1	 2	 3	 4	 5	 6	 7	 8	

Annual standards are not to be exceeded; short-term standards are not to be exceeded more than once per year. Primary standards are designed to protect public health; secondary standards are designed to protect public welfare. All NEPA analysis comparisons to the PSD increments are intended to evaluate a threshold of concern and do not represent a regulatory PSD Increment Consumption Analysis. Data collected by Amoco at Ryckman Creek for an 8-month period during 1978–1979, summarized in Riley Ridge EIS). Data collected at Thunder Basin National Grassland, Campbell County, Wyoming in 2002. Data collected at Thunder Basin National Grassland, Campbell County, Wyoming in 2002–2004 (8-hour 4th high). Data collected by Black Hills Power & Light at Wygen 2, Campbell County, Wyoming in 2002. On October 17, 2006, the EPA published final revisions to the NAAQS for particulate matter that took effect on December 18, 2006. The revision strengthens the 24-hour PM2.5 standard from 65 to 35 µg/m3 and revokes the annual PM10 standard of 50 µg/m3. The State of Wyoming entered into rulemaking to revise the WAAQS. Data collected at the Eagle Butte Mine, Campbell County, Wyoming in 2002. Data collected at the Buckskin Mine 2002.

9	 10

Source: BLM 2005b.

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The current (since December 2006) EPA 24-hour air quality standard for PM2.5 is 35 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), a reduction from the previous level of 65 µg/m3. The current annual PM2.5 standard is 15 µg/m3. The current 24-hour standard for PM10 particulates is 150 µg/m3. The annual PM10 standard of 50 µg/m3 was revoked during the EPA revisions of air quality standards in 2006. In view of the December 2006 revisions to the NAAQS for particulate matter, the State of Wyoming entered into rulemaking to revise the WAAQS for particulate matter so that they remain as stringent as or more stringent than the NAAQS. Current federal ambient air standards for all six criteria pollutants are shown in table 3.4-1, including those for current PM10 and PM2.5 standards in Wyoming. Additional information on the history of this process is provided in appendix F. The PRB has one of the most extensive networks of monitoring sites for PM10 in the U.S.; most of these monitoring sites are funded and operated by the coal mines. The WDEQ/AQD requires that such information is collected to document the quality of the air resource at each of the PRB mines. According to EPA AirData, 36 PM10 monitors, 6 PM2.5 monitors, and 6 total suspended particles (TSP) monitors were stationed in the Wyoming portion of the PRB in 2007. Data for TSP and PM10 date back to 1980 and 1989, respectively. Approximately 57,000 TSP samples were collected through 2004, and approximately 47,550 PM10 samples through 2007. Information about the regulatory framework, the monitoring network, and PM10 concentration trends since monitoring began are included in appendix F. Existing site-specific air quality information is included in the air quality data report, which can be viewed at the BLM High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming. The Buckskin Mine ambient monitoring network consists of two low-volume Rupprecht & Patashnick Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance (TEOM) PM10 particulate continuous monitors. The monitors were installed in late October 2000 to replace two highvolume TSP monitors located at the same sites. The continuous monitors collect uninterrupted, hourly average concentrations for particulate matter. The TEOM monitors meet the EPA Automated Equivalency Method (EQSA-0495-100). The particulate and meteorological monitoring network is operated in accordance with the Buckskin Mine Quality Assurance Project Plan (Buckskin Mining Company 2001), which was updated in 2008. Although they are no longer used at the Buckskin Mine, TSP monitoring is still conducted in some PRB locations, in part to serve as an indication of overall atmospheric levels of particulate matter. The former high-volume air quality monitors at Buckskin sampled TSP every six days for a 24-hour cycle. The continuous TEOM monitors in use since 2000 are identified as west TEOM monitor (AQS ID: 0884) and north TEOM monitor (original AQS ID: 0899). In 2008, the north TEOM monitor was moved to a WDEQ/AQD approved location just outside the existing Buckskin Mine permit boundary (new AQS ID: 1899). The new site is more representative of ambient air and better positioned to measure both meteorological conditions and air quality impacts from mining. A meteorological station is also located at the new north TEOM monitor site. Current monitor locations are shown on map 3.4-1.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Table 3.4-2 provides the annual average, maximum, and second-highest PM10 concentrations for each monitor. These data were collected from 2002 through 2007. Annual coal and overburden production are also presented for reference. Figure 3.4-1 presents the same information in graphic form.

Table 3.4-2.
Year
2002

Buckskin Mine Annual PM10 Monitoring Results and Production (µg/m3)
North TEOM Monitor West TEOM Monitor Average
12.9 18.3 21.9 11.5 16.2 10.7 14.2 26.5 18.0 17.4 13.4 16.8 17.7 11.7 14.9 12.7 14.9 24.4 12.3 16.1 14.7 19.0 28.5 14.1 19.1 17.0 19.6 31.1 13.6 20.3

Quarter
1 2 3 4 Annual 1 2 3 4 Annual 1 2 3 4 Annual 1 2 3 4 Annual 1 2 3 4 Annual 1 2 3 4 Annual

Average
14.9 20.0 25.1 11.1 17.8 10.9 15.6 29.2 15.1 17.7 14.5 18.7 20.1 13.6 16.7 14.0 16.4 25.3 13.1 17.2 13.1 21.7 34.2 16.9 21.5 18.9 20.2 40.2 18.4 24.4

High
37.5 95.7 191.71 29.3 191.7 35.1 56.3 77.6 47.6 77.6 53.7 116.3 42.3 40.1 116.3 78.5 68.8 60.0 42.2 78.5 41.9 72.1 101.4 63.6 101.4 244.01 102.5 107.3 75.6 244.0

2nd High
34.1 73.4 71.0 22.6 95.7 29.8 42.7 76.9 40.3 76.9 47.5 41.1 40.2 33.8 53.7 47.0 58.7 51.6 41.3 68.8 38.3 60.7 84.7 58.2 84.7 59.9 59.0 84.6 65.9 107.3

High
34.9 60.9 70.5 25.7 70.5 49.7 41.3 80.1 202.42 202.4 47.3 74.9 38.5 27.7 74.9 48.5 48.5 61.1 57.1 61.1 54.1 58.6 63.7 39.0 63.7 177.71 75.3 72.5 53.7 177.7

2nd High
30.9 43.4 57.9 23.3 60.9 23.4 39.2 63.0 139.1 129.1 41.4 33.3 33.7 25.6 47.3 30.9 46.6 53.8 32.8 57.1 47.2 49.6 58.5 34.5 58.6 62.9 54.5 68.9 42.8 75.3

Coal/Year (mmt)

Overburden/ Year (mmbcy)

18.3

36.5

2003

17.5

31.9

2004

20.3

29.5

2005

19.6

26.1

2006

22.8

27.1

2007

25.3

31.7

PM10 = particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less in diameter; TEOM = Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance; mmt = million tons; mmbcy = million bank cubic yards
1 2

Exceeded 24-hr standard of 150 µg/m3; WDEQ/AQD deemed “exceptional event” due to high winds. Exceeded 24-hr standard of 150 µg/m3; WDEQ/AQD deemed as official exceedance.

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North TEOM Monitor and Meteorological Station

14

16

West TEOM Monitor

Proposed Tract
0 2,500 feet 5,000

BLM Study Area

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.4-1 Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Monitoring Network

40 Coal removal (million tons) Overburden removal (million bank cubic yards) North TEOM Monitor West TEOM Monitor

30

35

25

Million Tons or Million Bank Cubic Yards

30 20 25

20

15

15 10 10 5 5

0 2002 2003 2004 Year 2005 2006 2007

0

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.4-1 Buckskin PM10 Monitoring History

Annual Average PM10 (μg/m3)

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Results from the Buckskin Mine 24-hour PM10 monitors surpassed the 24-hour annual average standard (150 µg/m3) on only three occasions since monitoring began. On August 16, 2002, the north TEOM monitor recorded a maximum 24-hour PM10 concentration of 191.7 µg/m3. On December 27, 2003, the west TEOM monitor recorded a maximum 24-hour PM10 concentration of 202.4 µg/m3. On March 27, 2007, the north TEOM monitor measured a maximum 24-hour PM10 concentration of 244.0 µg/m3; the west TEOM monitor recorded a maximum of 177.7 µg/m3 the same day. The 2002 and 2007 measurements correlated with strong winds (e.g., more than 33 mph with gusts of 42 mph) and were judged as “exceptional events” by the WDEQ/AQD, as provided for by the recently implemented Natural Events Action Policy (NEAP). Therefore, those two overages were not counted as official exceedances by the WDEQ/AQD. No extraordinary winds or other weather conditions occurred during the 2003 measurement, and the WDEQ/AQD considered that event as an exceedance. In all three cases, the Buckskin Mine followed all mitigation and documentation procedures as required by the NEAP, including submitting detailed reports of the exceedance and accompanying meteorological conditions to the WDEQ/AQD. The northern group of mines consists of five mines in addition to Buckskin: Dry Fork, Eagle Butte, Fort Union, Rawhide, and Wyodak. All of the mines, with the exception of Fort Union, operate in accordance with a Quality Assurance Project Plan specific to each mine. The Fort Union Mine has not been in operation for the last several years. Table 3.4-3 summarizes the monitors that are currently in operation at these mines. The maximum and second maximum annual PM10 results are also presented.

Table 3.4-3.
Mine Year
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Northern PRB Mines: 24-Hour PM10 Monitoring Results by Year (µg/m3)
Dry Fork DF-1
85 79 96 95 73 70 113 107 112 103 109 101

Eagle Butte EB-2
143 66 65 61 62 61 60 53 73 60 168* 65

Rawhide Hilltop (TEOM)
NA NA NA NA 61 39 76 70 72 72 107 101

Wyodak Site 1
52 48 52 50 79 62 129 69 96 71 143 100

Sampler
Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr Max 24-hr 2nd-High 24-hr

DF-N/3M
49 34 45 33 25 24 29 27 68 44 44 40

EB-5
54 36 47 34 40 33 49 48 47 46 41 39

EB-N/3S
74 66 76 76 66 64 115 85 99 93 144 139

North (TEOM)
NA NA NA NA 43 42 61 59 78 75 178* 84

Site 4 (TEOM)
NA NA NA NA 131 92 165* 126 143 95 129 122

µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter; PRB = Powder River Basin; PM10 = particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less in diameter; TEOM = Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance * Exceeded 24-hr standard of 150 µg/m3 ; WDEQ/AQD deemed “exceptional event” due to high winds. NA = Sampler not installed

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Collectively, the five other mines in the northern group exceeded the 24-hr PM10 NAAQS annual average of 150 µg/m3 three times during the last six years (2002 through 2007). In 2005, the Wyodak Mine recorded a value of 165 µg/m3. In 2007, the Eagle Butte and Rawhide mines recorded 168 µg/m3 and 178 µg/m3, respectively. All three values were deemed “exceptional events” by WDEQ due to high winds. The WDEQ/AQD requires that surface mine permits compile detailed emissions inventories and demonstrate compliance with NAAQS before permit amendments are granted. A BACT analysis is also required to demonstrate the use of “best available technology” in controlling point and fugitive PM10 emissions. In 2006, the Buckskin Mine submitted detailed PM10 modeling analyses to the WDEQ/AQD in support of a request for a permit modification. The PM2.5 standard was not enforced by Wyoming when this permit amendment application was submitted, nor is it currently applied to modeling of surface mine emissions. In addition, the old TSP standard has not been part of the state’s monitoring requirements for more than 10 years (appendix F). Therefore, any discussion of particulate modeling in Wyoming is confined to PM10 emissions. The permit revision request addressed the impacts associated with a proposed production increase to its current permitted level of 42 million tons per year and proposed improvements to mine facilities. These analyses considered all PM10 emission sources and included the neighboring Eagle Butte, Rawhide, Dry Fork, Wyodak, and Fort Union mines. The WDEQ/AQD approved the mine modification in Permit MD-1379, issued January 17, 2007. In its assessment of the modeling process, the agency noted that “…the applicant's dispersion modeling analyses were conducted using U.S. EPA approved models and methodologies, and the Division has reviewed and verified the source parameters, default settings, and related modeling inputs used in the applicant's modeling analyses. Through the required dispersion modeling analyses, the applicant has successfully demonstrated to the Division that all applicable air quality standards will be attained if the proposed changes in the applicant's mine plan and mining operations are approved” (WDEQ/AQD 2006). Based on WDEQ/AQD approval of this permit modification, Buckskin is not aware of any significant technical or modeling issues. The maximum modeled impact from Buckskin and neighboring mines (including background) is about 80% of the NAAQS. The modeling analysis demonstrated that emissions from the permitted production level of 42 million tons per year would not cause or significantly contribute to exceedances of the NAAQS annual average. Buckskin’s current production level of 25 million tons per year is expected to continue under the action alternatives considered in this EIS. A detailed description of the modeling process for this analysis is provided in appendix F. As indicated, the recent modeling analysis was conducted for a maximum coal production rate of 42 million tons per year. Mining years 2011 and 2012 were selected as the projected “worst­ case” based on Buckskin-specific and regional life-of-mine emission inventories for PM10 and NOx. The highest model-predicted PM10 impact from Buckskin and neighboring mines during either year was 40.4 µg/m3 (including a background concentration of 12 µg/m3) compared to the annual WAAQS of 50 µg/m3. Moreover, at the model receptor with highest predicted

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

cumulative impact, Buckskin’s contribution was less than 1 µg/m3. The maximum predicted contribution from Buckskin at any receptor was 16 µg/m3. Given that the highest prediction for either worst-case year falls below the annual PM10 WAAQS, that standard is expected to be met throughout the life of the mine. Map 3.4-2 shows the modeled PM10 and NO2 impacts at receptors located along the permitted Buckskin Mine boundary for 2011. Map 3.4-3 shows the same parameters for 2012. Both maps also depict the area sources used to model fugitive emissions. In addition to these modeling analyses, the Buckskin Mine also prepared a demonstration of short-term compliance with the 24-hour PM10 standard based on results from a single monitoring cycle as part of the 2006 air quality permit modification request. According to WDEQ/AQD policy (appendix F), a modeling analysis for short-term data was not required or conducted because the model tends to significantly over-predict 24-hour impacts of surface coal mines, and the agency therefore considers it to be an inaccurate representation of those impacts. Instead, the short-term compliance analysis focused on historical monitoring data and continuing employment of BACT on mine-wide emissions. That analysis again concluded that the 24-hour PM10 WAAQS would be protected throughout the life of the mine. Fugitive emissions are the greatest emission source for surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB. Such sources do not count against the PSD major source applicability threshold for incremental increases in criteria pollutants. Therefore, Buckskin and the other Wyoming PRB coal mines have not been subject to permitting under the PSD regulations because the mine emissions that are subject to PDS applicability levels fall below the allowable thresholds. Additional information regarding PSD requirements is provided in appendix F. Based on permits in place in the baseline year of 1997, when the Clean Air Act Amendments were enacted, only some fraction of the mine emissions included in the WDEQ/AQD air quality permit analyses contributes to the allowable increase (increment) in criteria pollutants in the region. Therefore, the concentrations predicted by the WDEQ/AQD air quality permit analyses should not be compared to PSD increments.

3.4.2.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because PM10 exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this alternative. As stated above, the PM2.5 standard is not currently applied to modeling of surface mine emissions. Ongoing sources of particulate emissions would continue as a result of mining the proposed tract, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Impacts on air quality from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

14

16

NO2 = 35.6

Proposed Tract 0 2,500 feet 5,000

BLM Study Area

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.
10 10 2 2

Map 3.4-2 2011 Maximum Modeled PM and NO Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Boundary

14

16

PM10 = 31.0 NO2 = 35.6

Proposed Tract 0 2,500 feet 5,000

BLM Study Area

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.4-3 2012 Maximum Modeled PM10 and NO2 Concentrations for Buckskin Mine Ambient Air Boundary 10 2

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Kiewit has no plans to change existing blasting procedures or sizes (section 1.1.3.3) when mining the proposed tract. Current BACT measures (section 3.4.2.3) for particulates would be employed. Coal haul rates and distances would not change significantly from current permitted levels, and all unpaved mine roads would continue to be treated for dust suppression. Currently, no occupied residences are located within the proposed tract (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4-4B). The closest occupied dwellings are more than 0.5 mile from the proposed tract. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because PM10 exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this alternative. As stated above, the PM2.5 standard is not currently applied to modeling of surface mine emissions. Particulate emissions generated in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Impacts on air quality from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment.” Currently, no occupied residences are located in the overlap area; the only occupied dwelling within 1.5 miles of the overlap area is approximately 0.25 mile northwest (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4 4B). As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because PM10 exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this action alternative. As stated above, the PM2.5 standard is not currently applied to modeling of surface mine emissions. Ongoing sources of particulate emissions would continue as a result of mining in up to 1,883 acres of the BLM study area, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Details provided under the Proposed Action regarding blasting procedures and sizes, BACT measures, coal haul rates and distances, dust suppression, and modeled impacts and exceedances would be the same for this alternative. Impacts on air quality from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Currently, one occupied residence is located in the general analysis area (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4-4B). This residence is less than 0.25 mile from mining activities under existing mine operations. Therefore, this would not be a new impact under Alternative 2.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3-53

Map 3.4-4A Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area

14


16


Map 3.4-4B Enlargement—Roads, Highways, Occupied Dwellings, Businesses, and School Bus Stops in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.4.2.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Before any mining could begin under the action alternatives, Buckskin would need an air quality permit modification from the WDEQ/AQD and would need to conduct new air quality modeling in support of that application demonstrating ongoing compliance with all applicable ambient standards. Control of point and fugitive sources of particulates and emissions at all PRB coal mines is accomplished with a variety of measures described in section 1.1.3.3. For example, emissions at coal crushing, storage, and handling facilities (point sources) are controlled with baghouse dust collection systems, passive enclosure controls, or atomizers/foggers. These are all considered BACTs by the WDEQ/AQD. Fugitive emissions are also controlled with a variety of other BACT measures. For example, mine access roads have been paved and water trucks are used to apply water and chemical dust suppressants on all haul roads used by trucks and/or scrapers. Haul truck speed limits are imposed to further help reduce fugitive emissions from roads. Material drop heights for shovels and draglines (bucket to truck bed or backfill) are limited to the minimum necessary to conduct the mining operations. Timely revegetation of disturbed areas is used to minimize wind erosion. Fugitive emissions from the coal truck dumps are controlled with stilling sheds. All of these control measures are employed at the Buckskin Mine, including the following additional mining practices and equipment. „ Scoria is distributed on haul roads to further reduce fugitive dust; scoria is comprised of baked and fused rock resulting from natural in-place burning of coal deposits. „ Crushed scoria spread on paved access roads for traction during winter is swept and collected, as necessary. „ Operating baghouses are inspected daily and observed malfunctions are immediately corrected. „ Storage silos and loadout silos are used to contain coal awaiting shipment from the Buckskin Mine coal preparation plant. „ A retractable chute minimizes drop height when loading rail cars. „ Windrows are bladed in pit advance areas that have been stripped of topsoil. „ Topsoil stockpiles and sediment-control structures are seeded immediately. „ Coal fires are promptly extinguished. The WDEQ/AQD is continually reviewing the data and considering regulatory options, such as increasing the frequency of monitoring. Continuous PM10 monitoring is now required at many PRB mines, including Buckskin. Other regulatory options may include enforcement actions such as notices of violation resulting in a consent decree and/or modified permit conditions. The WDEQ/AQD is also coordinating with the EPA to develop additional monitoring requirements in CBNG development areas, high PM10 mitigation action plans in permits, and additional mitigation measures under the SIP.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

In April, 2006, the WDEQ in a joint effort with PRB mining stakeholders developed a detailed NEAP for the coal mines of Campbell and Converse counties, Wyoming. The NEAP was developed under the framework afforded by EPA’s Natural Events Policy of May 30, 1996. Buckskin is complying with the NEAP developed jointly by the WDEQ/AQD and the PRB coal operators. The NEAP recognizes that certain NAAQS exceedances due to natural events are uncontrollable. While all practical mitigation measures need be implemented during those events, exceedances attributable to natural events should not be considered against the NAAQS attainment designation for the region. Specific NEAP goals include: „ Provide for the protection of public health. „ Develop a public information program. „ Provide a mechanism for “flagging” exceedances due to uncontrollable natural events. „ Implement best available control measures and reasonably available control measures based on the severity of the event. „ Provide a mechanism for excluding flagged data when they meet specific wind speed criteria and best available and reasonably available control measures are in place. The PRB mining operators had already implemented these measures for several years when formal approval of the NEAP was received from EPA Region VIII in 2007. Through the end of 2001, at minimum, each mine monitored air quality for a 24-hour period every six days at multiple monitoring sites. More recently, monitoring has occurred at active mines for a 24-hour period every three days, with some mines (including Buckskin) conducting continuous monitoring. Numerous monitors are also located in Sheridan, Gillette, Arvada, and Wright, Wyoming. The extensive air quality monitoring network currently in use enables the WDEQ/AQD to manage the air resource using monitoring data rather than modeled predictions. The agency also uses monitoring stations located elsewhere in the state to anticipate issues related to air quality throughout Wyoming. These monitoring stations are located to measure ambient air quality rather than impacts from a specific source. Monitors located to measure impacts from a specific source may be used to establish trends. These data are used to proactively arrest or reverse trends towards air quality problems. When the WDEQ/AQD became aware that particulate readings in the PRB were increasing due to increased CBNG activity and prolonged drought, the agency approached the counties, coal mines, and CBNG industry. A coalition involving those entities has made significant efforts towards minimizing dust from graded roads. Measures taken have ranged from implementing speed limits to paving heavily traveled roads. As a participant in this program, the Buckskin Mine has periodically applied magnesium chloride to two county roads (Collins Road and McGee Road) and a secondary access road. All of these measures are believed to have reduced the impacts of nearby, non-mining activity on Buckskin’s monitors.
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Monitoring is also used to measure compliance. When monitoring shows that any standard has been violated, the WDEQ/AQD can take a range of enforcement actions to remedy the situation. Where a standard is exceeded specific to an operation, the enforcement action is specific to the facility. For many facilities, neither the cause nor the solution is simple. The agency normally uses a negotiated settlement in those instances.

3.4.3 3.4.3.1

Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides and Ozone Affected Environment

Gases that contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts are referred to as nitrogen oxides, or NOx. One type of NOx is NO2, a reddish-brown gas that is heavier than air and has a pungent odor. NO2 is by far the most toxic of this group and can combine with atmospheric moisture to form nitric acid and nitric oxide. Because several NOx species can be chemically converted to NO2 in the atmosphere, NO2 emissions control is focused on all NOx gases, while the ambient standard is expressed in terms of NO2. NOx forms when fuel is burned at high temperatures either naturally or by human activities. The primary direct source of NOx emissions during coal mining operations is tailpipe emissions from mining equipment and other vehicle traffic inside the mine permit area. Blasting that is done to remove overburden can result in emissions of several products, including NO2, because of the incomplete combustion of explosives used in the blasting process. When this occurs, gaseous, orange-colored clouds may be formed, and they can drift or be blown off mine permit areas. The rate of release is not well known but is believed to depend on a wide number of factors which include, but are not necessarily limited to: downhole confinement; downhole moisture; type/blend of ammonium nitrate, fuel oil, and emulsion; and detonation velocity. Various compounds and derivatives in the NOx family, including NO2, nitric acid, nitrous oxide, nitrates, and nitric oxide, may cause a wide variety of health and environmental impacts. According to the EPA (EPA 2007a), the following are the main causes of concern with respect to NOx: „ It is one of the main precursers involved in the formation of ground-level 03, which can trigger serious respiratory problems. „ It reacts to form nitrate particles, acid aerosols, as well as NO2, which also cause respiratory problems; and affects air quality related values (AQRVs) of visibility and deposition. „ It contributes to the formation of acid rain. „ It contributes to nutrient overload that deteriorates water quality. „ It contributes to atmospheric particles that cause visibility impairment, most noticeably in national parks. „ It reacts to form toxic chemicals. „ Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

„ It can be transported over long distances. 
 That agency also associates the following severe health risks specifically with NO2 (EPA 2001a): 
 „ It may cause significant toxicity because of its ability to form nitric acid with water in the eye, lung, mucous membranes, and skin. „ Acute exposure may cause death by damaging the pulmonary system. „ Chronic or repeated exposure to lower concentrations of NO2 may exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions, or increase the incidence of respiratory infections. Potential health risks associated with inhalation of ground-level 03 and NOx related particles include acute respiratory problems, aggravated asthma, decreases in lung capacity in some healthy adults, inflammation of lung tissue, respiratory-related hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis and pneumonia (EPA 2007b). The WDEQ/AQD has received no reports of public exposure to NO2 from blasting activities conducted at the Buckskin Mine. Therefore, the agency has not required Buckskin to implement any specific measures to control or limit public exposure to NO2 from blasting, such as restrictions regarding blasting size, setbacks, or other parameters. Although no NAAQS or WAAQS regulate short-term NO2 levels, concern does exist about the potential health risk associated with short-term exposure to NO2 from blasting emissions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (NIOSH 2005), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the EPA have identified the following short-term exposure criteria for NO2: „ NIOSH’s recommended “immediately dangerous to life and health” level is 20.0 parts per million (37,600 µg/m3). „ EPA’s “significant harm” level, a 1-hour average, is 2.0 parts per million (3,760 µg/m3). „ OSHA’s “short-term exposure limit,” a 15-minute time weighted average, which was developed for workers, is 5.0 parts per million (9,400 µg/m3, which must not be exceeded during any part of the workday, as measured instantaneously). „ NIOSH’s recommendation for workers is a limit of 1.0 parts per million (1,880 µg/m3) based on a 15-minute exposure that should not be exceeded at any time during the workday. „ EPA recommends that concentrations not exceed 0.5 parts per million (940 µg/m3) for a 10-minute exposure to protect sensitive members of the public (EPA 2003a). A study conducted by Dr. Edward Faeder for the Black Thunder Mine recommended a limit of 5.0 parts per million (9,400 µg/m3) for a 10-minute exposure. According to EPA, “The exact concentrations at which NO2 will cause various health effects cannot be predicted with complete accuracy because the effects are a function of air concentration and time of exposure, and precise measurements have not been made in association with human toxicity. The information that is available from human exposures also suggests that there is some variation in individual response” (EPA 2001a).
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Many mines in the PRB have implemented procedures aimed at reducing the amount of NOx, particularly NO2, released from the incomplete combustion of blasting agents; blasting NOx is most often associated with cast blasting, which is used at larger mines with dragline operations. Because blast clouds are of a short-term, transient nature, the level of short-term exposure deemed to be “safe” is unknown. While this issue remains the subject of great debate, it should be noted that neither the EPA nor WDEQ/AQD has established NAAQS for NO2 for averaging times shorter than one year. Despite extensive expert testimony provided to the Wyoming Environmental Quality Commission during hearings conducted in 2002 that argued for the establishment of a de facto “standard” ranging from 0.5 to 5.0 parts per million for a 10-minute exposure, the agency determined that insufficient evidence was available to establish a short-term exposure limit and concluded that additional study was required. On the order of the Director of the WDEQ, members of the mining industry in the PRB conducted a comprehensive, multi-year monitoring and modeling study of NO2 exposures from blast clouds. Based on results from that study (Thunder Basin Coal Company 2002) and supplemental data collected at the Buckskin Mine and elsewhere in the PRB, a series of “safe” setback curves for coal, overburden, and cast shots for various wind speed classes was derived from the sampled data, conservative projections of concentrations at greater/lesser distances than measured, and an assumed safe level (based on a comprehensive review of available health effects data) of 5.0 parts per million for 10 minutes. Appendix F provides additional details about this study and the data collection process. Thus, while disagreement still exists regarding acceptable exposure levels, a large amount of actual data is now available from which informed decisions can be made regarding blasting practices. Regardless of the outcome of the debate on the allowable exposure level, the data show clearly that reduction in blast size and increases in setback distances are effective methods for mitigating the frequency and extent of public exposures. Public exposure to emissions caused by surface mining operations is most likely to occur along public roads and highways that pass through the area of the mining operations. Occupants of dwellings in the area could also be affected. Sources of fugitive NOx emissions at the Buckskin Mine include the tailpipe emissions from the mining equipment, emissions from the trains used to haul the coal from the mine, and blasting the overburden and coal to facilitate excavation. As described in section 1.1.3.3, the Buckskin Mine does not use cast blasts to move overburden, though other blasting techniques are used in this process. Although all blasting methods have some potential for NOx emissions, cast blasts are the most likely source. No NOx point sources occur at the mine. The WDEQ/AQD has determined that an assessment of annual NOx impacts must be included as part of an air quality permitting analysis for new surface coal mines and existing mine plan revisions. The potential NOx emissions related to mining operations at the existing Buckskin Mine are described in the air quality permit application submitted to the WDEQ/AQD in June 2006; the purpose of the permit revision request was described in section 3.4.2.1.

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NOx modeling was conducted in support of that June 2006 air permit application. Mining sources of NOx were modeled as fugitive emissions from the areas where mining activities were projected to occur at Buckskin and the other five mines in the northern PRB. These included the overburden and coal blasting emissions, mobile emissions, and stationary emissions described in section 3.4.1.3. Regional sources of NOx were also modeled, including local power plants, gas compressor stations, railroads, highways, and the City of Gillette. Individual and combined impacts from Buckskin, the other northern mines, and regional sources were evaluated at all model receptors. These receptors were placed around the perimeter of the northern group of mines and outward in a rectangular grid with 500-meter spacing. The extent of the receptor grid was sufficient to encompass the area of significant NOx impact from the Buckskin Mine (1.0 µg/m3 or more). NO2 impacts were derived by multiplying modeled NOx concentrations by 75% and adding a background NO2 concentration of 14 µg/m3. This approach followed 40 CFR Part 51, Section 6.2.3, appendix W of the EPA’s Guideline on Air Quality Models. The background NO2 concentration was based on WDEQ/AQD guidance and ambient NOx monitoring results at the Foundation Coal’s Belle Ayr Mine in 2001 and 2002; that mine is approximately 20 miles southeast of the Buckskin Mine. Additional descriptions of the modeling process for this analysis is provided in appendix F. Maximum annual NO2 impacts (including regional sources and background concentration) at any model receptor of 38.0 µg/m3 and 37.8 µg/m3 were predicted in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Both of those values were considerably lower than the annual NO2 NAAQS of 100 µg/m3. At the model receptor where these predicted maximum values were calculated, Buckskin’s contributions were estimated at 1.6 µg/m3 in 2011 and 1.8 µg/m3 in 2012. This receptor is located in an area impacted primarily by neighboring mines. A background NO2 concentration of 14 µg/m3 was assumed based on WDEQ/AQD guidance and ambient NOx monitoring results at the Belle Ayr Mine in 2001 and 2002. Maps 3.4-2 and 3.4-3 show maximum modeled impacts at the Buckskin Mine boundary receptors of 35.6 µg/m3 and 35.7 µg/m3 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Because modeled impacts from the worst-case years fall well below the NAAQS, the NO2 NAAQS will be protected throughout the life of the mine. O3 has the same chemical structure whether it occurs miles above the earth or at ground-level and can be "good" or "bad," depending on its location in the atmosphere. Motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents as well as natural sources emit NOx and volatile organic compounds that help form O3. In the earth's lower atmosphere, ground-level O3 is considered "bad." Ground-level O3 is the primary constituent of smog. Sunlight and hot weather cause ground-level O3 to form in harmful concentrations in the air. As a result, it is known as a summertime air pollutant. Many urban areas tend to have high levels of "bad" O3, but even rural areas are also subject to increased O3 levels because wind carries O3 and the pollutants that form it hundreds of miles away from their original sources. Under the CAA, the EPA has set protective health-based standards for O3 in the air we breathe. Prior to May 27, 2008, the NAAQS 8-hour standard for O3 was 0.080 parts per million

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(157 μg/m ). On March 27, 2008 (effective May 27, 2008) the EPA revised the 8-hour standard 3 to 0.075 parts per million (147 μg/m ). The WDEQ/AQD does not require O3 monitoring at the Buckskin Mine, but levels have been monitored at WDEQ/AQD operated and maintained ambient air quality monitor sites in the PRB since 2001 (appendix F). An exceedance of the O3 8-hour standard occurs if the 4th-highest daily maximum value is above the level of the standard (0.08 parts per million prior to 2008 and 0.075 parts per million since 2008). No exceedances of the O3 standard have occurred at either of the two monitoring sites when evaluated under the standard in place at the time the values were recorded.

3

3.4.3.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because NOx exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this alternative. Ongoing sources of short-term NOx emissions would continue as a result of mining the proposed tract, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Impacts on air quality from current mining equipment and techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Kiewit has no plans to change blasting procedures or sizes (section 1.1.3.3) when mining the proposed tract. Current control and notification measures for NOx emissions (section 3.4.3.3) would continue to be employed. Currently, no occupied residences are located within the proposed tract (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4-4B). The closest dwellings are more than 0.5 mile from the proposed tract. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because NOx exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this alternative. Sources of NOx emissions (e.g, vehicles, blasting [not cast-blasting]) in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Impacts on air quality from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment.” Currently, no occupied residences are located in the overlap area; the only occupied dwelling within 1.5 miles of the overlap area is approximately 0.25 mile northwest (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4 4B). As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

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Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because NOx exceedances were not forecast under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no exceedances are anticipated under this action alternative. Ongoing sources of short-term NOx emissions would continue as a result of mining in up to 1,883 acres of the BLM study area, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Impacts on air quality would be the same as those described above under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Details provided under the Proposed Action regarding blasting procedures and sizes, BACT measures, coal haul rates and distances, dust suppression, and modeled impacts and exceedances would be the same for this alternative. Kiewit has no plans to change blasting procedures or sizes associated with the mining in the BLM study area. Current control and notification measures for NOx emissions would continue to be employed. Currently, one occupied residence is located in the general analysis area (maps 3.4-4A and 3.4-4B). This residence is less than 0.25 mile from mining activities under existing mine operations. Therefore, this would not be a new impact under Alternative 2.

3.4.3.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Before any mining of the proposed tract could begin, the Buckskin Mine would need an air quality permit modification from the WDEQ/AQD and would need to conduct new air quality modeling in support of that application demonstrating ongoing compliance with all applicable ambient standards. As described in section 3.4.3.2, the WDEQ/AQD has received no reports of public exposures to NO2 from blasting activities conducted at the Buckskin Mine; therefore, the agency has not required the mine to implement any specific measures to control or limit public exposure to mine emissions. Additionally, the mine does not use cast blasts to move overburden; that is the most common source of the NO2 clouds of greatest concern to local residents. Nevertheless, Buckskin has voluntarily committed to employ a variety of notification and control measures associated with blasting emissions in a good faith effort to keep the public informed of blasting activities. Several other surface coal mines in the PRB use similar voluntary blasting notification and control measures to avoid NO2 impacts on the public. Voluntary measures that have been instituted at Buckskin (and other mines), particularly when large blasts are planned, include: „ notifying neighbors by telephone (both private parties and other mining operations) in the general area of the mine prior to large blasts; „ monitoring weather and atmospheric conditions prior to the decision to detonate a large blast; „ minimizing blast size to the extent possible;

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„ posting signs on major public roads that enter the general mine area and on all locked gates accessing the active mine area; „ closing public roads that enter the general mine area, depending on wind conditions and blast location with respect to the road; and „ providing post-blast notification to neighbors of potential exposure to the blasting cloud. The WDEQ/AQD has required several mines, including the neighboring Eagle Butte and Wyodak mines (map 1-1), to stop traffic on adjacent state and U.S. highways during blasting due to concerns with fly rock and the “startle factor.” The agency does not require the Buckskin Mine to stop traffic because the blasting area does not affect any major public roads. NO2 was monitored in Gillette from 1975 through 1983. Because of public concerns about NO2 emissions from blasting (particularly cast blasts) and a general concern by the WDEQ/AQD about levels of NOx from all types of development in the PRB, the coal mining industry instituted a monitoring network in cooperation with the agency to gather data on those emissions beginning in 2001. Additional monitoring was conducted throughout the PRB from 2003 to 2006. Details regarding funding and ownership of the coal monitoring program are provided in appendix F. The results of the most recent NOx monitoring are summarized in table 3.4-4. The results indicate annual average NO2 concentrations at all sites are well below the NAAQS of 100 µg/m3 (table 3.4-1). The WDEQ/AQD and respective mines maintain these monitoring stations, and the agency relies on the ongoing monitoring data and emission inventories in air quality permit applications to demonstrate compliance with the annual NO2 ambient air standard.

Table 3.4-4.
Year
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Annual Ambient NO2 Concentration Data (µg/m3)
Antelope Mine
7.5 2.9 5.5 5.1

Belle Ayr Mine
13.2 10.3 9.5 14.4

Thunder Basin National Grassland
5.6 3.8 8.4 8.1 3.8

Campbell Co.
13.2 9.4 7.5 5.7 7.5

Tracy Ranch

5.5 7.2 11.2 6.9

µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter; NO2 = nitrogen dioxide Source: EPA 2009a

3.4.4

Visibility

Visibility refers to the clarity with which scenic vistas and landscape features are perceived at great distances. Visibility can be defined as the distance one can see and the ability to perceive color, contrast, and detail. PM2.5 is the main cause of visibility impairment. Visual range, one of several ways to express visibility, is the farthest distance from which a person can see a

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landscape feature. Without the effects of human-caused air pollution, a natural visual range is estimated to be about 140 miles in the western part of the U.S. and 90 miles in the eastern part (EPA 2001b). Presently, the visibility conditions monitored in the Bridger Wilderness Area are among the best in the U.S. Visibility impairment is expressed in terms of deciview (dv). The dv index was developed as a linear perceived visual change (Pitchford and Malm 1994 ), and is the unit of measure used in the EPA’s regional haze rule to achieve the national visibility goal. This goal was established as part of the CAA to prevent any future, and remedy any existing, impairment of visibility in mandatory federal class I areas that result from human-caused air pollution. The dv index is a scale related to visual perception that has a value near zero for a pristine atmosphere. A change in visibility of 1.0 dv represents a “just noticeable change” by an average person under most circumstances. Increasing dv values represent proportionately larger perceived visibility impairment.

3.4.4.1

Affected Environment

Air quality related values, including the potential air pollutant effects on visibility, are applied to PSD Class I (e.g., national parks) and Class II (areas outside designated Class I zones) areas; those classifications are described in section 2.3 of appendix F. The land management agency responsible for the Class I area (most restrictive) sets a limit of acceptable change for each AQRV. The AQRVs reflect the land management agency’s policy and are not legally enforceable standards. Table 3.4-5 shows approximate distances and directions from the general analysis area to 31 PSD Class I and sensitive Cass II areas in the vicinity of the PRB.

Table 3.4-5 	 Distances and Directions from the General Analysis Area to Sensitive Air Quality Areas
Distance (miles)
MANDATORY FEDERAL PSD CLASS I AREA Badlands Wilderness Area1 Bridger Wilderness Area Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area Grand Teton National Park North Absaroka Wilderness Area Red Rocks Lake Wilderness Area Scapegoat Wilderness Area Teton Wilderness Area Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit) U.L. Bend Wilderness Area Washakie Wilderness Area Wind Cave National Park	 165 225 215 343 265 210 307 393 237 242 196 287 215 123 ESE WSW WSW NW WSW WNW W NW WSW NNE NNE NW WSW SE

Direction to Receptor

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Distance (miles)
Yellowstone National Park	 TRIBAL FEDERAL PSD CLASS I Fort Peck Indian Reservation	 Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation	 FEDERAL PSD SENSITIVE CLASS II Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area	 Agate Fossil Beds National Monument	 Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area	 Black Elk Wilderness Area 	 Cloud Peak Wilderness Area	 Crow Indian Reservation	 Devils Towner National Monument	 Fort Belknap Indian Reservation	 Fort Laramie National Historic Site 	 Jewel Cave National Monument	 Mount Rushmore National Memorial 	 Popo Agie Wilderness Area 	 Soldier Creek Wilderness Area	
PSD = prevention of significant deterioration of air quality
1	

Direction to Receptor
W N NNW WNW SSE WNW ESE W NW ENE NNW SSE ESE ESE SW SE

236 252 74 219 168 137 113 81 120 42 316 164 117 112 208 197

The U.S. Congress designated the wilderness area portion of Badlands National Park as a mandatory federal PSD class I area. The remainder of Badlands National Park is a PSD class II area.

The regional haze rule calls for improved visibility on the most impaired days and no additional impairment on the least impaired days (EPA 1999). The EPA participates in the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) visibility monitoring program as part of its visibility protection program. The IMPROVE monitoring sites were established to be representative of all Class I areas. Figure 3.4-2 shows annual averages for the 20% best, average, and worst visibility days in the Badlands and Bridger wilderness areas from 1989 through 2005. To date, the Badlands National Park has statistically shown improved visibility on the least impaired days and no change in visibility on the average and most impaired days. The Bridger Wilderness Area has shown no statistically significant change in visibility on the least, average, or most impaired days (IMPROVE 2005). The Wyoming State Implementation Plan for Class I Visibility Protection states “Wyoming’s long term strategy will focus on the prevention of any future visibility impairment in Class I areas that can be attributed to a source or small group of sources as the federal land managers have not identified any current impairment in the state’s Class I areas due to such sources” (WDEQ/AQD 2003). The report is available at http://deq.state.wy.us/aqd/visibility.asp. Surface coal mines are not considered to be major emitting facilities in accordance with the WDEQ/AQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 6, Section 4). Therefore, State of Wyoming does not require mines to evaluate their impacts on class I areas, though the BLM does consider such issues during leasing.
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No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.4-2 Visibility in the Badlands National Park and Bridger Wilderness Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.4.4.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because visibility has improved or remained relatively unchanged under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no new significant changes in visibility are anticipated under this alternative. Ongoing sources of impacts on visibility would continue as a result of mining the proposed tract, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Impacts on visibility would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Kiewit has no plans to change blasting procedures or sizes associated with the mining the proposed tract. Coal haul rates and distances would not change significantly from current permitted levels and all unpaved mine roads would continue to be treated for dust suppression. Current BACT measures for particulates (outlined in section 3.4.2.3) that could contribute to impaired visibility would continue to be employed. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because visibility has improved or remained relatively unchanged under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no new significant changes in visibility are anticipated under this alternative. Impacts on visibility generated in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Impacts on air quality from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment.” As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Because visibility has improved or remained relatively unchanged under the existing permit for 42 million tons per year, no new significant changes in visibility are anticipated under this alternative. Ongoing sources of particulate emissions would continue as a result of mining in up to 1,883 acres of the BLM study area, but would not be expected to increase on an annual basis. Impacts on visibility from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Kiewit has no plans to change blasting procedures or sizes associated with the mining the proposed tract. Coal haul rates and distances would not change significantly from current permitted levels and all unpaved mine roads would continue to be treated for dust suppression.

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Current BACT measures for particulates (outlined in section 3.4.2.3) that could contribute to impaired visibility would continue to be employed.

3.4.4.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

As discussed in section 3.4.2.1 and section 3.4.3.1, PM2.5 is the main cause of visibility impairment from coal mining operations, with secondary impacts from NOx emissions. Mitigation measures in use to limit emissions of particulate matter are discussed in section 3.4.2.3 and NOx mitigation measures are discussed in section 3.4.3.3. Additional information is provided in appendix F. Visibility monitoring in Wyoming consists of both the WDEQ/AQD-sponsored Wyoming visibility monitoring network and the IMPROVE program. The WDEQ/AQD has sited two visibility-monitoring stations in the PRB. The Thunder Basin National Grasslands site is 32 miles north of Gillette and the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area site is 14 miles west of Buffalo (approximately 84 miles west of Gillette). Both sites include a variety of sophisticated monitoring equipment, as described in section 3.0 of appendix F. These sites are being used to characterize the extent, frequency of occurrence, and magnitude of impairments to visual air quality. The IMPROVE steering committee approved the incorporation of the Thunder Basin and Cloud Peak sites into the IMPROVE network in June 2002. Although these stations are not located in Class I areas, the collected data will be comparable to monitoring data available from such areas elsewhere in the state. This information can help scientists determine the types and concentrations of air pollutants and their direction of travel in order to project visibility impacts on Class I areas. The Wyoming visibility monitoring network was recently supplemented with the development of a website at http://www.wyvisnet.com/all.html to allow public access to real-time monitored visibility and air quality conditions (WDEQ/AQD 2005).

3.4.5

Acidification of Lakes

Lake acidification is the change in acid-neutralizing capacity, or the lake’s capacity to resist acidification. The acidification of lakes and streams is caused by atmospheric deposition of pollutants (acid rain). According to the EPA, SO2 and NOx are the main causes of acid rain (EPA 2009b); both elements are primarily derived from burning fossil fuels. Most lakes and streams have a pH between 6 and8 (on a scale of 1 to 14), although some lakes are naturally acidic even without the effects of acid rain. Acid rain primarily affects sensitive water bodies located in watersheds whose soils have a limited ability to neutralize acidic compounds (called “buffering capacity”). Lakes and streams become acidic (i.e., pH value goes below 7) when the water itself and its surrounding soil cannot buffer the acid rain enough to neutralize it. In areas where buffering capacity is low, acid rain also releases aluminum from soils into lakes and streams; aluminum is highly toxic to many species of aquatic organisms. Several regions in the U.S. were identified in a national surface water survey as containing many of the waters sensitive to acidification. They include the Adirondacks and Catskill mountains in

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New York, the mid-Appalachian highlands along the east coast, the upper Midwest, and mountainous areas of the western U.S. Scientists predict that the decrease in SO2 emissions required by a nationwide acid rain program will significantly reduce acidification due to atmospheric sulfur. Without the reductions in SO2 emissions, the proportions of acidic aquatic ecosystems would remain high or dramatically worsen (EPA 2005a). The USDA Forest Service has been monitoring air quality in the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming since 1984 and is seeing a general trend of decreasing sulfates. In contrast, nitrates have been increasing globally.

3.4.5.1

Affected Environment

AQRVs, including the potential air pollutant effects on the acidification of lakes and streams, are applied to PSD Class I and Class II areas. The land management agency responsible for the Class I area in a particular region sets limits of acceptable change for each AQRV. The AQRVs reflect the land management agency’s policy and are not legally enforceable standards. Lake acidification is expressed as the change inacid-neutralizing capacity, which represents the lake’s capacity to resist acidification from acid rain. This unit of change is measured in microequivalents per liter. Table 3.4-6 shows the existing acid-neutralizing capacity monitored in some mountain lakes in Wyoming and their distance from the general analysis area. For comparison, the USDA Forest Service considers lakes with acid-neutralizing capacity values between 25 and 100 microequivalents per liter to be very sensitive to atmospheric deposition, and lakes with values less than or equal to 25 microequivalents per liter to be extremely sensitive to atmospheric deposition.

Table 3.4-6.
Wilderness Area
Bridger

Existing Acid-Neutralizing Capacity in Sensitive Lakes
Lake
Black Joe Deep Hobbs

Background AcidNeutralizing Capacity (µeq/L)
69.0 61.0 68.0 5.81 55.3 32.7 61.4 55.5

Distance from General Analysis Area (miles)
218 243 239 82 89 85 250 220

Cloud Peak

Upper Frozen Emerald Florence

Fitzpatrick Popo Agie
μeq/l = microequivalents per liter
1

Ross Lower Saddlebag

The background acid-neutralizing capacity is based on only six samples taken between 1997 and 2001

Source: Argonne (2002).

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3.4.5.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, no significant impacts on lake acidification are expected due to the distances from the Buckskin Mine to sensitive lakes in the region (table 3.4-6). Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Ongoing sources of impacts on lake acidification would continue as a result of mining the proposed tract. These impacts would not be expected to increase on an annual basis, but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Impacts of coal mining on acid deposition are due primarily to NOx emissions from mining operations, as discussed in section 3.4.3 above. Studies have demonstrated that lake acidification is a regional phenomenon (Dillon et al. 1978). Kiewit has no plans to change its coal production rates or operations, including blasting methods, hauling rates and distances, or other emissions sources. Operations at the Buckskin Mine will continue to employ current control and notification measures for NOx emissions (outlined in section 3.4.3.3) to minimize the release of emissions into the atmosphere. Modeling for the current Buckskin Mine permit did not forecast any exceedances of the annual particulate or NO2 NAAQS at the currently permitted production rate of 42 million tons per year that could further contribute to lake acidification; Buckskin’s current and anticipated production rates are 25 million tons per year. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected, and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Impacts on lake acidification in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, no significant impacts on lake acidification are expected due to the distances from the Buckskin Mine to sensitive lakes in the region (table 3.4-6). Production would continue at the existing annual rate of 25 million tons. Ongoing sources of impacts on lake acidification would continue as a result of mining the final tract configuration. These impacts would not be expected to increase on an annual basis, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Kiewit has no plans to change its coal production rates or operations, including blasting methods, hauling rates and distances, or other emissions sources. Operations at the Buckskin Mine will continue to employ current control and notification measures for NOx emissions (outlined in section 3.4.3.3) to minimize the release of emissions into the atmosphere. Modeling for the current Buckskin Mine permit did not forecast any exceedances of the annual particulate or NO2 NAAQS at the currently permitted production rate of 42 million tons per year that could further
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contribute to lake acidification; Buckskin’s current and anticipated production rates are 25 million tons per year.

3.4.6

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Mitigation and monitoring for coal mine emissions, including the emissions that contribute to the acidification of lakes, are discussed in sections 3.4.2.3, 3.4.2.4, 3.4.3.3, and 3.4.3.4. Other air quality monitoring programs that are in place in the PRB include the Wyoming Air Resources Monitoring System which monitors sulfur and nitrogen concentrations near Buffalo, Sheridan, and Newcastle, and the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, which monitors precipitation chemistry in Newcastle.

3.4.7

Residual Impacts on Air Quality

No residual adverse impacts on air quality would occur following mining and reclamation.

3.5 Water Resources
This section describes the affected environment as it relates to water resources in the general analysis area, and identifies potential impacts on water resources that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.5.1 3.5.1.1

Groundwater Affected Environment

Six water-bearing hydrologic units in the general analysis area could be disturbed by mining. In descending order, these units are recent alluvium, the Wasatch Formation, the Anderson coal seam, the Fort Union Formation interburden, and the Canyon coal seam. While the Anderson and Canyon coal seams belong to the Fort Union Formation geologically, they divide the Fort Union Formation into multiple distinct hydrologic sections. The interburden between the Anderson and Canyon coal seams exhibits very low permeabilities and has insufficient yield potential to be considered an aquifer; therefore, it will not be discussed here. The Fort Union Formation that underlies the Canyon coal will not be physically disturbed by mining activities but may be used for water supply. Aquifer characterization in the general analysis area is based on more than 80 groundwater monitoring wells installed in and adjacent to the WDEQ/LQD permit area between 1980 and 2000 (map 3.5-1). These wells were installed in each of the primary geologic units: alluvium (recent stream-laid and slope-wash deposits), the Wasatch overburden, and the Anderson and Canyon coal seams. These geological units are discussed below.

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0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.5-1 Currently Active Groundwater Monitoring and Water Supply Wells at Buckskin Mine

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Recent Alluvium Groundwater in recent alluvium (sediments deposited by water flow) occurs primarily near and along the valley and draw bottoms associated with Hay Creek. It is directly connected to and recharged by groundwater in adjacent scoria and the Wasatch overburden. Alluvial groundwater flow generally follows topography, flowing out of upland areas into the valley and draw bottoms, then down-valley along the Hay Creek drainage. Hydraulic gradients are similar to the topographic and valley-bottom slopes on which the deposits reside. Aquifer testing indicates that the hydraulic conductivity, the capacity to transmit water, of stream-laid deposits along the Hay Creek valley bottom range from about 0.40 to 230 feet per day. Deposits in the general analysis area are finer-grained compared to those downstream, and exhibit hydraulic conductivities in the lower range. Although not alluvium, scoria is considered recent and can be an important groundwater resource. Recent testing and mine dewatering of the scoria near the Hay Creek valley bottom indicates hydraulic conductivities that may exceed 2,000 feet per day. Such high values are common for scoria along the coal outcrops in the PRB. Groundwater quality in the alluvial deposits is poor, and is generally unsuitable for domestic, agricultural, and livestock uses as defined by the Wyoming groundwater classification suitability criteria (WDEQ/WQD 2005). Total dissolved solids (TDS), the measure of dissolved salts in water and an overall measure of water quality, is relatively high in the Hay Creek alluvium with an average of about 4,500 milligrams per liter. Isolated areas exhibit higher TDS concentrations because of surface water reservoirs that concentrate salts and locally affect alluvial groundwater. Sulfate, which contributes to the overall TDS, is generally high in the alluvium, roughly 10 times the suitability criteria limit. Wasatch Formation The principal groundwater occurrence in the Wasatch Formation is in sandstones that can be traced laterally for considerable distances. Aquifer testing of Wasatch sands indicates relatively low hydraulic conductivities that range from less than 1 to about 13 feet per day, with the highest values associated with surface sands that are commonly eolian in origin. These surface sands are the primary contributors of groundwater to the Hay Creek valley alluvium. Wasatch groundwater generally follows topography, flowing northeast from the upland areas and discharging into the Hay Creek valley and to the scoria deposits in sections 16 and 21. Seeps (groundwater emanating at grade over a broad area) occur in some upland areas where groundwater in the sandstones is near grade, especially in draws. Groundwater in the Wasatch sandstones is generally better quality when compared to other aquifer units, with an average TDS concentration of about 2,500 milligrams per liter. Overburden groundwater quality meets suitability criteria for livestock, but exceeds TDS and sulfate limits for domestic and irrigation uses.

3-74

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Anderson and Canyon Coals The most extensive aquifer units in the general analysis area are the Canyon and Anderson coal seams. The aquifers are defined by the top and bottom of the seam, and are commonly confined by shale, silt, or clay. However, in some areas, groundwater in both seams may also occur in unconfined conditions and may even be unsaturated. Hydraulic conductivities in the coal seams are generally low and exhibit a range of about 0.0020 to 2.0 feet per day. The variation is due to the degree to which the coal is fractured or its location relative to grade, which controls the degree of weathering. Measurements taken in the 1980s showed that groundwater flow in the Anderson coal seam was primarily to the east and northeast from upland areas toward discharge zones in the Hay Creek valley. In 2000, some groundwater in the Anderson coal seam was found to flow from east to west. Although some changes in groundwater flow patterns are a result of mine dewatering, changes can also be attributed to CBNG operations west of the general analysis area that began in the mid-1990s. Based on measurements taken in the 1980s, groundwater flow in the Canyon coal seam was similar to that of the Anderson coal seam (primarily to the northeast). In 2000, flows changed direction from east to west. As with the Anderson coal, in addition to mine dewatering, CBNG activities have contributed to the changes in groundwater flow patterns in the Canyon coal (Hydro-Engineering 2007). Water quality in the Anderson and Canyon coal seams exhibits considerable variation depending on the concentrations of major dissolved constituents, and is dominated by calcium, magnesium, and sulfate. Groundwater in the overburden affects water quality in the coals. CBNG drawdown may further affect water quality by creating induced hydraulic gradients in the coals. Coal groundwater, where present and still unaffected by mining or CBNG, is suitable for livestock use in some areas. In other areas, it is unsuitable for livestock or irrigation use because of elevated dissolved constituents or sodium adsorption ratio, a measure of the effect of sodium on soils. Elevated ammonia is consistent in both coal seams where bicarbonate dominates the anionic species, a phenomenon typical for coal groundwater in general. Subcoal Fort Union Formation The target coal seams in the general analysis area occur within the uppermost portion of the Tongue River member of the Fort Union Formation. The underlying Lebo and Tullock members consist of lithologies similar to that of the Tongue River, with sandstone predominating the Tullock and shale predominating the Lebo. The Lebo is commonly a confining unit between the Tongue River and Tullock members. The Tullock aquifer commonly exhibits transmissivity, the rate at which water is transmitted through an aquifer, that is higher than that of the Tongue River aquifer. This makes it a common water supply. The average transmissivity for this member as reported by the OSM (1984) is 290 square feet per day (2,200 gallons per day per foot).

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Buckskin Mine uses two water supply wells completed in the Tullock aquifer south of the general analysis area (map 3.5-1). These wells supply water for both mining operations and on-site domestic use.

3.5.1.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining would permanently remove aquifers in the proposed tract (419 acres). Additionally, the Proposed Action would cause a long-term reduction in groundwater in aquifers beyond the proposed tract as a result of seepage into and dewatering from mine excavations. This reduction in groundwater is referred to as drawdown. The extent of drawdown would depend on how long the mine excavations are open, the distance of the aquifers from the proposed tract, and the extent of dewatering. Map 3.5-2 illustrates the extent of drawdown under the Proposed Action, taking into account mining of existing leases. The extent of dewatering depends on aquifer transmissivity, storage capacity, and heterogeneity, as well as the period over which dewatering occurs. Drawdown would extend farther in clean Wasatch sands that exhibit a relatively high transmissivity than in less permeable materials. Dewatering through drawdown would also be most prevalent where these sands are laterally continuous. Drawdown patterns are more variable in aquifers that have more heterogeous sands, such as the Wasatch and Fort Union sands. Aquifer drawdown extends farther and occurs in a more consistent manner in the Anderson and Canyon coal seams than in the overburden because the aquifers have more homogeneous characteristics. However, drawdown can be substantially affected by variations in hydrogeologic characteristics such as fracture density, proximity to crop lines, recharge potential from overlying units, and lateral continuity. Such variations have been observed at the Buckskin Mine and would be likely in the proposed tract. Therefore, drawdown in the coals away from the mine is expected to behave in a similar manner to that observed to date. CBNG development, where present, would continue to have substantial effects on drawdown, especially in the coal seams. In the absence of CBNG development, drawdown typically is greatest near the mine, and decreases substantially away from the mine. Therefore, the Proposed Action would have greater impacts on near-mine groundwater resources than on those farther from the mine. Two water supply wells from the underburden aquifer are currently used by the Buckskin Mine. Although the evaluation of adequate water supply is ongoing as mining progresses, the mine may not require additional underburden water supply wells to mine the proposed tract. If that is the case, the existing wells would continue to be used under the Proposed Action and presumably through the life of the mine. Due to its proximity to the existing Buckskin Mine, groundwater quality in the backfill aquifer on the proposed tract is expected to be similar to that measured in existing wells completed in the backfill at the mine. Variations in water quality may occur because of differences in the proportions of materials (i.e., sands, silts, and clays) used to reclaim the aquifer. Groundwater is expected to rise to similar levels as observed prior to mining, but varied groundwater levels, vertical hydraulic gradients, and perched aquifer zones would not occur to the same degree because of the more homogeneous nature of the backfill.
3-76 Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.5-2 Extent of Drawdown under Proposed Action

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on groundwater resources in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of dewatering and withdrawals resulting from coal recovery in contiguous leases within the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining would permanently remove aquifers in up to 1,833 acres. Long-term groundwater reduction in near-mine aquifers west of the final tract configuration would extend farther than under the Proposed Action, and would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. CBNG development, where present, would continue to have substantial effects on drawdown, especially in the coal seams. Based on monitoring results to date, the two water supply wells currently in use could remain viable through the life of the mine. Groundwater quality in the backfill aquifer in the general analysis area is expected to be similar to that measured in existing wells completed in the backfill at the mine.

3.5.1.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If one of the action alternatives is implemented, Kiewit will complete baseline studies regarding regional and site-specific hydrogeologic characteristics to account for additional permitted area. As part of the baseline hydrogeologic studies for the existing permit area, Kiewit has installed monitoring wells in the alluvium, overburden, interburden, coals, and underburden to evaluate impacts on groundwater from mining activities. Also installed as part of the mining permit reclamation plan are backfill monitoring wells to evaluate groundwater of mine spoils as they resaturate. If one of the action alternatives is implemented, Kiewit will expand these monitoring programs to address additional lease area as well as reclaimed areas on existing leases and will document groundwater monitoring in the mining permit amendment as well as in annual reports submitted to the WDEQ/LQD.

3.5.2 3.5.2.1

Surface Water Affected Environment

Surface Water Characteristics The most prominent surface water feature in the general analysis area is Hay Creek (map 3.5-3). Hay Creek topographically originates northwest of the general analysis area, in the NW4 of section 7, and then flows into the area and through section 18. The creek is mined out in the central and southern portions of section 17, and is diverted to rejoin the undisturbed creek in the

3-78

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

W2 of section 16. Hay Creek is considered a minor stream in the regional drainage network of the Little Powder River. According to WDEQ/WQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 1 Section 4), Hay Creek, although unclassified, would be characterized as a class 4 stream having intermittent or ephemeral flow that is protected for agricultural uses and wildlife watering. The creek is ephemeral in nature (i.e., responds only to rainfall or snow-melt events) as it enters the general analysis area in the SW4 of section 7. Down-valley of this location the valley bottom flattens, and Hay Creek is a poorly defined, ephemeral channel. Downstream of its undisturbed location in section 16, the creek varies between intermittent (i.e., flows for less than half of the year) and ephemeral as it courses eastward along a well-defined channel. At its confluence with the Little Powder River, about 2 miles east of the general analysis area, Hay Creek drains 15 square miles. The channel elevation drops about 34 feet over a channel length of 8,100 feet across the area, equating to an average channel slope of 0.0042. Hay Creek monitoring has been conducted since 1999 in the general analysis area in the NE4NE4 of section 18, and east of the area in the SE4NE4 of section 16. Monitoring has included both continuous flow measurements and periodic water quality sampling. Monitoring at both stations indicates that Hay Creek varies from dry to average base flows (flows that occur from normal contributions of groundwater) on the order of less than 1 cubic foot per second (cfs). Response to intense rainfall events may elevate the flow for short periods. CBNG well discharges have also affected stream flow in Hay Creek, resulting in fairly consistent but unnatural flows. Estimated runoff in the general analysis area, based on quantitative modeling, is 2.7 cfs for a 10-year, 6-hour storm and 17 cfs for a 2-year, 24-hour storm. These estimates ignore the retarding effects of watershed impoundments on flow rates, so they represent maximum estimated runoff values. The runoff from the 10-year event is agriculturally significant because such a storm has an equal chance of occurring in any given year, and thus can be important for natural flood irrigation. The estimated runoff for the 2-year storm in the Hay Creek valley bottom is not considered agriculturally significant. Several impoundments are located in the general analysis area, in sections 17, 18, and 19. Named reservoirs with state engineer’s office (SEO) appropriations in the general analysis area include Franklin #1 stock reservoir in the N2 of section 18 and Hay Creek blocking dike reservoir in the NW4NW4 of section 17. While these reservoirs provide a beneficial use for their appropriation, they affect groundwater and surface water hydrology. By temporarily storing water from both base flow and ephemeral events, these reservoirs generally decrease downstream flow by allowing localized evaporation and infiltration to groundwater. Impoundments in the general analysis area have storage capacities ranging from about 0.90 to 12 acre-feet, with a combined storage capacity of about 26 acre-feet. Estimated annual runoff volumes from contributing watersheds generally exceed the storage volumes of these impoundments. Reservoirs south of the general analysis area in the central and southern portions of section 17 have been mined out.
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 3-79

0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.5-3 Surface Water Features in the General Analysis Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Several ephemeral channels in the general analysis area contribute drainage area to the Hay Creek valley. Three prominent, southeast-trending draws are located in sections 8 and 9, and two other prominent draws are located in sections 18 and 19. Surface Water Quality Monitoring at various locations along Hay Creek in the general analysis area indicates that water quality is poor. Water quality varies along the creek and is affected by in-channel impoundments that extend the amount time that the water is exposed to alluvial materials and concentrations of dissolved minerals through evaporation. Surface water quality has also been affected by CBNG discharges that contribute to apparent elevated sodium bicarbonate levels that are more characteristic of coal groundwater and not surface water in Hay Creek. Water quality is generally acceptable for livestock most of the time. Elevated TDS, sodium adsorption ratio, manganese, and sulfate may exceed WDEQ suitability criteria for irrigation. Prior to mining in the northern portion of section 17, TDS downstream of McGee Reservoir was roughly double that at upstream locations primarily as a result of elevated calcium and magnesium sulfate.

3.5.2.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, coal mining would have significant temporary effects on surface water runoff characteristics in the proposed tract. Erosion and sediment discharge would likely increase in disturbed areas because of vegetation removal. Water flow and direction in that area would be altered by the removal and reconstruction of drainage channels prior to mining and from redirected flow through the use of erosion- and sediment-control structures to manage surface water runoff from disturbed areas. No connected water bodies cross the proposed tract, so no additional channel diversions are anticipated under the Proposed Action. Regardless of planned mining and reclamation activities, large storms that exceed capacity designs for sediment-control structures (typically a storm that would exceed the 10-year, 24-hour rainfall) could produce sediments that have impacts on areas downstream of mining operations. Upon completion of reclamation, when soil structure and vegetation have been reestablished, surface water flow, quality, and sediment discharge would approximate premining conditions. Soil structure would gradually develop with time, and vegetation would mature and increasingly provide erosion protection. Hay Creek and surrounding drainages would be reclaimed to exhibit premining channel characteristics, and would be replaced in approximately the same locations. The basic hydrologic functions of the valley bottom would be restored to approximate premining characteristics. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on surface water in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 3-81

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Water flow and direction in that area would be further altered by the removal and reconstruction of any drainage channels prior to mining, and redirected flow through the use of erosion- and sediment-control structures to manage surface water runoff from disturbed areas. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, impacts on surface water would be the same as those described for the Proposed Action but would extend to an area of up to 1,883 acres. Erosion and sediment discharge would likely increase in disturbed areas because of vegetation removal. Water flow and direction would be altered by the removal and reconstruction of drainage channels prior to mining and from redirected flow through the use of erosion- and sediment-control structures to manage surface water runoff from disturbed areas. Additionally, Hay Creek’s main channel, extending from the NW corner of section 18 to the point where it enters the existing mine permit along the eastern section line of section 18, could be removed. Channels draining into the Hay Creek valley bottom could also be removed to recover coal in the western half of section 18 and section 19. As described in chapter 2, Kiewit does not anticipate relocating any county roads or causing new disturbance in the operationally limited lands between the two roads. Consequently, Kiewit does not anticipate the construction of any further diversions on Hay Creek west of the current permit boundary.

3.5.2.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If one of the action alternatives is implemented, Hay Creek and major channels will be restored after completion of mining operations, in accordance with SMCRA and Article 4 of the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act. According to WDEQ/LQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 4 Section 2(e)), other permit requirements include constructing sediment-control structures to manage and treat surface water discharges from disturbed areas and restoring reservoirs and playas disturbed during mining. Reservoirs in sections 17, 18, and 19 would be reconstructed and replaced in the approximate premining locations. Surface water quantity and quality in the restored Hay Creek channel would be monitored periodically per WDEQ/LQD requirements.

3.5.3 3.5.3.1

Water Rights Affected Environment

The State Engineer’s Office administers water rights in Wyoming, which are granted for both groundwater and surface water. Their records indicate that, as of May 2008, 2,380 permits for groundwater rights are within 3 miles of the general analysis area, 1,166 of which are for

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

non-coal applicants. Groundwater rights for non-coal applicants are listed in appendix G. The breakdown of groundwater rights is as follows: „ 324 stock, CBNG „ 152 CBNG „ 156 miscellaneous „ 101 monitoring „ 96 stock, miscellaneous, CBNG „ 71 miscellaneous, stock „ 73 stock „ 64 temporary filings „ 60 domestic, stock „ 38 domestic „ 19 CBNG, reservoir supply, miscellaneous „ 8 stock, miscellaneous „ 2 industrial „ 1 domestic, miscellaneous „ 1 irrigation State Engineer’s Office records indicate that, as of May 2008, 368 permits for surface water rights are within 3 miles of the general analysis area, 308 of which are for non-coal applicants. Surface water rights for non-coal applicants are listed in appendix G. The breakdown of surface water rights is as follows: Adjudicated (129 total): „ 71 irrigation „ 26 miscellaneous „ 20 stock „ 9 irrigation, domestic „ 3 irrigation, reservoir supply Un-adjudicated (179 total): „ 106 stock „ 32 irrigation „ 15 irrigation, reservoir supply

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

„ 13 oil refining/production, temporary use, industrial, drilling „ 6 irrigation, domestic „ 5 industrial „ 2 stock, domestic

3.5.3.2

Environmental Consequences

Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, groundwater rights associated with existing water supply wells would experience moderate, long-term adverse impacts from the removal of aquifers in the proposed tract as a result of mining. Additionally, mine dewatering would affect existing wells near the proposed tract in the Wasatch or Fort Union formations above the Canyon coal seam; wells below the Canyon coal seam would not be affected. Additional impacts on groundwater rights from CBNG development would continue. Impacts on water supply wells completed in the same coals where CBNG development is occurring may be affected as well as other wells that have hydraulic connections to these coals. The extent of impacts on these wells by CBNG development depends on how close they are to the CBNG extraction wells, the length of time groundwater withdrawals occur, and the hydraulic connection to aquifers from which CBNG groundwater withdrawals are occurring. Under the Proposed Action, one surface water right, associated with the small tributary to Hay Creek that would be removed during mining, would be affected. Mining activities would affect surface water rights down-slope of the general analysis area as a result of significantly alterred hydraulic characteristics of Hay Creek valley and its associated draws. Potential impacts include a reduction of surface water flow and a change in surface water quality from mining-related sediment discharges. Surface water rights up-slope of the general analysis area would not be affected. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on water rights in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of impacts on downstream surface water rights resulting from the removal of Hay Creek from the N2 of section 17, as well as surrounding ephemeral draws, and impacts related to CBNG development from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, impacts would be the same as those described for the Proposed Action, but could occur over a larger area. Additional groundwater rights could be removed, and dewatering impacts on groundwater rights could extend farther to the west. One additional surface water right in the western half of section 18 could be removed; an additional reach of Hay Creek in the northwestern corner of section 18 could be removed; and channels that lead to the Hay Creek valley bottom could be removed to recover coal in the western half of sections 18 and 19. The latter two impacts are not expected because Kiewit does not anticipate relocating any county roads or causing any new disturbance on the operationally limited lands between the roads.

3.5.3.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

SMCRA and Wyoming state statutes (Title 41—Water) govern the protection of groundwater and surface water rights. Mine operators are required to provide the owner of a water right whose water source is interrupted, discontinued, or diminished by mining with water of equivalent quantity and quality. If one of the action alternatives is implemented, Kiewit will update the list of private water supply wells that could be affected by mining and predict impacts on those wells as part of the WDEQ/LQD permitting process. Kiewit will commit to replacing those water supplies affected by mining with water of equivalent quality and quantity. Kiewit will reconstruct Hay Creek, surrounding channels, and reservoirs to restore surface water rights affected by mining. The permit reclamation plan must specify reconstruction methods to restore surface water features similar to those characterized prior to mining. Periodic monitoring of surface water flows and quality will be required ensure that flows and water quality are similar to premining conditions.

3.5.4

Residual Impacts

The action alternatives would have significant impacts on groundwater quantity as a result of removing aquifers and extracting groundwater. Although groundwater quantity would begin to recover once the backfill is replaced and the aquifer recharge begins, full recovery of groundwater levels in and adjacent to the general analysis area could extend well beyond the life of mine. The action alternatives would have permanent impacts on groundwater elevations (i.e., water table depths) related to perching (underground benches that can trap water), geologic layering (affecting underground water flow), or heterogeneity (affecting permeability). Groundwater quality is expected to return to premining conditions—adequate for livestock use— though it may exhibit slight but permanent variations related to the nature of the backfill. Because of the ephemeral nature of Hay Creek in the general analysis area, the action alternatives would have no residual impacts on surface water. Successful reclamation would ensure that rainfall would be adequately conveyed through reclaimed channels and stored in reclaimed reservoirs.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.6 Alluvial Valley Floors
This section discusses the affected environment as it relates to alluvial valley floors (AVFs) in the general analysis area and the adjacent Buckskin Mine permit area and identifies any impacts on AVFs that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives. Prior to leasing and mining, AVFs must be identified because, under the SMCRA, mining on AVFs is prohibited unless the affected AVF is undeveloped rangeland that is insignificant to farming or is of such small acreage that it would have a negligible impact on a farm’s agricultural production. These restrictions also apply to AVFs that are downstream of mining but might be affected by streamflow or groundwater impacts. AVFs not significant to agriculture can be disturbed during mining but must be restored as part of the reclamation process.

3.6.1

Affected Environment

Hay Creek is ephemeral in nature (i.e., it responds only to rainfall or snowmelt events) as it enters the general analysis area in the SW4SW4 of section 7 and flows to the east. Down-valley of this location the creek bottom flattens a poorly defined channel throughout the remainder of the general analysis area. Section 3.5 describes various aspects of the Hay Creek drainage, including its physical characteristics, potential for flood irrigation, and apparent subirrigated areas, among other features. In alluvial valley floors, subirrigation refers to the supplying of water to plants from underneath, or from a semi-saturated or saturated subsurface zone where water is available for use by vegetation (30 CFR 701.5). WDEQ/LQD Rules and Regulations define AVFs as unconsolidated stream-laid deposits where water is available in sufficient quantities for agricultural activities (30 CFR 701.5). OSM and WDEQ/LQD have established guidelines to identify AVFs. These guidelines require detailed studies of geomorphology, soils, hydrology, vegetation, and land use, and are used to identify the following elements: „ presence of unconsolidated stream-laid deposits, „ potential for flood irrigation practices, „ evidence of past or present flood irrigation, and „ apparent subirrigated areas and the potential for natural flood irrigation. Areas identified as AVFs following these studies are evaluated for their significance to farming by the WDEQ/LQD. The WDEQ has not identified the agricultural productivity of the Hay Creek valley floor as significant to farming. Moreover, interviews with landowners and lessees who have agricultural operations in the Hay Creek valley floor consistently described failed or no attempts to develop artificial flood irrigation along Hay Creek (Buckskin Mining Company 2000).

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.6.1.1

Studies Conducted to Determine Presence of Alluvial Valley Floors

The primary AVF investigation in the general analysis area was completed in 2000. Investigations specific to section 16, east of that area, were completed by Triton Coal Company between 1980 and 1982, and the results from these investigations were incorporated into the 2000 investigation. These AVF studies were conducted as part of the WDEQ/LQD mine permitting process to recover coal under Buckskin Mine’s existing leases. These investigations initially concluded that the Hay Creek valley bottom (including the portion that passes through the general analysis area) is not an AVF, as defined by WDEQ/LQD. That agency challenged this conclusion and determined that a portion of the Hay Creek valley floor is an AVF. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council overturned this determination and upheld the original conclusion that the valley floor is not an AVF. A copy of the Environmental Quality Council order is included in appendix H. The findings of the investigations are described below. Presence of Unconsolidated Stream-Laid Deposits No stream-laid deposits are present in the general analysis area. Stream-laid deposits do occur in portions of the Hay Creek valley bottom and some associated upland draws beyond the general analysis area. Those areas consist of sand, gravel, and silt deposited by streamflow within Hay Creek and its tributaries. Prior to mining through the creek channel in the northern portion of section 17, mapped stream-laid deposits down-valley of the general analysis area occupied about 57 acres on the creek bed. These deposits typically varied from about 80 to 500 feet wide, and were about 20 feet thick. Stream-laid deposits terminate before entering the reservoir in the general analysis area in the SW4NW4 of section 17. Upstream of that reservoir in the general analysis area, the valley-bottom deposits consist of slope wash overlying bedrock. Slope wash occurs along the bottom slopes of hills and in channel bottoms, including the Hay Creek valley bottom in section 18, and consists of reworked sediment deposited by overland flow. These are not fluvial (stream-laid) deposits associated with Hay Creek. Potential for Flood Irrigation Runoff from the two-year, 24-hour storm event, generally considered agriculturally useful, yields about 11 acre-feet of water in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine. This runoff volume is small relative to the cumulative storage capacity of reservoirs in the valley bottom and would not be sufficient to support any reliable flood irrigation practices. Poor surface water and groundwater quality in Hay Creek and its alluvium, respectively, would make it generally unsuitable for domestic, agricultural, and livestock uses. The poor groundwater quality is attributed to the effect of reservoirs that locally concentrate salts and to natural groundwater quality characteristics of adjacent deposits that recharge the alluvium. Water quality is discussed in detail in section 3.5. Groundwater quality in the Hay Creek alluvium is poor, and is generally unsuitable for domestic, agricultural, and livestock uses. Sulfate, which contributes to the overall TDS, is generally high

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

in the alluvium, roughly ten times the suitability criteria limits. The poor groundwater quality is attributed to the effect of reservoirs that locally concentrate salts and to natural groundwater quality characteristics of adjacent deposits that recharge the alluvium. The agriculturally useful flood is of insufficient volume to support any reliable flood irrigation practices. Runoff from the 2-year, 24-hour storm event, which is generally considered to be of agricultural use, yields about 11 acre-feet of water. This runoff volume is small relative to the cumulative storage capacity of reservoirs in the valley bottom and will not produce a flood that is useful for irrigation. Soils in the valley bottom also are of poor quality and are not suitable for irrigation purposes. Elevated electrical conductivity, boron, and selenium make the soils along Hay Creek unsuitable for irrigated row crops or improved pasture. The elevated electrical conductivity results in less water being available to plants because of osmotic potentials that exceed the capability of the plant to extract water from the soil. Boron toxicity may result in slowed growth and reduced production. Toxic concentrations of selenium may result in selenosis in livestock. Evidence of Flood Irrigation and Subirrigated Areas Plant species of agricultural interest have developed voluntarily in the native rangelands of the Hay Creek valley floor without any evidence that they were intentionally introduced for range improvement practices. Plant communities in the general analysis area that require flood irrigation are limited to the channel bottom along Hay Creek. Subirrigated vegetation occurs along and in the Hay Creek channel, adjacent to the channel in specific areas, and in isolated locations in upland areas. No evidence exists to indicate that these subirrigated plant species were specifically developed to exploit natural subirrigation.

3.6.2 3.6.2.1

Environmental Consequences Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, no AVFs would be affected because none are present in the proposed tract. No primary drainages occur in the proposed tract. One isolated, ephemeral draw crosses the northwestern corner of the area, but it does not connect with Hay Creek or any other drainage, and, therefore, does not include AVFs. As described in section 3.5, groundwater intercepted by dewatering activities would be routed through settling ponds to meet state and federal water quality criteria. Dewatering the alluvium in the proposed tract would not affect off-site alluvial groundwater downstream of the tract because no alluvium is present there and because the closed drainage in the area cannot contribute flow or alluvium to other systems. Dewatering could indirectly affect off-site alluvial groundwater up-valley of the proposed tract by creating a zone of influence (drainage area) that could extend beyond the tract boundary.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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3.6.2.2

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. No AVFs have been identified within the portion of Hay Creek that overlaps the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area (i.e., the area already subject to disturbance). The majority of that segment of the creek channel has already been diverted as part of previously permitted mining activities, and Kiewit does not anticipate diverting any additional sections of that creek. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area the future.

3.6.2.3

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, no AVFs would be affected because none are present in the general analysis area, including the Hay Creek channel and floodplain. Mining could remove additional portions of the Hay Creek valley floor and associated features in the northern half of section 18 and the southwestern corner of the northwestern quarter of section 17. Kiewit does not anticipate any further diversions on Hay Creek, and has constructed a blocking dike at the western end of the current diversion to channel streamflow from the natural drainage into the existing structure. Indirect impacts (potential dewatering of alluvium) upstream of mine operations would be the same as those described for the Proposed Action, but could extend over a larger area. The Buckskin Mine has constructed a diversion for the valley floor that has been mined out in section 17. As mining approaches the valley floor in section 18, dewatering activities would deplete alluvial groundwater in the valley. Mining would subsequently progress across the valley floor and remove the alluvium. Stream diversions could be constructed to ensure that instream flows are preserved while mining progresses across the valley floor, though no additional diversions are expected to be constructed at this time. Groundwater intercepted by dewatering activities would be routed through settling ponds to meet state and federal water quality criteria. If additional diversions are constructed, discharges from these ponds would potentially increase the frequency and amount of flow in Hay Creek downstream of mining activities, thereby increasing surface water supplies outside the general analysis area to the east. Dewatering the alluvium in the final tract configuration would not affect off-site alluvial groundwater downstream of the tract because the alluvium in section 17 has already been removed. Dewatering could indirectly affect off-site alluvial groundwater up-valley of the tract by creating a zone of influence (drainage area) that could extend up-valley and northwest of the tract.

3.6.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

WDEQ/LQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 5) and SMCRA both relate to AVFs. If either of the action alternatives is implemented, the following mitigation and monitoring will be required.

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Basic surface water functions in Hay Creek will be restored during reclamation to ensure that water can be conveyed from the upstream, undisturbed point on the creek channel to the downstream tie-in point east of the general analysis area. The portion of the channel that will pass through the reclaimed mine spoils will be constructed to simulate the characteristics of the premining native channel. Consideration will be given to erosional stability and to the reconstruction of ephemeral channels that would lead into the reclaimed valley floor. Surface water will be monitored to evaluate water quantity and quality through the reclaimed areas. Monitoring sites and frequency will be determined by WDEQ/LQD guidelines.

3.6.4

Residual Impacts

No AVFs have been identified in the general analysis area, and the majority of Hay Creek has already been diverted according to appropriate regulations to accommodate existing mining operations. Groundwater is expected to recharge and be reestablished in a similar manner to premining conditions, but may not exhibit the same hydrologic or chemical characteristics. The stream channel and the reclaimed valley floor would be reconstructed to mimic premining characteristics, but reconstruction would be an approximation. These impacts would be permanent but insignificant due to the absence of AVFs in the general analysis area.

3.7 Wetlands
This section discusses the affected environment as it relates to wetlands identified in the general analysis area through the National Wetland Inventory (NWI) mapping system (USFWS 2007) and identifies impacts on those wetlands that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives. For the purposes of this analysis, wetland determinations in the general analysis area were based on the NWI maps and a 2007 reconnaissance-level field visit by trained ICF Jones & Stokes wetland biologists. The field visit was conducted to ground-truth the current status of previously mapped NWI wetlands, in keeping with current BLM Data Adequacy Standards (1987) for EIS analyses of wetlands.

3.7.1

Affected Environment

“Waters of the U.S.” is a collective term for all areas subject to regulation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Waters of the U.S. include special aquatic sites, large or small geographic areas that possess special ecological characteristics of productivity, habitat, wildlife protection, or other important and easily disrupted ecological values (40 CFR 230.3). Wetlands are a type of special aquatic site defined as “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.” (33 CFR 328.3(a)(7)(b)). Jurisdictional wetlands are defined as those wetlands that are within the extent of the Corps’ regulatory review. These wetlands must contain three components: hydric soil, a dominance of

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hydrophytic vegetation, and wetland hydrology.2 The Corps, in conjunction with the EPA, has the authorization to determine whether a delinated wetland is jurisdictional or nonjurisdictional, as discussed in detail under section 3.7.3. Nonjurisdictional wetlands are generally associated with internally drained depressions/playas that are isolated; nonjurisdictional other waters of the U.S. generally occur where areas of open water are ponded in a depression/playa area. Functional wetlands are areas that may contain only one or two of the three wetland criteria. The USFWS uses this third categorization in producing the NWI maps, which are based on aerial photo interpretation with limited or no field verification. The NWI maps show several wetlands occurring in the general analysis area (USFWS 2007). Many of these areas correspond with wetlands and other waters of the U.S. that were identified during previous wetland delineations of the Buckskin Mine; however, some of the information shown on these maps is relatively old and does not reflect current conditions. Based on the NWI maps, approximately 64.44 acres of wetlands have been identified (map 3.7-1) in the general analysis area. Of these, 30.7 acres were determined to be potentially jurisdictional wetlands based on field observations (table 3.7-1); the remaining 33.74 acres were initially determined to be nonjurisdictional non-wetlands (e.g., borrow pits, old impoundments) or no longer present (table 3.7-2). The majority of the potential jurisdictional wetlands were associated with Hay Creek and other ephemeral tributaries in the general analysis area. Some wetlands previously mapped on the NWI may have been altered due to agricultural uses and permitted mine disturbance or CBNG-related water production in the general analysis area.

Table 3.7-1.
Wetland Name
NWI 1 NWI 2 NWI 5 NWI 6 NWI 7 NWI 8

NWI Wetlands in the General Analysis Area
NWI Wetland Classifications1
PABFh PEMAh PEMCh PEMAh PEMA PEMC PUBFx PEMA PEMC Freshwater emergent wetland and freshwater pond

Wetland Type
Freshwater pond Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland

Field Determination2
Wetland (impounded) Wetland (CBNG pond) Wetland (impounded) Wetland (CBNG pond) Wetland (temporary ponding) Wetland (dry playa)

Acres
0.24 0.26 0.10 0.29 3.0 22.82

NWI 9

PUSAx

Other

Wetland (surface ponding)

0.10

2	

As a result of recent Supreme Court rulings (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County vs. United States Army Corps of Engineers, January 9, 2001; and consolidated cases Rapanos vs. United States and Carabell vs. United States, known as the “Rapanos” decision, June 19, 2006) non-navigable, isolated intrastate wetlands (e.g., playas) and other waters of the U.S. are not considered jurisdictional.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Wetland Name
NWI 11 NWI 12 NWI 14 NWI 15 NWI 17 Total Acres
NWI = National Wetland Inventory; P = palustrine; EM = emergent; AB = aquatic bed; US = unconsolidated shore; A = temporarily flooded;
 F = semi-permanently flooded; C = seasonally flooded; x = excavated; h = diked/impounded; CBNG = coal bed natural gas 

1 2

NWI Wetland Classifications1
PEMA PEMCh PABFh) PEMCh PEMAh PABFh

Wetland Type
Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland and freshwater pond Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater pond

Field Determination2
Wetland (farmed wetland) Wetland (impounded) Wetland (CBNG pond) Wetland (impoundment) Wetland (dry impoundment)

Acres
2.24 0.58 0.24 0.15 0.68 30.7

Some of the wetlands studied had multiple wetland classifications associated with the wetland.
 Based on 2007 reconnaissance-level field visit.Source: USFWS 2007; Cowardin 1979.


Table 3.7-2.
Wetland Name
NWI 3 NWI 4 NWI 10

NWI Wetlands Determined to Be Non-Wetlands in the General Analysis Area
NWI Wetland Classifications1
PEMA PEMA PABFh PEMA PEMAh

Wetland Type
Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland and freshwater pond

Field Determination2
Not a wetland (borrow pit) Not a wetland (borrow pit) Not a wetland

Acres
2.58 1.09 11.67

NWI 13 NWI 16 NWI 18 NWI 19 Total Acres

PEMC PEMA PEMCx PEMCh PEMA PABFh

Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland Freshwater emergent wetland and freshwater pond

Not a wetland (old impoundment) Not a wetland (non irrigated hay field) Not a wetland Not a wetland (disturbed area)

0.10 14.7 0.16 3.44 33.74

NWI = National Wetland Inventory; P = palustrine; EM = emergent; AB = aquatic bed; A = temporarily flooded; F = semi-permanently flooded; C = seasonally flooded; x = excavated; h = diked/impounded
1 2

Some of the wetlands studied had multiple wetland classifications associated with the wetland. Based on 2007 reconnaissance-level field visit or unrelated 2008 wetland delineation in the overlap between the general analysis area and existing permit area.

Source: USFWS 2007; Cowardin 1979.

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R. 73 W.

R. 72 W.

10 12
10

7
9 11 8 7
Hay C ree k

16

8

9
13

18 17
No

rth
Fo

k

r

Ha

y Cree k

6
RO AD

12

Hay Creek Diversion (2 004-2020)

EE

MC G

3 5

19

H ay

Cre

ek

13

18

4

15

17

16

Sedimentation No. 33 Reservior (2004-2020)

15

14

2

1

Existing Buckskin Mine Permit Boundary

24

19

20
TCO Sump

Backfill 3 Sump

21

Sedimentation No. 30 Reservior (2004-2020)

General Analysis Area BLM Study Area Proposed Tract NWI Identified Wetlands Primary Drainages Ephemeral Tributary

RO

AD

LL IN S

25

30

29

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.7-1 Wetlands and Other Waters in the General Analysis Area

28 Diversions

Pond or Reservoir

CO

Lo

Sedimentation No. 34 Reservior (2004-2020)

n

e

P ea

k D raw

22

0

600

±
1,200 Feet

27

2,400

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

A formal wetland survey for the portion of the general analysis area that is outside the current mine permit area will be completed as part of future permitting efforts. The specific functions (e.g., agriculture, livestock, and wildlife) of each identified wetland will be determined during that delineation process, and are, therefore, not addressed in detail as part of the EIS analysis. Wetlands occur in a variety of forms in the general analysis area, with palustrine wetlands being the most common and abundant. Palustrine wetlands are defined by their close association with emergent herbaceous marshes, swales, or wet meadows and are supported by saturated soils along the banks of the drainages (Cowardin et al. 1979). Wetlands support a variety of vegetation types and occur mainly along drainages in the general analysis area. Hydrology for these areas is provided primarily by surface runoff from adjacent uplands and discharged CBNG waters. Hay Creek, which flows primarily from the west to east, and several other tributaries that generally flow into Hay Creek, are waters of the U.S. These tributaries are primarily intermittent stream channels, open water, and other stream channels that carry water but do not meet the criteria for classification as wetlands. The Buckskin Mine’s approved mining plan allows disturbance of a portion of the Hay Creek channel. Beginning in 2006, approximately 1.75 miles of the channel were diverted into the Hay Creek Diversion (map 3.5-3) to facilitate mining in the northern extent of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Additional details regarding water resources are provided in section 3.5. Soils in the general analysis area consist mainly of loams, sandy loams, and some clay loams. One hydric soil unit, Felix Clay, is located in the general analysis area (NRCS 2008), on slopes ranging from 0 to 2% and in soils that are developing in alluvium derived from sandstone and shale on gently sloping uplands. The hydric soil unit is located near wetlands NWI 8 and NWI 9 (table 3.7-1). Section 3.8 contains additional information on soils in the general analysis area.

3.7.2 3.7.2.1

Environmental Consequences Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, surface mining would have moderate, short-term impacts on two NWI inventoried wetlands for a total of approximately0.48 acre (NWI 1, table 3.7-3). One wetland (NWI1) within the proposed tract consists of a small, semi-permanently flooded, diked impoundment in the extreme northwestern corner of the proposed tract (map 3.7-1). However, field observations over the years have indicated that the reservoir is wet primarily during early spring months. A second wetland (NWI14) in the buffer area north of the proposed tract (table 3.7-3, map 3.7-1) would be affected by disturbance associated with mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, stockpiling) described in section 1.1.3.3. All wetland functions would be lost during mining activities, but the general analysis area would experience no net loss of wetlands due to permit requirements to restore impacted sites. No additional reaches of Hay Creek would be diverted under the Proposed Action.

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Table 3.7-3.
Wetland Name	
NWI 1	 NWI 12	 NWI 14	 NWI 15	 NWI 17	 Total Acres 	
1	 2	

Wetland Impacts under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2
Proposed Action (Acres)1
0.24 0.244

Alternative 2 Acres 2
0.24 0.583 0.244 0.153 0.684

0.48

1.89

Wetlands partially within the proposed tract were considered a full take, because a partial take of a wetland could affect the function of the entire wetland. NWI 2, NWI 5, NWI 6, NWI 7, NWI8, NWI 9, and NWI 11 are located in the operationally limited lands where mining activity is not anticipated to occur; therefore, Alternative 2 would not affect these wetlands. The remaining NWI inventoried wetlands were confirmed as non-wetlands during the 2007 site visit (table 3.7-2). Wetland is in overlap area between general analysis area and existing permit area, so impacts would also occur under No Action Alternative as a result of mine support activities described in section 1.1.3.3. Wetland is in buffer area; impacts would be a result of mine support activities described in section 1.1.3.3.

3	

4	

3.7.2.2

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of impacts on approximately 0.73 acre of two NWI inventoried wetlands (table 3.7-3, map 3.7-1) as a result of activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. A third NWI inventoried site (NWI19) in the overlap area was confirmed as a non-wetland during the 2007 site visit. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.7.2.3

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, surface mining could have moderate, short- to long-term impacts on up to 30.7 noncontiguous acres of 12 NWI inventoried wetlands. However, the greatest acreage is west of one or both county roads in the area considered operationally limited by Kiewit; Kiewit does not anticipate relocating either road to access coal reserves. Therefore, it is most likely that up to 1.89 noncontiguous acres of five NWI inventoried wetlands would be affected under this alternative (table 3.7-3). Four of these five NWI wetlands are located in the BLM study area and would be directly affected by mining coal reserves. The remaining site is in the 0.25-mile-wide buffer, which would be affected by mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, stockpiling) described in section 1.1.3.3. All wetland functions would be lost during mining activities, but the general analysis area would experience no net loss of wetlands due to permit requirements to restore impacted sites. Kiewit does not expect to divert any additional segments of Hay Creek under Alternative 2 due to the location of the drainage in the operationally limited area west of the county roads.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.7.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If an action alternative is implemented, a wetland delineation will be completed according to approved procedures (Environmental Laboratory 1987) and submitted to the Corps for verification of the amounts and types of jurisdictional wetlands and other waters present. Kiewit will mitigate for all impacted jurisdictional wetlands in accordance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Mitigation is required at a minimum one-to-one ratio for jurisdictional wetlands. The wetland replacement plan, which must be approved by the Corps, requires no net loss of wetland area and function. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act does not cover nonjurisdictional wetlands; however, Executive Order 11990 requires that all federal agencies protect all wetlands. Mitigation for impacts on nonjurisdictional wetlands will be specified during the permitting process as required by the authorized state or federal agency (which may include the WDEQ/LQD, and the OSM). Because surface land in the general analysis area is privately owned, the private surface owner may also contribute to decisions regarding mitigation for impacts on nonjurisdictional wetlands. The WDEQ/LQD allows and sometimes requires mitigation of nonjurisdictional wetlands, depending on the quality of the wetland functions. That agency may also require replacement of wetlands or playas with hydrologic significance. Wetland mitigation may begin prior to mining activities, depending on hydrologic resources available. Interim mitigation may be provided through the many sediment-control structures (ponds) created during mining, drainage diversion, removal of livestock from riparian areas, and repair of damaged wetlands.

3.7.4

Residual Impacts

Replaced wetlands (jurisdictional or functional) may not duplicate the exact function and landscape features of the premining wetlands, but all wetland replacement plans will be approved by the Corps, which has special required permitting procedures to assure that no net loss of wetlands will occur after reclamation.

3.8 Soils
This section describes the affected environment as it relates to soils in the general analysis area, and identifies potential impacts on soils that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.8.1

Affected Environment

The affected environment described in this section is based on National Resources Conservation District soil surveys of Campbell County, Wyoming, which includes the proposed tract and general analysis area (National Resources Conservation Service 2004).

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Soils vary in composition and depth depending on where and how they were formed. Major factors involved in the formation of soils include whether the material was transported, the source of the material, and how the material was weathered after transportation. Five soil formation processes causing different soil types were noted in the general analysis area: 1) soils developing predominantly in alluvium (stream-laid) or eolian (wind-blown) deposits derived from sandstone and shale on upland ridges; 2) soils developing predominantly in alluvium derived from sandstone and shale on gently sloping uplands; 3) soils developing predominantly in alluvium or colluviums (material that has been transported downslope by rock falls, slides, and slumps) derived from porcelanite on gently sloping uplands; 4) soils developing predominantly in residuum (residual material )weathered from sandstone and shale on gently sloping uplands; and 5) soils developing predominantly in alluvium over residuum weathered from sandstone and shale on gently sloping uplands. Soil surveys were conducted in 2007 by BKS Environmental Associates, Inc., to an Order 1-2 resolution. The inventories included field sampling and observations at the appropriate number of individual sites to provide adequate sample sizes, and analysis of representative collected samples. Soils in the general analysis area were identified by series, which consist of soils that have similar horizons (distinct horizontal layers) in their profile (sequence of soil layers). Soil types and depths in the general analysis area are similar to soils currently being salvaged and used for reclamation at the Buckskin Mine and other nearby mines in northern Campbell County. Additional detailed information about the soil types sampled during 2007 is included in the soils data report, which can be viewed at the High Plains District office of the BLM in Casper, Wyoming. These site-specific soil surveys located hydric (saturated) soils and inclusions of hydric soils, which are components used in identifying wetlands. Wetlands are discussed in section 3.7 of this EIS. Areas with soils that are not suitable to support plant growth include sites with high salinity (salty content), high sodicity (amount of sodium present), or excessive clay or sand content.

3.8.2 3.8.2.1

Environmental Consequences Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, mining of the proposed tract would have a direct, permanent effect on soil resources in up to 419 acres. Impacts associated with mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would occur in a buffer area to the north of the proposed tract. Soils removed during mining would be replaced under reclamation. The replaced soils would have a more uniform soil chemistry and soil nutrient distribution. Average topsoil quality would be improved because soil material that is not suitable to support plant growth would not be salvaged for use in reclamation. This would result in more uniform vegetative productivity on reclaimed lands. The baseline soils analysis of the proposed tract indicates that the amount of suitable soil available for redistribution on disturbed areas would have an average depth of 17 inches (1.4 feet). The replaced soil would support a stable and productive vegetation community

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

adequate in quality and quantity to support the planned postmining land uses (i.e., wildlife habitat and livestock grazing). Reclamation would result in a temporary increase in the near-surface bulk density of soils in the proposed tract. The average soil infiltration rates would generally decrease, which would increase the potential for runoff and soil erosion. Topographic moderation following reclamation, however, would potentially decrease runoff, which would tend to offset the effects of decreased soil infiltration capacity. The change in soil infiltration rates would not be permanent because revegetation and natural weathering would eventually form a new soil structure in the reclaimed soils. Infiltration rates would gradually return to premining levels. The reclaimed landscape would contain stable landforms and drainage systems that would support the postmining land uses. Reconstructed stream channels and floodplains would be designed and established to closely mimic preminng conditions and ensure proper drainage of water across the reclaimed spoils. Sediment-control measures would be implemented where runoff occurs to preserve reclaimed materials. Direct impacts on biological organisms in the soil on the proposed tract would include the short-term to long-term reduction in soil organic matter, microbial populations, seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and live plant parts in soil resources that are stockpiled before replacement.

3.8.2.2

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.8.2.3

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, impacts would have a direct, permanent effect on soil resources impacts in up to 1,883 acres. Impacts would also occur in the 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration associated with mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3. The amount of suitable soil available for redistribution on disturbed areas would have an average depth of 17 inches. Soils removed during mining would be replaced with a more uniform soil mixture during reclamation. The replaced soil would support a stable, productive, and more uniform vegetation community adequate in quality and quantity to support the planned postmining land uses (i.e., wildlife habitat and livestock grazing). Infiltration rates would gradually return to premining levels. Reconstructed stream channels and floodplains would be designed and established to closely mimic premining conditions and ensure proper drainage of water across the reclaimed spoils. Sediment-control measures would be implemented where runoff occurs to preserve reclaimed materials. Direct impacts on biological organisms in the soil on the proposed tract would include the short-term to long-term reduction in soil organic matter, microbial

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populations, seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and live plant parts in soil resources that are stockpiled before replacement.

3.8.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If either of the action alternatives is implemented, Kiewit will mitigate for the impacts on soil resources in accordance with WDEQ/LQD reclamation standards and requirements. Soils suitable to support plant growth will be salvaged for use in reclamation. Soil stockpiles will be protected from disturbance and erosional influences. Soil material that is not suitable to support plant growth will not be salvaged; soil or overburden materials containing potentially harmful chemical elements (e.g., selenium) will not be used in reclamation. A minimum of 4 feet of suitable overburden will be placed on the graded backfill surface below the replaced soil to meet state guidelines for vegetation root zones; those depths will be confirmed by sampling before topsoil is applied. Redistributed topsoil will be sampled to document redistribution depths and seeded to reduce wind erosion. Sediment-control structures will be constructed, as needed, to trap eroded soil. Vegetation growth will be monitored in reclaimed areas to confirm vegetation establishment and acceptability for bond release and determine if soil amendments are needed. Appropriate normal husbandry practices may be implemented to achieve specific reclamation goals.

3.8.4

Residual Impacts

The action alternatives would result in long-term alteration of soil characteristics. Existing soils would be mixed and redistributed, and soil-forming processes would be disturbed by mining.

3.9 Vegetation
This section addresses existing vegetation in the general analysis area and impacts on vegetation resulting from the Proposed Action and alternatives. Wetlands are addressed in section 3.7. Threatened, endangered, proposed, and candidate plant species, and BLM Sensitive Species are addressed in appendices I and J, respectively.

3.9.1

Affected Environment

The affected environment for the general analysis areas is based on the following: „ Vegetation communities in the portion of the general analysis area that overlaps the existing Buckskin Mine permit area (656 acres) were mapped and quantitatively sampled during baseline inventories for a permit amendment in 2000. All field sampling and mapping efforts were conducted in accordance with WDEQ/LQD mine permitting requirements. „ Vegetation communities in the remainder of the general analysis area (2,191 acres) were mapped and quantitatively sampled in 2007 and 2008 (LandTrak Resources, Inc. 2009); those efforts also complied with WDEQ/LQD permitting requirements. Additional detailed

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

information about these survey methods and results is included in the soils data report, which can be viewed at the High Plains District office of the BLM in Casper, Wyoming. Vegetation in the general analysis area consists of species common to eastern Wyoming and is consistent with vegetation that occurs in the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Eight distinct vegetation communities were identified and mapped in the general analysis area. Four additional categories were also mapped: disturbed areas, tree shelterbelts, rough breaks, and open water. Each of the latter three groups accounts for less than 1% of the total area. All vegetation communities and additional classifications are described below. Table 3.9-1 provides acreages and percent composition for each category.

3.9.1.1

Agricultural Cropland

Agricultural Cropland in the general analysis area consists of dryland, small grain production and alfalfa hay production. The small grain production appears to use a fallow rotation cropping system. The alfalfa hay production is mostly dryland. Approximately 25.5 % (727.1 acres) of the general analysis area is Agricultural Cropland.

3.9.1.2

Agricultural Pasture

The classification system used for Agricultural Pasture—low management, moderate management, and intensive management—evaluates management efforts based largely on the presence of sagebrush. Low Management Low management Agriculture Pasture, which contains significant stands of old-growth sagebrush, is not present in the general analysis area. Moderate Management Moderate management Agriculture Pasture accounts for approximately 3.0% (86.2 acres) of the general analysis area. This vegetation community is largely a mixture of cool-season, introduced pasture grasses such as crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) and smooth brome (Bromus inermis). A minor component of cool-season native species is present, as well. Some management of shrub species has occurred in this vegetation community. Typically, this vegetation community is hayed when sufficient moisture has occurred to make harvesting economically viable. In dry years, this community is used as early-season pasture for livestock production. If it is not hayed for several years, the sagebrush will become reestablished in this vegetation community. Intensive Management Intensive management Agricultural Pasture accounts for approximately 2.0% (56.1 acres) of the general analysis area. This vegetation community is located mostly along the edges of Agricultural Cropland. It is typically mowed annually to allow access to the cropland. This vegetation community is comprised almost exclusively of cool-season, introduced pasture

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grasses such as crested wheatgrass and smooth brome. Frequent mowing prevents shrubs from becoming reestablished.

3.9.1.3

Bunchgrass Prairie Grassland

Bunchgrass Prairie Grassland accounts for approximately 8.2% (232.8 acres) of the general analysis area. This community typically occurs on scoria sandstone or shale hills, knolls, and slopes that are moderately steep to steep. Soils are predominantly in the Ironbutte, Fairburn, Mittenbutte, Samday, Shingle, and Rock Outcrop map units that have shallow soils and usually a high coarse-fragment content. Vegetation species associated with Bunchgrass Prairie Grassland include: little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata), and some blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). Some big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) occurs in this community, typically in small, mosaic patterns as described in the Big Sagebrush Shrubland category, below.

3.9.1.4

Lowland Prairie Grassland

Lowland Prairie Grassland accounts for approximately 4.4% (124.9 acres) of the general analysis area. This community occurs primarily on gently sloping, often saline plains: on gently sloping benches usually adjoining Riparian Bottomlands: and in closed basins. Within this community, the amount of soil saturation, concentration of soil salts, and presence or absence of subirrigation varies with topographic position. Salt concentrations in lowland prairie soils influence plant-available water, thus affecting vegetation composition. Soil salt accumulations play a part in limiting moisture in the subirrigated category of the lowland prairie vegetation community. Transitional zones between soil water conditions in this community may be abrupt, or gradual and subtle, depending on local topographic and stormwater runoff conditions. Some portions of the lowland prairie benefit from periodic subirrigation which usually results in more robust growth of community vegetation. When present, subirrigation water tends to occur 16 inches below the ground surface. Soils are predominantly Boruff, Haverdad, and Felix series. Vegetation species associated with Lowland Prairie Grassland include: western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), streambank/thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus), and big sagebrush.

3.9.1.5

Mixed-Grass Prairie Grassland

Mixed-grass Prairie Grassland accounts for approximately 16.2% (462.6 acres) of the general analysis area. This community occupies rolling hills and ridges with moderate to deep soil development. Soils are predominantly loams, sandy clay loams, fine sandy loams, and sandy loams. Occasionally, clay loams and loamy sands are found in this community. This community is most strongly correlated with deeper soils, including Bidman, Cambria, Kishona, Lawver, Teckla, and Wibaux loams, and Hiland sandy clay loam.

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Vegetation species associated with Mixed-grass Prairie Grassland include: western wheatgrass, Indian ricegrass, needle-and-thread, blue grama, and big sagebrush. When big sagebrush occurs in this community, it is typically in small, mosaic patterns and accounts for less than 20% of the total vegetation cover composition.

3.9.1.6

Sandy Prairie Grassland

Sandy Prairie Grassland accounts for approximately 16.0% (455.9 acres) of the general analysis area. This community occurs on rolling hills and plains, with occasional wind blow-outs. It is most commonly associated with fine sandy loams and sandy loams (e.g., Taluce, Terro, Vonalee, and Vonalf soils), but also occurs on loams, sandy clay loams, loamy sands, and fine sands. The soil series is generally is found on deeper soils; however, moderately deep soils are not uncommon. Vegetation species associated with Sandy Prairie Grassland include: Indian ricegrass, needle-and-thread, blue grama, prairie sand reed (Calamovilfa longifolia), and threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia).

3.9.1.7

Riparian Bottomland

Riparian bottomland accounts for approximately 6.1% (174.3 acres) of the general analysis area. This community is associated primarily with Hay Creek and is limited in distribution due to the drainage’s narrow width throughout most of its length. In a few atypical instances, isolated Riparian Bottomland communities grow on hillsides in saturated soils associated with groundwater seeps. Species composition in riparian bottomland varies, and is primarily correlated with site-specific hydrologic conditions. This community can be subdivided into two main sub-communities: Riparian Bottomland Meadow and Riparian Bottomland Marsh. Riparian Bottomland Meadow is the predominate sub-community found throughout Hay Creek. The most prevalent vegetation type is cordgrass, with minor inclusions of spikerush and bullrush. Riparian Bottomland Marsh and emergent vegetation zones exist around the perimeters of stockponds. The dominant vegetation types in this sub-community are bullrushes, spikerushes, and sedges. Rushes typically have a higher relative cover value than cordgrass in these areas. Production values for Riparian Bottomland sites can vary independently of cover values. These bottomland communities typically occur on soils that are characteristically deep and poorly drained, including Boruff series and mollic fluvaquents.

3.9.1.8

Big Sagebrush Shrubland

Big Sagebrush Shrubland accounts for approximately 10.6% (302 acres) of the general analysis area. For purposes of this study, this community is defined as areas in which shrub and sub-shrub species comprise more than 20% of the total vegetation cover. Big Sagebrush Shrubland is found on a variety of topography, including gentle slopes, rolling hills and steep, dissected breaks. This community occurs commonly on shallow clay loams (such as the Theedle
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and Shingle series) and deep loams (such as the Forkwood and Cushman series), and occasionally on sandy loams. This shrub community occurs in a mosaic pattern across the landscape. Individual shrub patches range from 0.3 acre to 27.0 acres, with 4.9 acres as the average area. The patches are loosely connected by narrow corridors of other vegetation communities (usually Mixed-grass Prairie or Lowland Prairie Grassland) with only a few shrubs present.

3.9.1.9

Disturbed Areas

In addition to surface mining, several other forms of disturbance are present in the general analysis area. Those combined features comprise approximately 7.2% (208.4 acres) of the area and include county roads, historic two-track roads, CBNG roads and infrastructure, residential sites, and other disturbance not related to mining.

3.9.1.10 Tree Shelter Belt
Most of the trees in the general analysis area are associated with residential disturbance. Due to their extremely limited presence, residential trees were included in the tree shelterbelt category. One stand of plains cottonwood (Populus deltoids) is present in the southeastern quarter of Section 19, T52N R72W. That area falls within the overlap between the general analysis area and existing Buckskin Mine permit area. This cottonwood stand encompasses approximately 0.03% (0.8 acre) of the general analysis area.

3.9.1.11 Rough Breaks
Rough Breaks refers to areas within the general analysis area where rock outcrops and badlands clay soils are associated with steep topography and limited vegetation. This category comprises 0.4% (12.5 acres) of the general analysis area.

3.9.1.12 Open Water
Open Water refers to water standing in reservoirs and stockponds in the general analysis area. Water bodies comprise 0.1% (3.4 acres) of the general analysis area.

Table 3.9-1.

Vegetation Communities in the General Analysis Area
General Analysis Area BLM Study Area Acres
532.9 54.4 56.1 160.8 77.1 207.1

Proposed Tract Acres
39.3 3.7 12.0 0.0 2.2 41.7

Vegetation Community
Agricultural Cropland Agricultural Pasture: Moderate Management Agricultural Pasture: Intensive Management Bunchgrass Prairie Lowland Prairie Mixed Grass Prairie

Acres
727.1 86.2 56.1 232.8 124.9 462.6

Composition (%)
25.5 3.0 2.0 8.2 4.4 16.2

Composition (%)
28.3 2.9 3.0 8.5 4.1 11.0

Composition (%)
9.4 0.9 2.8 0.0 0.5 10.0

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General Analysis Area Vegetation Community
Sandy Prairie Riparian Bottomland Big Sagebrush Trees: Shelter Belt Disturbed: Roads Disturbed: CBNG Disturbed: Residential Disturbed: Other Non-Mining Disturbed: Mining Rough Breaks Open Water Total1
CBNG = coal bed natural gas
1

BLM Study Area Acres
331.5 77.4 202.8 0.8 37.5 19.1 20.4 9.0 88.7 5.0 2.0 1,883.0

Proposed Tract Acres
252.6 4.1 45.8 0.9 9.5 7.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 419.0

Acres
455.9 174.3 302.0 0.8 46.4 41.0 20.4 11.9 88.7 12.5 3.4 2,847.0

Composition (%)
16.0 6.1 10.6 0.03 1.6 1.4 0.7 0.4 3.1 0.4 0.1 100.0

Composition (%)
17.6 4.1 10.8 0.04 2.0 1.0 1.1 0.5 4.7 0.3 0.1 100.0

Composition (%)
60.3 1.0 10.9 0.2 2.3 1.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0

Totals are rounded.

Source: LandTrak Resources, Inc. 2009.

3.9.2

Environmental Consequences

Impacts on wetlands and wildlife/livestock relative to vegetative disturbance are discussed in section 3.7 and section 3.10, respectively.

3.9.2.1

Proposed Action

Under the Proposed Action, native vegetation would be temporarily and incrementally removed from the entire proposed tract (419 acres). Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance in a buffer area to the north of the proposed tract. This alternative would have the greatest impact on the Sandy Prairie Grassland community, because it is most prevalent (252.6 acres, 60.3%) in the proposed tract (table 3.9-1). Six of the remaining seven vegetative communities would also be affected, though to a considerably lesser degree. Some previously disturbed areas and one shelterbelt would be affected in the proposed tract, but no rough breaks or open water bodies would be affected. Mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3) would cause additional temporary surface disturbance a buffer area north of the proposed tract. One stand of plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is present in the southeastern quarter of the proposed tract, in section 19, T52N R72W. This shelter belt encompasses approximately 0.2% (0.8 acre) of the proposed tract, and lies within the overlap between that area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Consequently, the tree stand is already subject to future disturbance associated with previously permitted mining activities. Disturbance in the Agricultural Cropland and Agricultural Pastureland (13.1% of the total acreage, combined) would likely disrupt one landowner’s ranching and farming operation.
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Impacts associated with the removal of vegetation from the proposed tract and surrounding buffer could include increased soil erosion and differences between premining and postmining vegetative communities. Because the proposed tract is dominated by upland grasslands, the transition from native to reclaimed grasslands would be less dramatic and species composition would be expected to be more similar to premining communities. Vegetation loss and subsequent reclamation would likely occur incrementally across the proposed tract, depending on the direction and rate of mining. Impacts on vegetation from topsoil stripping and other mine-related activities would be addressed in accordance with the WDEQ/LQD approved mining and reclamation plan.

3.9.2.2

Alternative 1 (No Action)

Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary and incremental impacts on vegetation from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Vegetation loss and subsequent reclamation would likely occur incrementally across the currently permitted disturbance area, depending on the direction and rate of mining. The cottonwood trees in the overlap area would eventually be disturbed under previously permitted mining activities. Impacts on vegetation from topsoil stripping and other mine-related activities would be addressed in accordance with the WDEQ/LQD approved mining and reclamation plan.

3.9.2.3

Alternative 2

Under Alternative 2, native vegetation would be temporarily and incrementally removed over an area of up to 1,883 acres. Mining support activities described in section 1.1.3.3 would cause temporary surface disturbance within a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration. This alternative would have the greatest impact on Agricultural Cropland, because it is most prevalent (727.1 acres, 25.5%) in the general analysis area (table 3.9-1). Each of the remaining seven vegetation communities and all four of the additional habitat classifications in the general analysis area could also experience some level of disturbance. The extent of that disturbance would range from 0.1 to 16.2% on individual habitat types, with the majority of combined impacts on agricultural lands and upland grasslands (table 3.9-1). As described in section 3.9.1.9, three groups of trees (primarily cottonwoods) occur in the general analysis area; the shelter belt within the existing permit area is already subject to disturbance from previously permitted activities. Disturbance in the Agricultural Cropland and Agricultural Pastureland (30.5% of the total acreage, combined) would likely disrupt one landowner’s ranching and farming operation.

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Impacts associated with the removal of vegetation from the 0.25-mile-wide buffer could include increased soil erosion and differences between premining and postmining vegetative communities. The latter impacts would be reduced due to the similarity between premining and postmining vegetation. Vegetation loss and subsequent reclamation would likely occur incrementally across the final tract configuration, depending on the direction and rate of mining. Impacts on vegetation from topsoil stripping and other mine-related activities would be addressed in accordance with the WDEQ/LQD approved mining and reclamation plan. As noted, section 3.10 discusses indirect impacts on wildlife and livestock related to changes in vegetation. Mining activities under this alternative would not have impacts on trees within residential disturbance areas, unless Kiewit acquires the surface rights for those homes; the company does not intend to pursue that option.

3.9.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If either action alternative is implemented, reclamation, including revegetation, will immediately follow as mining progresses through the area. Estimates of the time elapsed from topsoil stripping through reseeding of any given area range from two to five years. This would be longer for areas occupied by stockpiles, haul roads, some sediment-control structures, and other mine facilities. Some roads and facilities would not be reclaimed until all coal removal has ended and active operations have ended. No new life-of-mine facilities would be built in the proposed tract or the final tract configuration, because in either case the tract would be mined as an extension of the existing mine. By the time mining ceases, more than 75% of disturbed lands will be reseeded. The remaining 25% will be reseeded during the subsequent two to three years as the life-of-mine facilities area is reclaimed. Reclamation will approximate premining vegetation, and reestablished vegetation will primarily consist of native species except were agricultural lands occur. Areas reclaimed for native species will be revegetated as specified in the approved mine plan using reclamation seed mixtures approved by the WDEQ/LQD. Those efforts will likely focus on a mixture of upland prairie grasslands with graminoid/forb-dominated areas to simulate the dominance of upland grasslands in the premining landscape. Initially, reclaimed lands will be dominated by grassland vegetation, which may be less diverse than the native premining vegetation, but more diverse than agricultural areas. At least 20% of the native vegetation area will be reclaimed to native shrubs at a density of one per square meter or as required by current regulations. Shrubs will be selectively planted in riparian areas and trees will be replaced at a one-to-one ratio. Estimates for the time it will take to restore shrubs, including sagebrush, to premining density levels range from one or two decades to up to 100 years. Native vegetation from surrounding areas would enhance reclamation activities through natural seed dispersal. The reclamation plan for the final tract configuration will include steps to control invasive, nonnative plant species. Revegetation growth and diversity will be monitored until the final reclamation bond is released (a minimum of 10 years). Erosion will be monitored to determine if corrective action is needed

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during establishment of vegetation. Controlled grazing will be used during revegetation as a management tool and to determine the suitability of the reclaimed land for postmining land uses. Following completion of reclamation (seeding with the final seed mixture) and before release of the reclamation bond, a permanent, diverse, and productive vegetative cover would be established throughout the disturbance area. The decrease in plant diversity would not seriously affect the potential productivity of the reclaimed areas, and the proposed postmining land use (wildlife habitat and rangeland) should be achieved even with the changes in vegetation composition and diversity. Reclamation of agricultural pastures and croplands may occur, but is highly dependent on the postmine topography and landowner agreements. It is most likely that agricultural lands will be reclaimed to pastures suitable for either haying or livestock rather than croplands. Such areas will be reclaimed using a seed-mix of native grass and legume species. Agricultural croplands will be reseeded to either annual cereal grain, such as winter wheat, or to hayland with a legume such as alfalfa. Again, reclamation of cropland is dependent on postmine topography and soil suitability for crop production. Following reclamation bond release, management of the privately owned surface areas would revert to the private surface owners, who would have the right to manipulate the reclaimed vegetation. Revegetation success and patterns in reclaimed areas would be at least partially affected by the influence of postmining topography on surface water drainage patterns. For example, the maximum postmining overland slope would be 20%, in accordance with WDEQ/LQD policy. However, the average reclaimed overland slope would not be known until the technical review of the permit revision application has been completed by the WDEQ/LQD. Although no significant changes in the average overland slope are predicted once reclamation is complete, the location and orientation of individual slopes could influence the direction and amount of runoff from rain and snow events, which could then result in different rates of vegetative reestablishment throughout reclamation. The climatic record of the western U.S. suggests that droughts could occur periodically during the life of the mine. Such droughts could severely hamper revegetation efforts, because lack of sufficient moisture would reduce germination and could damage newly established plants. Severe thunderstorms could also adversely affect newly seeded areas. Same-aged vegetation would be more susceptible to disease resulting from increased vulnerability during periods of water stress (too little or too much) than plants of various ages. Once a stable vegetative cover is established, the impact of these events would be similar to impacts on native vegetation. Restoration of wetlands is discussed in section 3.7; monitoring of livestock grazing standards is discussed in section 3.10.

3.9.4

Residual Impacts

Reclaimed vegetative communities may never completely restore the preming native plant community. Immediately following reclamation, revegetated areas would be characterized primarily by a mixture of upland prairie grasslands with graminoid/forb-dominated areas, which does resemble the current dominant community. An overall reduction in species diversity,
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especially for the shrub component, could occur. The decrease in plant diversity would not seriously affect the potential productivity of the reclaimed areas, and the proposed postmining land use (wildlife habitat and livestock grazing) should be achieved even with the changes in vegetation composition and diversity. No net loss of jurisdictional wetlands would occur due to restoration requirements of the Corps (section 3.7). Any wetlands serving as stockponds or other agricultural uses would be restored in accordance with the requirements of the surface landowner.

3.10 Wildlife
This section describes the affected environment as it relates to wildlife in the general analysis area and impacts on various species of wildlife and wildlife habitat that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.10.1

General Setting

Section 3.1, section 3.2, and section 3.9 provide detailed descriptions of the general setting, topography, and vegetative composition, respectively, of the general analysis area. The most pertinent information for wildlife is summarized here for reference. The terrain in the general analysis area consists primarily of gently sloping uplands and relatively level agricultural fields, with more rugged terrain in the northeastern portion of the area. Elevations in the general analysis area range from approximately 4,080 to 4,380 feet above mean sea level. Predominant wildlife habitat types classified in the general analysis area broadly correspond with the major plant communities defined during the vegetation baseline study. The proposed tract is dominated (approximately 71%) by various upland grassland habitats (table 3.9-1). Habitats in the general analysis area are comprised primarily (71%) of upland grasslands (approximately 40%) and agricultural lands (croplands and pastures, 31%). A map showing the distribution of vegetative communities throughout the general analysis area is included in the wildlife data report, which can be viewed at the BLM High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming. For this EIS, Big Sagebrush Shrublands are defined as vegetation communities where shrub and sub-shrub species comprise more than 20% of the total vegetation cover. This habitat type makes up less than 11% of both the proposed tract (approximately 46 noncontiguous shrub acres) and surrounding general analysis area (approximately 302 noncontiguous shrub acres). The shrub community is dominated by big sagebrush and occurs in a broken mosaic pattern across the landscape. Individual shrub patches range from 0.3 acre to 27.0 acres, with 4.9 acres as the average area. The patches are loosely connected by narrow corridors of other vegetation communities (usually Mixed-grass Prairie or Lowland Prairie), with few shrubs present. Other habitats present to a limited extent in the general analysis area include Riparian Bottomlands, Rough Breaks, Open Water, Tree Shelter belts, as well as previously disturbed areas (roads, pipelines, oil and gas storage tank complexes, and well pads).

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No major drainages pass through the proposed tract itself, though a closed, unnamed drainage system crosses its northwestern corner (map 3.5-3). Hay Creek flows from west to east through the northern half of the general analysis area, with a considerable portion passing through the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Several primary and secondary tributaries are also in that area. Under natural conditions, Hay Creek and all tributaries in the area are considered ephemeral (i.e., respond only to rainfall or snowmelt events). The determination of stream classification was made using the flume monitoring data collected by the Buckskin Mine and reported in the existing permit document. Additional information regarding groundwater and surface water in the general analysis area is presented in section 3.5. CBNG discharge water has increased the frequency and duration of streamflow events in some portions of the general analysis area. The USFWS NWI maps (2007) show one small wetland (a 0.24-acre, semi-permanently flooded, diked impoundment) in the extreme northwestern corner of the proposed tract (map 3.7-1); however, field observations over the years have indicated that it is wet primarily during early spring months. One playa and one small instream impoundment are in the northwestern portion of the surrounding general analysis area. Those features are also seasonal, with water typically present in spring but dry by mid- to late summer. The playa is the only water body in the general analysis area that provides habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other aquatic species. Due to its limited availability, it serves primarily as a staging area during spring migrations. Additional information regarding these water features is provided in section 3.5 and section 3.7. Due to the lack of permanent water sources, the general analysis area does not support any fisheries; fish species are, therefore, not discussed in this EIS. As described in section 1.1.3, a variety of ongoing mining and reclamation support activities occur in the overlap between the general analysis area and existing permit area. Mine operations and facilities throughout the rest of the existing permit area include storage silos, coal crushing and preparation plants, and a railroad spur and loading facility, among others. These activities often involve variety of heavy equipment and occur 24 hours per day, every day of the year. Blasting occurs during daylight hours on a nearly daily basis. Disturbance and reclamation activities occur incrementally through the area. Because the mine operates at night, artificial lighting is present in active pit areas and on haul roads to ensure the safety of mine employees.

3.10.2

Survey Requirements and History

Long-term information on species occurrence and habitat use in the general analysis area was based primarily on results from annual wildlife monitoring surveys conducted for the existing Buckskin Mine over the past 25 years (1984 through 2008). The extent of these surveys was based on guidance from Appendix B of the WDEQ/LQD Coal Rules and Regulations, and included multiple seasons, depending on the species and requirements in place at the time. Appendix B specifies that annual wildlife monitoring surveys for larger, wide-ranging species at existing surface coal mines include the permit area and the area within a 0.5- to 2-mile radius, depending on the species. Surveys for smaller, less mobile species (e.g., small mammals and rabbits) or species with small breeding territories (e.g., breeding birds) are limited to the permit area only. Guideline 5 of those rules and regulations recommends that the survey area for
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wildlife baseline inventories include the area that would be disturbed as a result of mining plus up to a 2-mile- radius, again depending on the species. Those baseline and annual monitoring survey areas were developed in collaboration with the WGFD and USFWS, the primary agencies responsible for regulating wildlife on non-federal surface in Wyoming. The BLM Data Adequacy Standards for the Powder River Coal Region (BLM 1987) describe the minimum data requirements needed to make coal leasing recommendations for wildlife populations and their habitats within the PRB Coal Production Region. Because most coal mines in the PRB have collected long-term annual monitoring data for a wide variety of vertebrate species as part of their WDEQ/LQD permit requirements, and because most surveys include lands outside the current permit area, the BLM typically accepts that information as meeting the minimum requirements of these standards. The long-term (25 years) database available for the Buckskin Mine permit area and surrounding lands meets those minimum requirements. Guideline 5 and the BLM Data Adequacy Standards both call for up to a 2-mile radius for some species surveys. Therefore, the long-term data provided for this EIS analysis included the general analysis area and the area within a surrounding 2-mile radius (map 3.10-1). Because of its elevated level of concern in recent years, a 3-mile radius was used for sage-grouse leks (map 3.10-1). The 3-mile radius is the area in which two-thirds of the hens that were bred at those leks would be expected to nest. Information for each major group of vertebrate species is provided in the following subsections. Supporting data and a vegetation distribution map for the general analysis area are included in the wildlife data report, which can be viewed at the BLM Wyoming High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming. Due to their proximity to the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, the entire proposed tract and the southern third (33%) of the general analysis area have been included in annual wildlife surveys for the last 25 years (1984 through 2008). Approximately 95% of the general analysis area has been surveyed annually for the last seven years (2002 through 2008) in conjunction with a previous permit amendment at the mine. The entire general analysis area and expanded adjacent lands were included in targeted baseline surveys conducted for the LBA process from late 2007 through 2008. Supplemental information on species occurrence and habitat use in the general analysis area was obtained from several sources, including: baseline inventories conducted at the Buckskin Mine from1977 through 1979 (original study), in 1988 (Spring Draw tract), and from early 1999 through early 2000 (original Hay Creek amendment); annual wildlife monitoring reports submitted to the WDEQ/LQD by the Buckskin Mine and overlapping Eagle Butte and Rawhide mines from 1984 through 2008; the Final Eagle Butte Environmental Assessment (BLM 1994); the Final South Powder River Basin Coal EIS (BLM 2003); the Final EIS for the West Hay Creek Coal Lease Application (BLM 2004); the Final EIS for the Eagle Butte West Coal Lease Application (BLM 2007c); and from BLM, WGFD, and USFWS records and contacts in 2007 and 2008.

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0

5,000 feet


10,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.10-1 Raptor Nests and Grouse Leks in the Wildlife Survey Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.10.3

Big Game

3.10.3.1 Affected Environment
No crucial big game habitat or migration corridors are recognized by the WGFD in the general analysis area, or elsewhere in the coal mine region of the PRB. Crucial range is defined as any particular seasonal range or habitat component that has been documented as the determining factor in a population’s ability to maintain and reproduce itself at a certain level. The pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are the only two big game species ever recorded in the general analysis area. No white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) or elk (Cervus elaphus) have ever been observed in that area, though both species have rarely been seen within 2 to 3 miles of the general analysis area. The pronghorn is the most common big game species in the general analysis area. However, because the area is dominated by upland grasslands and agricultural lands (71%, combined), this species is not usually observed in great numbers. Pronghorn are most often associated with sagebrush communities, particularly in winter (Sundstrom et al. 1973; Fitzgerald et al. 1994); Big Sagebrush Shrublands comprise less than 11% of both the proposed tract and general analysis area. The WGFD has classified the habitat in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine as a mix of yearlong and winter/yearlong pronghorn range. Both range types describe areas where a population or substantial portion of a population of animals makes general use of the habitat on a year-round basis. In yearlong range, pronghorn may occasionally leave the area under severe conditions. In winter/yearlong range, the area receives a predictable and significant influx of additional animals from other seasonal ranges in the winter. The entire general analysis area is within the WGFD’s Gillette herd unit. In post-season 2007, the WGFD estimated that population to be 16,823 animals, with an objective of 11,000 (WGFD 2008a). The home range for pronghorn can vary between 400 acres to 5,600 acres. Several factors influence pronghorn movements, including season, habitat quality, population characteristics, water availability, and local livestock occurrence. Typically, daily movement does not exceed 6 miles. Pronghorn may make seasonal migrations between summer and winter habitats, but migrations are often triggered by availability of succulent plants and not local weather conditions (Fitzgerald et al. 1994). As noted above, no big game migration corridors have been documented in the general analysis area. Mule deer use a wide variety of habitats, but typically prefer sagebrush-grassland, rough breaks, and riparian bottomland. As described, those habitats are limited throughout the general analysis area. Browse is an important component of the mule deer’s diet throughout the year, comprising as much as 60% of total intake during autumn, while forbs and grasses typically make up the rest of their diet (Fitzgerald et al. 1994). This species tends to be migratory in certain areas of the state, traveling from higher elevations in the summer to winter ranges that provide more food and cover. The WGFD has classified the region surrounding the Buckskin Mine as a mix of yearlong and winter/yearlong range for mule deer. The entire area is located within the WGFD’s Powder

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River mule deer herd unit. The agency estimated the 2007 post-season mule deer population for the herd unit at 49,560, which was below the current objective of 52,000 (WGFD 2008a). White-tailed deer are generally managed separately by the WGFD in the Central herd unit. This deer species prefers treed riparian habitats; no such habitats occur in the general analysis area. The agency classifies nearly the entire area as out of the normal white-tailed deer use range. The nearest known habitat for this species is located in the cottonwood corridor along the Dry Fork Little Powder River, approximately 2 miles east of the general analysis area. White-tailed deer have rarely been recorded outside of that corridor. A resident elk herd lives in the Rochelle Hills located several miles southeast of the general analysis area. Elk do wander from the protection of the Rochelle Hills to forage in native and reclaimed grasslands at some mines in the central and southern parts of the PRB but they have only rarely been documented within a few miles of the Buckskin Mine. None of the areas considered in this EIS are classified by the WGFD as within normal elk use range.

3.10.3.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have short-term, minor to moderate impacts on big game species; however, ongoing impacts, described above under “Affected Environment” would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Some big game animals would be displaced from portions of the proposed tract to adjacent habitats during mining. Because they are more prevalent, pronghorn would be most affected. However, long-term (since 1984) monitoring at the Buckskin Mine has demonstrated that pronghorn are more common in sagebrush shrubland habitats south of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area than in the grasslands that dominate the general analysis area. Similarly, mule deer would experience few impacts, given their infrequent use of these lands and the availability of suitable habitat in adjacent areas that would remain undisturbed by mining. No white-tailed deer or elk are present in the general in the general analysis area, so the Proposed Action would have no impact on them. Big game displacement would be temporary and incremental, occurring over several years and allowing for gradual changes in distribution patterns. Big game living in the areas adjacent to the proposed tract could be adversely affected by increased competition from displaced animals. Noise, dust, and associated human presence would cause some foraging areas adjacent to mining activities to be avoided. However, pronghorn and mule deer have continued to occupy areas adjacent to and within active mining operations, suggesting that some animals do become habituated to such disturbances. Big game animals are highly mobile and can move to undisturbed areas. The construction of additional fences, spoil piles, and pits related to mining would likely restrict big game movement on or through the proposed tract to some degree. Pronghorn may not be able to negotiate these

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barriers during severe winter storms. However, WDEQ guidelines require fencing that is designed to permit passage of pronghorn and other big game species to the extent possible. Changes in big game carrying capacity are not likely to be significant given the relatively low level of big game use in the area and the current dominance of upland grassland and agricultural habitats in potential impact areas. Mule deer have regularly been documented in reclaimed grasslands at the adjacent Buckskin Mine and elsewhere in the PRB. Eventual restoration of sagebrush and other shrub species would facilitate pronghorn use of reclaimed mine lands over time. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on big game and their habitat in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would consist of the short-term, minor to moderate impacts described for the Proposed Action as a result of activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration would have short-term, minor to moderate impacts on big game. Impacts would be the same as or similar to those described under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Because the general analysis area is dominated (71% combined) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats for big game, respectively, compared to those in the premining landscape. Long-term monitoring conducted at the Buckskin Mine has demonstrated that pronghorn are not common in the grasslands and agricultural lands that dominate the general analysis area. Mule deer are even less abundant in this area; both species use suitable habitat in adjacent areas that would not be affected by either action alternative. No white-tailed deer or elk would be impacted under Alternative 2.

3.10.4

Other Mammals

3.10.4.1 Affected Environment
A variety of small and medium-sized mammal species may occur in the general analysis area. Some predators that could be present include the coyote (Canis latrans), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), bobcat (Lynx rufus), striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), and badger (Taxidea taxus). Prey species include various rodents (e.g., mice, rats, voles, gophers,

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ground squirrels, and chipmunks), cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), and jackrabbits (Lepus spp.). These prey species are cyclically common and widespread throughout the region and are important food sources for raptors and other predators. Because water is extremely limited, species such as the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and beaver (Castor canadensis) are uncommon in both the proposed tract and general analysis area. Woodland species such as porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) and bats (e.g., hoary [Lasiurus cinereus] and big brown [(Eptesicus fuscus]) also have little habitat in the general analysis area. Few of those species have been recorded in the area during the last 25 years of annual monitoring, and those that were observed were not seen with any regularity. The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a BLM sensitive species for the Buffalo Field Office due to its periodic occurrence in the federal listing process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. No prairie dog colonies occur in the proposed tract or general analysis area. The nearest colony is approximately 80 acres in size and is located in a narrow valley on the far side of a ridge that marks the northeastern extent of the general analysis area (map 3.10-1). This species was added as a candidate for federal listing under the ESA on February 4, 2000. The USFWS removed it from the candidate species list on August 12, 2004. On December 2, 2008, the USFWS announced a 90-day finding on a renewed petition seeking federal protection for the black-tailed prairie dog under the ESA; the finding indicated that listing as threatened or endangered may be warranted (Federal Register, Volume 73, No. 232, page 73211). The USFWS concurrently announced initiation of a 12-month status review to determine if listing the species is warranted. That agency continues to encourage the protection of prairie dog colonies for their value to the prairie ecosystem and the myriad of species that rely on them during this review process. Because neither action alternative would affect this species, no further discussion is provided for the black-tailed prairie dog in this section.

3.10.4.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have short-term, moderate impacts on small- and medium-sized mammals (e.g., lagomorphs, coyotes, and rodents) due to their ability to quickly recolonize reclaimed lands and the high reproductive potential of most of these species. Disturbance would be temporary and incremental. However, ongoing impacts described above, under “Affected Environment,” would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by upland grassland communities, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape. Medium-sized mammals could be directly impacted by collisions with mine-related vehicles or traffic. Species inhabiting disturbed areas would be temporarily displaced to other habitats by mining, potentially resulting in increased competition and mortality, if those habitats are already
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at their carrying capacity. These populations would rebound as vegetation is reestablished or small mammal prey species recolonize reclaimed areas. Direct losses of small mammals would be higher than for other wildlife because their mobility is more limited and many retreat into burrows when disturbed. Populations of prey animals such as mice, voles, and ground squirrels would decline during mining. However, these animals have a high reproductive potential and tend to reoccupy and adapt to reclaimed areas quickly. Results from research projects on small mammal use of reclamation conducted on mined lands in the Wyoming and Montana PRB have indicated that reclamation objectives to encourage recolonization by small mammal communities are being achieved (Clayton et al. 2006; Shelley 1992). No prairie dog colonies or reliable water sources are present in the proposed tract. The only trees in the proposed tract overlap the general analysis area and are, therefore, expected to be affected in the absence of the Proposed Action. Consequently, no prairie dogs, or species dependent upon water (e.g., muskrats) or woodlands (e.g., porcupines) would be affected under this alternative that would not be affected under the No Action Alternative. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on small- and medium-sized mammals and their habitats in the general analysis area would be short-term and moderate. Disturbance would occur incrementally and would be limited to the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration would have short-term, moderate impacts on small- and medium-sized mammals. Impacts would be the same as or similar to those described under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Because the general analysis area is dominated by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands (71% combined), the establishment of reclaimed grasslands after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats, respectively, compared to those in the premining landscape. No prairie dog colonies, or species dependent upon water (e.g., muskrats) or woodlands (e.g., porcupines) would be affected under this alternative that would not be affected under the No Action Alternative.

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3.10.5

Raptors

3.10.5.1 Affected Environment
Map 3.10-1 shows the locations and physical status of raptor nests identified the general analysis area and baseline survey area for the Buckskin Mine since annual monitoring began at Buckskin and the adjacent mines; the survey areas for adjacent mines overlap that of Buckskin. Over time, new nests have been built, and natural forces have destroyed many nests; others have been relocated for mitigation or removed by mining activities. In some cases, new nests have been created to mitigate the loss of other sites impacted by mining operations. Eight intact raptor nests were present in the baseline survey area for raptors in 2008; only three were present in the general analysis area (map 3.10-1). Numerous intact and former nest sites are present elsewhere in the baseline survey area, beyond the general analysis area. Because these nest sites would not be affected by the Proposed Action or Alternative2, they are not discussed further in this section. Raptor species that have historically been documented in the general analysis area include the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis), red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni), rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), and short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). These species are year-round residents, seasonal visitors, or migrants, depending on the species. Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) could nest in old badger burrows, but they have not been recorded doing so in the area to date. Raptor species such as the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), screech owl (Megascops spp.), and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) are generally precluded due to the lack of appropriate habitats such as dense coniferous forests and riverine cliffs; those species have never been recorded in the general analysis area or at the adjacent Buckskin Mine. Bald eagles and rough-legged hawks both occur in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine during winter. The bald eagle is a migrant and common winter resident of the PRB, but is not common in general analysis area. Sightings in the general analysis area and at the adjacent Buckskin Mine have not been made with any regularity and have typically been limited to one or two individuals at a time. Both species occasionally perch in the small grove of trees in the southeastern corner of the proposed tract where it overlaps with the existing permit area and, therefore, are likely to be exposed to disturbance under existing conditions. On July 9, 2007, the USFWS published a Federal Register notice (Volume 72, pages 37346– 37372) announcing that the bald eagle would be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species under the ESA; delisting was effective August 8, 2007. However, the protections provided to the bald eagle under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act will remain in place. The bald eagle is recognized as a BLM sensitive species due to its former listed status and is further discussed in appendix J of this EIS. The red-tailed hawk and great horned owl are the only two raptor species that nest with any regularity in the general analysis area, including in the proposed tract (map 3.10-1). The golden
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eagle and short-eared owl have infrequently nested in the general analysis area over time. One pair of Swainson’s hawks has periodically built a nest just outside the general analysis area but has never laid eggs. Although nest structures typically associated with ferruginous hawks have been found in the general analysis area, no active nests have been documented during 25 years of annual monitoring. As described previously, habitat is limited or absent for those species that nest exclusively in trees, on cliffs, or in prairie dog colonies. Several pairs of red-tailed hawks and great horned owls have adapted to nesting on mine highwalls and facilities such as coal crushers, silos, and other load-out structures at multiple coal mines in the PRB in recent years. The USFWS does not require mitigation for such nest sites at surface coal mines in northeast Wyoming due to the fact that disturbance activities were ongoing and continuous when raptors arrived to begin nesting.

3.10.5.2 Environmental Consequences
Table 3.10-1 presents the potential impacts on raptor nest sites (intact and former) under each alternative.

Table 3.10-1. Potential Impacts on Raptor Nest Sites1 (Intact and Former) in the General Analysis Area (through 2008) Under the Proposed Action and Alternatives
Species
INTACT NESTS Red-tailed hawk Red-tailed hawk/great horned owl Ferruginous hawk Total Intact Nests FORMER NEST SITES Red-tailed hawk/great horned owl Red-tailed hawk/golden eagle Golden eagle Short-eared owl Total Former Nest Sites
1 2 3

Alternative 1 (No Action)2
0 1 0 1

Proposed Action
0 1 0 1

Alternative 23
1 1 1 3

2 1 1 2 6

2 1 1 0 4

2 1 1 2 6

Rows are not summed across.
 Nests within the overlap between the general analysis area and existing Buckskin Mine permit area only.
 Nest(s) within the general analysis area only (nest number based on maximum potential area of disturbance associated with leasing action).


Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have no new impacts on known raptor nest sites. One intact nest and four former nest sites are present in the

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proposed tract (map 3.10-1, table 3.10-1); however, all five nest sites are in the tree grove that overlaps the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and would eventually be disturbed by previously approved mining activities. Those five nest sites have historically been used by red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and golden eagles, but only hawks and owls have used the tree grove since 1998. The eagle pair expanded its territory to the south that year and has not returned to the general analysis area. Ongoing impacts on existing nests and nesting habitats from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate; these existing impacts would be short-term and moderate. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by upland grassland communities, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape. Long-term monitoring data have demonstrated that the most consistent raptor pairs in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine regularly nest within 0.25 mile and in view of regular human disturbance; thus, they are acclimated to having some level of activity occur near their nests. For example, one pair of red-tailed hawks has nested within 400 feet of an occupied residence and 600 feet from the McGee Road each year from 2002 through 2008, fledging young in all but one year. Great horned owls at Buckskin and other PRB mines regularly nest on active mine facilities such as coal crushers and batch load-outs. Details regarding raptor nesting efforts and success near mine operations are available in the Buckskin Mine annual wildlife reports, as well as those for other regional coal mines, on file with the WDEQ/LQD in Sheridan, Wyoming. Despite their apparent acceptance of regular human disturbance near active nests, mining activity could cause raptors to abandon nests near disturbance, particularly if operations unintentionally encroach on active nests during a given breeding season. Mining activities could also remove intact nests during the non-breeding season. Although these actions could have an impact on individual birds or pairs, mining associated with the Proposed Action would not have an impact on regional raptor populations, because the level of use by nesting raptors is low in the area. Additionally, the Buckskin Mine has a USFWS-approved raptor mitigation plan in place for the existing permit area to minimize negative impacts on nesting raptors and provide mitigation, as needed. The raptor mitigation plan would be revised during the permitting phase to accommodate the proposed tract. Continued use of those mitigation measures would further reduce risks to nesting raptors. The current plan and the USFWS approval letter are included in the existing Buckskin Mine permit document, on file with the WDEQ/LQD in Sheridan, Wyoming. Under the Proposed Action, surface mining would reduce the availability of native foraging habitats for both nesting and non-nesting raptors. Because native habitats in the vicinity of the general analysis area are dominated by upland grasslands, ground-nesting raptors and those foraging in the area should be able to transition easily to reclaimed grassland parcels. Equipment yards associated with mining provide additional habitat for prey species such as cottontails and

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rodents. Raptor pairs have voluntarily and repeatedly nested near such areas at Buckskin and other coal mines in the PRB. Results from annual monitoring of prey populations at these mines have demonstrated that raptor nesting efforts and productivity at surface coal mines in northeast Wyoming have been influenced primarily by natural factors such as prey abundance, untimely inclement weather, and availability of nesting substrates. Due to the limited presence of trees and lack of tall cliffs, raptor species that nest in those features are not as abundant as those that either nest on the ground or are adaptable to nesting on mine facilities or other human-made structures (e.g., platform nests). During mining, new nesting habitat can be created in reclaimed areas through enhancement efforts like the installation of platform nests, relocation of snags, and tree plantings. Bald eagle sightings in the vicinity of the general analysis area have averaged only 0.5 per winter over the last 25 years (1984 through 2008); no bald eagle nests have ever been documented at the Buckskin Mine. One or two individuals have infrequently been seen perched in the trees in the southeastern corner of the proposed tract during that period, but the tree stand has not officially been classified as a winter roost site. As described previously, those trees are within the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and are already subject to future disturbance and/or appropriate mitigation measures that might be necessary. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on raptor nest sites and habitat in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. One intact raptor nest and six former nest sites are located in the overlap between the general analysis area and the permit area (map 3.10-1, table 3.10-1). As described under the Proposed Action, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and golden eagles have historically nested in the tree grove that also alls within the proposed tract, but only hawks and owls have nested there since 1998. Short-eared owls have nested elsewhere in the overlap area, but those sites have already been disturbed by previously permitted mine operations within the general analysis area. Because native habitats in the vicinity of the general analysis area are dominated by upland grassland species, ground-nesting raptors and those foraging in the area should be able to transition easily to reclaimed parcels. Impacts on raptors using the trees in the overlap area for perching or nesting would be the same as described under the Proposed Action. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration would have new impacts on two intact raptor nests (table 3.10-1, map 3.10-1); the

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remaining intact nest falls within the tree grove discussed under the Proposed Action and No Action Alternative. No additional former nest sites would be added under Alternative 2. Ongoing impacts on existing nests, nesting habitat, and foraging habitat from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described for the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate; these impacts would be short-term and moderate. Because the general analysis area is dominated (71% combined) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats, respectively, compared to premining conditions. These reclaimed areas would provide alternate nesting and/or foraging habitats for local raptors. Only two other stands of trees are present in the general analysis area besides the one in the overlap area, described for the Proposed Action; both are located adjacent to currently or recently occupied residences. Red-tailed hawks were first documented nesting near an occupied residence located between the McGee and Collins roads in 2002; the pair fledged two young that year. Hawks nested in that shelterbelt in each of the subsequent six years, despite increased activity at the residence in recent years; young fledged in five of those six years. No raptor nests have been documented in the shelterbelt near the recently vacated residence west of the junction of these roads. The lone intact ferruginous hawk nest in the general analysis area has never been active in the years since it was discovered in 1999. No active nests for this species have ever been recorded near the Buckskin Mine during the last 25 years of annual monitoring, although the presence of ground nests that are characteristic of ferruginous hawks suggests historic nesting activity. These ground nests can persist for many years without use as a result of the dry climate. Three additional intact raptor nests are located beyond, but within 0.5-mile of the general analysis area (map 3.10-1); that is the distance recognized by the BLM as an adequate buffer between disturbance and nests of most raptor species. All three structures have been classified as ferruginous hawk nests due to their physical locations and composition, but none have been active since their respective discoveries. One of those three nests is in the overlap area and will be impacted regardless under all alternatives. The remaining two structures are approximately 0.5 mile north of the general analysis area. These nests are separated from the general analysis area by multiple ridges and, thus, are buffered from future visual and audio disturbance in that area. As described in chapter 2, Kiewit does not anticipate relocating either county road. Should those areas be leased and scheduled for disturbance, the Buckskin Mine would be required to revise its monitoring and mitigation plan to provide adequate protection from mine-related disturbances for nesting or roosting raptors.

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3.10.6

Upland Game Birds

3.10.6.1 Affected Environment
Upland Game Birds Four upland game bird species are known to occur in suitable habitats in the general analysis area: the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), gray partridge (Perdix perdix), sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus), and greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), hereafter referred to as sage-grouse. Although all four species have been documented in and around the general analysis area over time, sightings typically consisted of fewer than 10 birds at a given location. The mourning dove is the most common upland game bird species in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine. Doves are especially abundant during spring and fall migrations, with fewer observations during the nesting season. This species is also a relatively common breeding bird in Campbell County and may be found in a variety of habitat types (Cerovksi et al. 2004). Doves are often seen near sites with water sources and trees, though they are occasionally observed in sagebrush and greasewood stands. Mourning doves were recorded in the general analysis area, including in the proposed tract, during surveys conducted in both 2007 and 2008, and in previous years. Individuals observed in the proposed tract were most often associated with the small stand of trees in the southeastern corner that overlaps the existing Buckskin permit area. The gray partridge (a.k.a. Hungarian partridge or Hun) is an introduced, non-migratory game bird that forms flocks (or coveys) outside the breeding season. Gray partridge have observed along the reclaimed channel of Rawhide Creek inside the existing Buckskin permit area; that area is approximately 1.5 miles southeast of the general analysis area. However, this species is not encountered with any regularity, with intervals of several years passing between sightings. No gray partridge were observed in the general analysis area during 2007 or 2008. The greater sage-grouse is a species of concern throughout the West and, as such, is given greater consideration in this EIS. Although the sharp-tailed grouse does not have the same status as sage-grouse, it has been documented at the Buckskin Mine over the years. Surveys for both species are conducted using the same timing and protocols. Consequently, portions of the following discussion apply to both species. Individual discussions are provided by species, where appropriate. Grouse Terminology and Survey Methods The WGFD manages and regulates grouse populations in Wyoming, while the WDEQ/LQD regulates surface coal mines in the state. Survey protocols for grouse used at Buckskin and other coal mines in northeast Wyoming are based on Appendix B of the WDEQ/LQD Coal Rules and Regulations. The wildlife survey and reporting protocols in this document are based on input and guidance provided by the WGFD. Those protocols are used during all baseline and annual monitoring efforts conducted at surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB. For consistency with those efforts, WGFD nomenclature for leks and their management status is used in this EIS.
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A lek is defined as a traditional courtship display area attended by male grouse (WGFD 2006). For sage-grouse, leks are typically located in sagebrush dominated habitats. Sharp-tailed grouse leks can be found in both grassland and sagebrush habitats. The WGFD designates display sites as leks based on observations of two or more male grouse engaged in courtship displays made on two separate occasions during the appropriate time of day (WGFD 2006). Sub-dominant males may display on temporary strutting areas during population peaks, but those areas usually fail to become established leks. Therefore, the WGFD requires sites where small numbers (less than five) of males are observed strutting to be confirmed as active for two years before adding the site to the lek database. A group of leks in close enough proximity for males to move among them from one day to the next is considered a lek complex. A specific distance criterion to define a complex does not yet exist (WGFD 2006). The WGFD has adopted definitions for lek status to provide consistency in nomenclature when collecting and reporting sage-grouse data (WGFD 2006). The definitions describe the annual status and a long-term management status of sage-grouse leks; those definitions can also be applied to sharp-tailed grouse leks. The status is assessed annually based on the following definitions: „ Active—any lek that has been attended by male grouse during the strutting season. „ Inactive—any lek where sufficient data suggests that there was no strutting activity throughout a strutting season. „ Unknown—leks for which status as active or inactive has not been documented during the course of a strutting season. The WGFD management status is based on a lek’s annual status, and includes three categories: „ Occupied—a lek that has been active during at least one strutting season within the prior 10 years. Occupied leks are protected through prescribed management actions during surface-disturbing activities. „ Unoccupied (formerly “historical lek”)—This category is further divided into two sub-groups: “destroyed” and “abandoned.” Unoccupied leks are not protected during surface-disturbing activities. •	 Destroyed—A formerly active lek site and surrounding habitat (including sagebrush) that have been destroyed and are no longer suitable for grouse breeding. •	 Abandoned—A lek in otherwise suitable habitat that has been “inactive” during the most recent 10 consecutive strutting seasons. „ Undetermined—Any lek that has not been documented as active in the last 10 years, and for which survey information is insufficient to designate it unoccupied. Undetermined leks are protected through prescribed management actions during surface-disturbing activities until sufficient documentation is obtained to confirm the lek is unoccupied. The Buckskin Mine has conducted surveys of known grouse leks and searches for new leks as part of its wildlife baseline inventories and annual wildlife monitoring programs since the late
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1970s and mid-1980s, respectively. Baseline inventories, which occurred prior to initial permitting and subsequent permit amendments, encompassed the mine’s permit area and the area within a 2-mile-wide radius. Lek counts have been conducted in the Buckskin Mine permit area and the area within a 1-mile-wide radius as part of the annual monitoring program for the last 25 years (1984 through 2008). The annual monitoring area was expanded to accommodate each new amendment as it was approved. Due to the proximity of the proposed tract to the existing mine, the entire proposed tract and most of the general analysis area have been included in previous survey efforts since 1984. Annual lek counts were voluntary until 1993, when the WDEQ/LQD issued the monitoring guidelines in Appendix B. Counts are conducted at seven- to ten-day intervals over a three- to four-week period from early April through early May each year per WGFD (2006) survey protocols. Surveys are conducted from the ground between 0.5 hour before sunrise and 1 hour after sunrise, and only during appropriate weather conditions (i.e., light wind and no precipitation). Each lek site is checked at least once in spring, with active leks counted at least three times. Repeated counts of males and females are made at each site until a consistent peak count is recorded. Specific surveys for nesting and wintering grouse are not part of the Appendix B annual monitoring requirements for surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB. However, seasonal ground surveys for other wildlife species have been conducted in potential grouse nesting habitats annually since 1984, including numerous walking surveys in sagebrush and other habitats targeting other ground-nesting species each spring. Surveys for winter grouse use have been conducted as part of the required baseline inventories for previous and proposed permit amendments over the years. Biologists conducted the surveys by driving and walking through sagebrush habitats watching for grouse and their sign (snow tracks, droppings, feathers) during winter months. Sage-grouse were also recorded during other wildlife surveys described in this section. Targeted surveys for sage-grouse broods were conducted as part of the required annual monitoring program twice each July from 1995 through 1999. Based on the lack of brood sightings at coal mines throughout the region, the WGFD recommended in 1999 that surveys for grouse broods be dropped from annual monitoring requirements under Appendix B. The Buckskin Mine voluntarily continued brood surveys through summer 2001 before amending its WDEQ/LQD mining permit to remove that survey requirement. Due to the increasing concern about the sage-grouse throughout its range, the mine voluntarily conducted grouse brood surveys annually from 2004 through 2008. All surveys were conducted by walking along approximately 4 miles of native and reclaimed drainages (2 miles each) within the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and recording any grouse or grouse sign observed. Similar surveys were conducted in drainages within proposed expansion areas over the years as part of baseline inventory requirements. Coincidentally, some survey routes included drainages within the general analysis area. Biologists also watched for and recorded any sage-grouse and broods seen incidental to other wildlife surveys during all monitoring years.

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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Sage-Grouse Life History The sage-grouse is considered a “landscape species,” which means that large expanses of unfragmented land are required to provide all the habitat components necessary for their annual life cycle. This species is a sagebrush-obligate, and requires sagebrush habitat year-round for food, cover, and shelter, and for every phase of its life cycle. Sage-grouse often exhibit seasonal movements to use discrete sagebrush habitats, though the distance traveled varies widely among populations. These movements are often in response to devotion to seasonal-use areas (i.e., breeding, nesting/brood rearing, summering, and wintering), with adjustments related to severity of winter weather, topography, and vegetative cover. Sage-grouse breeding occurs on leks during late March and April. Leks are generally established in open areas surrounded by Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis), which is used for escape cover and protection from predators. Generally, lek sites are used year after year and are considered the center of year-round activity for resident sage-grouse populations. On average, approximately two-thirds of sage-grouse hens nest within 3 miles of the lek where they were bred. New spring plant growth, residual cover, and understory are important habitat components for nesting sage-grouse hens. Areas near nests are used for several weeks by hens for brood rearing. The habitats used during the first few weeks after hatching must provide both good cover to conceal the chicks and essential nutritional requirements during this period of rapid development. Brood-rearing habitats that have a healthy and wide diversity of plant species, particularly grasses and forbs, tend to provide the variety and abundance of insects that are an essential protein supply for the young birds. Summer habitat consists of sagebrush mixed with areas of wet meadows, riparian, or irrigated agricultural fields. As summer progresses and forbs mature and dry up, sage-grouse broods must move to more mesic or wet meadow-type habitats where succulent plants and insects are still available. This can be especially important in drier years and during extended periods of drought. As the fall season nears, sage-grouse form flocks as brood groups come together. As fall progresses, sage-grouse move toward their winter ranges. During winter, sage-grouse feed almost exclusively on sagebrush leaves and buds. Suitable winter habitat requires sagebrush to be accessible, especially in areas where snowfall is common. It is crucial that sagebrush be exposed at least 10 to 12 inches above snow level, as this provides food and cover for wintering sage-grouse. Population and habitat analyses suggest that wintering habitat can be as limiting as breeding habitats. Regional and Statewide Sage-Grouse Population Trends Overall, the sage-grouse population has been steadily declining in Wyoming and across the rest of the West. A study prepared by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies estimated that sage-grouse populations in western North America declined at an overall rate of 2% per year from 1965 to 2003 (Connelly et al. 2004). The decline rate was greater from 1965 to 1985, with populations stabilizing and some increasing from 1986 to 2003. For Wyoming,

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this study estimated that sage-grouse populations declined at an average rate of 0.51% per year from 1968 to 1986 (9.66% decline overall), and at an average rate of 0.33% per year from 1987 to 2003. Populations were lowest in the mid-1990s, with a gradual increase in numbers in some regions since that time (Connelly et al. 2004). The general analysis area is within the Northeast Wyoming Local Sage-Grouse Working Group (NWLSWG) area, which includes portions of the WGFD Sheridan and Casper biological regions. Because the nearest USDA Forest Service lands are approximately 50 miles north and south of the general analysis area, this EIS does not include lek trends from the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Results from that area are discussed in both the South Gillette Coal Lease Application Final EIS and the Wright Area Coal Lease Application Draft EIS, available on the Wyoming BLM website. Sage-grouse monitoring has occurred in the NWLSWG area since 1967. Assuming the number of males per active lek accurately reflects sage-grouse populations, population trends have exhibited a cyclical pattern within this area. Periodic highs and lows in grouse numbers have occurred at approximately 10-year intervals (figure 3.10-1). With the exception of the most recent cycle, each successive peak was lower than the preceding peak; the same was true for successive low counts. This long-term trend suggests a steadily declining sage-grouse population (WGFD 2008b). Comparisons between sage-grouse population trends in the NWLSWG area and statewide (figure 3.10-2) show strong similarities, though the average number of males per lek in the regional area has been lower than that observed statewide in most years. As in the NWLSWG area, the statewide sage-grouse population trend has exhibited a long-term (1960–2008) decline, a mid-term (1999–2008) increase, and a recent short-term (2006–2008) decline (WGFD 2008c). The mid- and short-term trends in statewide populations are believed to be largely weather related. Timely precipitation in some years resulted in improved habitat conditions, allowing greater numbers of sage-grouse to hatch and survive. Conversely, multi-year drought conditions are believed to have caused lower grouse survival in the early 2000s, leading to population declines. The WGFD considers these trends as valid at the statewide scale, but more varied at the local scale (WGFD 2008c). For example, sub-populations in areas more heavily influenced by anthropogenic impacts (e.g., subdivisions, intensive energy development, large-scale conversion of habitat from sagebrush to grassland or agriculture, interstate highways) have experienced declining populations or extirpation despite recent population increases in other parts of the state (WGFD 2008c). The potential for West Nile virus, as well as loss of population connectivity, represent additional threats to this species in many parts of its range (Naugle et al. 2004).

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60 50

# Males/Lek

40 30 20 10 0

88

67

91

70

94

97

00

03 20

73

76

79

82

19

85

19

19

20

Lek Count All Lek Checks

Year

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.10-1 Average Male Sage-grouse Lek Attendance within the Northeast Wyoming Local Working Group Area (1968–2006)

20

19

19

19

19

19

19

19

19

06

WY Sage-grouse Ave. Males/Lek 1960-2008
70 60

Males/Lek

50 40 30 20 10 0

1960

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1995

2000

Year

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.10-2 Average Number of Males per Lek Counted in Wyoming (1960–2008) with a Minimum of 100 Leks Checked Each Year

2005

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Agency Responses to Sage-Grouse Population Trends Since 1999, the USFWS has received eight petitions requesting that the sage-grouse be listed under the ESA as threatened or endangered. Three of the petitions requested that sage-grouse be listed as endangered across its entire range. On January 12, 2005, following a 12-month status review on the species, the USFWS concluded that listing was not warranted at that time. On December 4, 2007, U.S. District Court, District of Idaho, ruled that the USFWS 12-month petition finding on sage-grouse was in error and remanded the case back to the agency for further reconsideration. On February 26, 2008, the USFWS announced the initiation of another status review for the greater sage-grouse; that review process has been extended and is expected to conclude in February 2010. In response to these repeated petitions for listing under the ESA, the USFWS has indicated the need for continued efforts to conserve sage-grouse and sagebrush habitat on a long-term basis. That agency has encouraged continued development and implementation of conservation strategies throughout the species’ range. In May 2002, the USFWS office in Cheyenne, Wyoming, released a list entitled “Coal Mine List of 40 Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming,” which replaced the previous “Migratory Birds of High Federal Interest List.” The sage-grouse is included as a Level I species on the updated list, which indicates the need for a monitoring and mitigation plan for this species. Although the sage-grouse continues to be managed by the WGFD, its inclusion on the revised list gives further impetus to ongoing annual survey efforts. The sage-grouse is also a BLM sensitive species (see appendix J) due to its recurring presence in the federal listing process. On September 11, 2003, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission announced that the 2003 hunting season for sage-grouse in Johnson, Sheridan, and Campbell counties would be closed. The closure followed the deaths of 11 sage-grouse in northeastern Wyoming from West Nile virus in August and early September of that year. According to WGFD’s September 11, 2003, press release, the commission took this action because the incidence of infection was much higher in northeastern Wyoming than in the rest of the state, and the area is on the fringe of sage-grouse range with marginal, fragmented habitat. Recent lek count data indicate that Wyoming’s sage-grouse populations increased slightly from 2004 through 2007. Lower incidences of West Nile Virus mortalities were also documented in those years, primarily due to cooler temperatures that reduced mosquito populations. Sage-grouse hunting seasons were reopened in 2004 (Christiansen 2004). In 2007, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal commissioned a Statewide Sage-grouse Implementation Team, which emerged from the Governor’s 2007 Sage-Grouse Summit. On March 17, 2008, the implementation team preliminarily identified and mapped recommended sage-grouse core breeding areas in Wyoming in an effort to better understand the types of habitat grouse prefer and what areas should be protected. No such habitat was defined in the vicinity of the general analysis area. On August 1, 2008, the Governor of Wyoming released an executive order regarding sage-grouse core area protection (Office of the Governor of Wyoming 2008) on state trust lands.
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The sage-grouse core area protection concept came about because of work by the Sage-Grouse Implementation Team. The implementation team developed a core population strategy for the state “to maintain habitats and viable populations of sage-grouse in areas where they are most abundant.” As part of that effort, the team delineated approximately 40 areas of state trust lands around Wyoming with a goal of maintenance and enhancement of grouse habitats and populations within the core areas. The areas were delineated by evaluating habitats within a 4-mile radius of selected sage-grouse leks in high lek-density areas. The BLM Wyoming State Office is in the process of developing a statewide sage-grouse management policy and has incorporated sage-grouse focus areas based on the core area concept in the draft management policy. The BLM has indicated that the sage-grouse management strategy for future surface disturbance, which would include the Proposed Action and alternatives, will likely be based on the sage-grouse focus areas (BLM 2008d). Grouse History at the Buckskin Mine Based on results from annual counts and lek searches conducted for the Buckskin Mine, grouse occur but are not abundant in the general analysis area. In general, sharp-tailed grouse do not appear to be as prevalent as sage-grouse near the surface coal mines in northeast Wyoming. However, sharp-tailed grouse have been seen in greater numbers and with more frequency than sage-grouse in the general analysis area in recent years, though counts for both species have declined over time (table 3.10-2).

Table 3.10-2. Peak Grouse Attendance at Leks in the Vicinity of Buckskin Mine (1984–2008)
Daly SAGR Year
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 0 0

Hay Creek SAGR*1 M
2 8 12 23 27 15 12 17 20 U U 0 0 0

McGee SAGR2 M
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Stickel STGR* M
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

McGee I STGR M
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

McGee II STGR* M
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

McGee III STGR** M
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

M
20 20 12 10 17 16 9 10 7 0 0 0

F
1 4 0 0 0 5 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

F
U U U U U 1 1 0 5 U U 0 0 0

F
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

F
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

F
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

F
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

F
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

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Daly SAGR Year
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Mgt. Status5

Hay Creek SAGR*1 M
0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 U 0 Occupied

McGee SAGR2 M
— — — 6 0 1 3 0 U U 0 Occupied

Stickel STGR* M
— — 13 9 3 0 0 0 0 U U Occupied

McGee I STGR M
— 5 8 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Occupied

McGee II STGR* M
— — — — 13 8 2 0 0 0 0

McGee III STGR** M
— — — — — — — 44 0 0 0 Occupied

M
0 0 0 0 03 0 0 0 0 0 0

F
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

F
0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 U 0

F
— — — 2 0 3 0 0 U U 0

F
— — 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 U U

F
— 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

F
— — — — 5 1 0 0 0 0 0

F
— — — — — — — 0 0 0 0

Abandoned

Occupied

M= Male; F = Female; SAGR = sage-grouse; STGR = sharp-tailed grouse; U = Unknown; --- = lek undiscovered * In the Buckskin Mine permit area. 
 ** In the general analysis area. 

1 2 3

The lek was beyond the required annual monitoring area until 2002 but was checked at least once in most years.
 The lek is beyond the required annual monitoring area; data presented is from the 2008 WGFD lek database.
 Two displaying males were seen once approximately 1,000 feet south of the historic lek site. The birds were presumed to have flown in from another 
 lek located 2.0 miles south of the Daly lek site. Birds were not displaying; number of males and females unknown. Management status based on WGFD (2006) classifications.

4 5

Four sharp-tailed grouse leks have been identified in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine (table 3.10-2). All four are considered occupied under the WGFD management status classification system, though they have all been inactive for the last three years. No sharp-tailed grouse have ever been observed on the proposed tract, though flocks of as many as a dozen birds have infrequently been recorded in the winter feeding in fallow agricultural fields and perched in the tree shelterbelt near the junction of the Collins and McGee roads within the general analysis area. No sharp-tailed grouse have been seen in those locations since at least 2003. No nests or young of this species have ever been documented in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine. As indicated, no sharp-tailed grouse leks are present in the proposed tract. Two leks (McGee II and McGee III) are located in the general analysis area. The McGee II lek is in the overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and the McGee III lek is immediately north of that boundary (map 3.10-1). The McGee I sharp-tailed grouse lek is approximately 0.25 mile north of the general analysis area, on the far side of a ridge and approximately 50 feet from the McGee Road. The Stickel lek is in the existing permit area, approximately 0.75 mile southeast of the general analysis area; that lek has been or will be impacted by previously permitted mine disturbance.

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The greatest number of male sharp-tailed grouse recorded in the vicinity of the mine in a given year occurred in 2000, when 13 birds were seen at the Stickel lek and 8 were observed at the McGee I lek (table 3.10-2). However, sharp-tailed grouse counts declined steadily after 2000, and none were found during any lek monitoring or search efforts conducted after 2005. Given the proximity of the three McGee lek sites to one another, and the fact that grouse were never seen at two leks within that complex in the same year, it is likely that the birds were merely shifting their display sites periodically based on vegetative conditions or other unknown factors, while remaining in the same general area. Similar occurrences at sharp-tailed grouse leks have been observed elsewhere in the region. The Stickel lek may have been part of the McGee complex, as well. Three sage-grouse lek sites have been documented at the Buckskin Mine over the last 25 years of annual monitoring (table 3.10-2); none of these sites is within the general analysis area (map 3.10-1). The Daly sage-grouse lek has been inactive for the last 16 consecutive years and is considered abandoned by the WGFD. The remaining two leks have also been inactive in recent years, but are still classified as occupied. The Hay Creek lek is within the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, approximately 0.5 mile southeast of the general analysis area. This site has been or will be affected by previously permitted disturbance in the permit area. The McGee sage-grouse lek is approximately 1.25 miles north of the general analysis area, and the abandoned Daly lek site is approximately 0.75 mile west of the permit area and on the far side of U.S. Highway 14-16. The Daly sage-grouse lek has been monitored annually since 1984 (table 3.10-2). The greatest number of males recorded there was 20 in both 1984 and 1985. Peak male counts vacillated over the next seven years, but attendance gradually declined through 1992. No grouse were observed at the lek itself from 1993 through 2008. Two males were seen displaying approximately 1,000 feet south of the historic Daly lek site on one occasion in late April 2002, but no grouse were recorded in that area during subsequent surveys through 2008. Those two birds were presumed to have flushed from an active lek site approximately 2 miles south of the Daly lek. The Hay Creek sage-grouse lek is located in the northeastern corner of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. The lek was active every year from 1984 through 1992, with a peak count of 27 males in 1988. The site was not visited in 1993 or 1994, but no birds were observed during periodic checks from 1995 through 2000. Through 2000, the lek site was beyond the required annual monitoring area (existing permit boundary and 1-mile radius) for the Buckskin Mine; the mine surveyed the lek voluntarily during this period. Annual monitoring of the Hay Creek lek resumed from 2001 through 2008. Two displaying males and three hens were seen at the lek on one morning in 2001, but no grouse were present during subsequent checks that year, or in the following seven years. The McGee sage-grouse lek is located beyond the required annual monitoring area for the Buckskin Mine and, therefore, is not included in that monitoring program. A WGFD biologist first recorded the lek in 2001. Biologists with that agency monitored the lek each year through 2005 and again in 2008. The peak male count during that period was the original six birds

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discovered in 2001. No grouse were seen at the McGee sage-grouse lek during three of the six survey years, though the landowner reported birds present there in 2008 (the WGFD count was zero during three separate counts that year). No grouse nests have been encountered in the general analysis area. No grouse broods for either species were recorded in the general analysis area during targeted surveys or incidental to surveys for other species. No sage-grouse have been observed during winter, though site visits occur less often at that time of year. No sharp-tailed grouse have ever been observed on the proposed tract during any season, though flocks of as many as a dozen birds have infrequently been recorded in the general analysis area, feeding in fallow agricultural fields and perched in the tree shelterbelt near the junction of the Collins and McGee county roads in winter. No sharp-tailed grouse have been seen in those locations since at least 2003. As described in section 3.10.1.1, sagebrush habitat is limited to 302 noncontiguous acres in the general analysis area (including 46 noncontiguous acres in the proposed tract; these acreages represent less than 11% of the total vegetative cover for each area. Water sources in the general analysis area are limited to the diverted channel of the ephemeral drainage of Hay Creek, two small impoundments, and a playa. Of those, only one small impoundment is present in the proposed tract itself. All water bodies are seasonal, with water typically present in spring but dry by mid- to late summer.

3.10.6.2 Environmental Consequences
Given the dominant vegetation types in the general analysis area (upland grasslands and agricultural fields) and the lack of regular sightings over the last 25 years of monitoring, especially outside the breeding season, it is unlikely that either the sharp-tailed grouse or sage-grouse is a yearlong resident of the general analysis area. Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have shortterm, minor to moderate impacts on upland game bird populations in the area; no grouse lek sites would be directly affected. Ongoing impacts on potential upland game bird habitats from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No grouse leks, nests, broods, or other signs of use (feathers, droppings, snow tracks) have been documented within the proposed tract during the last 25 years of monitoring. The proposed tract does not provide any unique habitat for these four upland game bird species. The mourning dove is the only species ever recorded in the proposed tract. Mining the proposed tract would affect known habitat for mourning doves, and potential habitat for gray partridge, sharp-tailed grouse, and/or sage-grouse to varying degrees. For example, the prevalence of grasslands and limited presence of surface water in the proposed tract limits its value to sagebrush obligates such as the sage-grouse. The only group of trees (potential habitat for doves and roosting sharp-tailed grouse) in the proposed tract also overlaps the existing permit area and, thus, would be disturbed
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

by previously permitted activities. The upland grasslands that dominate the proposed tract are better suited for gray partridge, an introduced species, but no partridge have been documented in the proposed tract. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by upland grasslands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining conditions. Some evidence has been documented that sage-grouse do repopulate areas after reclaimed shrublands have become established, but that process may take decades (Braun 1998). Estimates for the time it would take to restore shrubs, including sagebrush, to premine density levels range from 20 to 100 years, which may delay sage-grouse repopulation in the reclaimed areas. Once they do return to an area, sage-grouse populations do not appear to attain their previous levels. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on upland game birds and habitat, including grouse lek sites, in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. Those impacts would be short-term and moderate, with disturbance and reclamation occurring incrementally in the area. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. No sage-grouse leks are present in the general analysis area, but one site is approximately 0.5 mile southeast of that area, within the existing mine permit area (map 3.10-1). Three occupied sharp-tailed grouse leks have been or would be affected by previously permitted mine activities under the No Action Alternative. One sharp-tailed grouse lek is located in the overlap between the general analysis area and the permit area (map 3.10-1) and another lek is immediately north of that common area. The third sharp-tailed grouse lek is elsewhere within the Buckskin Mine permit area, approximately 0.75 mile southeast of the general analysis area. No grouse nests or broods for either species have been documented in the overlap between the general analysis area and permit boundary, nor have grouse been observed in that area during winter. Both lek sites outside the general analysis area but within the existing permit area have been or would be affected by previously permitted mine activities on existing leases. The tree windbreak in the overlap between the general analysis area and existing permit area represents potential nesting and/or roosting habitat for mourning doves and sharp-tailed grouse. As described previously, these trees would be impacted by mine disturbance under any of the alternatives considered in this EIS. Little sagebrush is present in the general analysis area, including its overlap with the existing permit area. Therefore, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape.

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Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration, would have short-term, minor to moderate impacts on upland game birds due to their limited documented presence in the area. Impacts on known and potential upland game bird habitats from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No sage-grouse leks occur within the general analysis area (map 3.10-1). The nearest sagegrouse lek (Hay Creek) is within the existing permit area approximately 0.5 mile to the southeast and, thus, is already subject to disturbance from previously permitted activities. The McGee sage-grouse lek is on private surface approximately 1.25 miles north of the general analysis area. That site is on the far side of multiple ridges that provide a visual and audio buffer, and it is not likely to be affected by mine operations. Sage-grouse were last observed at the Hay Creek lek in 2001 and the McGee lek in 2004; both are considered occupied by the WGFD. Two occupied sharp-tailed grouse leks have been documented in the general analysis area over the last 25 years of annual monitoring (map 3.10-1). As described previously, the McGee II lek is in the overlap area with the current permit area and the McGee III lek is immediately north of the overlap area. Due to their locations, those leks have been or would be disturbed by previously permitted mining of existing leases. The McGee I sharp-tailed grouse lek is approximately 0.25 mile north of the general analysis area. It would not be in view of the general analysis area due to the ridgeline that separates the two sites, but it could be affected by noise from within the general analysis area. The Stickel lek is approximately 0.75 mile southeast of the general analysis area and within the existing permit area; this site has been or would be disturbed by previously permitted activities on existing leases. Sharp-tailed grouse were last recorded at the McGee II lek in 2004 and the McGee III lek in 2005. The McGee I lek was last active in 2001, and the Stickel lek in 2002. Disturbance and reclamation activities would be temporary and occur incrementally throughout the area. If mining activities disturb a lek, grouse would have to use an alternate site or establish a new lek for breeding activities. In addition to lek sites, areas of suitable habitat for nesting are needed to sustain sage-grouse populations. One recent study suggests that availability of winter habitat may also affect sage-grouse populations (Naugle et al. 2006). The general analysis area is dominated (71% of total cover) by upland grasslands and agricultural fields, which do not provide the necessary shrub communities for forage and cover. No grouse nests or broods have been documented in the general analysis area, nor have grouse been observed there during winter. Additionally, the general analysis area is not included in or within several miles of either a state sage-grouse core area or BLM sage-grouse focus area, though that does not preclude the need for grouse management when they are present.

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The general analysis area does not provide any unique habitat for these four upland game bird species, and future mine operations would affect existing and potential habitat to varying degrees. As described previously, the prevalence of upland grasslands and the limited presence of surface water reduce the area’s value to sagebrush obligates such as the sage-grouse. The only group of trees (potential habitat for doves and roosting sharp-tailed grouse) in the area that is not adjacent to an occupied or recently vacated residence also overlaps the existing permit area and, thus, would be impacted by previously permitted activities regardless of the leasing decision. The upland grasslands and agricultural fields that dominate the area are well suited for gray partridge, an introduced species to this country, but no partridge have been documented in the general analysis area. Leasing, mining, and reclaiming a tract within the general analysis area would result in permanent, alterations in the topography and long-term changes in vegetative composition from premine conditions. Because the general analysis area is dominated (71%) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats, respectively, compared to those in the premining landscape. Restoration of sagebrush communities that are present could be difficult to accomplish through artificial plantings, and can take decades through natural regeneration. Until sagebrush returns to its premining density, a reduction in potential habitat for wildlife species associated with that habitat would occur in the general analysis area. Some evidence has been documented that sage-grouse do repopulate areas after reclaimed shrublands have become established, but that process may take decades (Braun 1998). Estimates for the time it would take to restore shrubs, including sagebrush, to premine density levels range from 20 to 100 years, which may delay sage-grouse repopulation in the reclaimed areas. Once they do return to an area, sage-grouse populations do not appear to attain their previous levels.

3.10.7

Other Birds

3.10.7.1 Affected Environment
The USFWS uses a list entitled the Coal Mine List of 40 Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming (table 3.10-3) for reviews related to existing and proposed surface coal mining (USFWS 2002). This list was taken directly from the Wyoming Bird Conservation Plan (Cerovski et al. 2001), and was current through 2008. The USFWS considers Level I species as in need of conservation action, which includes having a monitoring and mitigation plan for those birds. Continued monitoring is recommended, but not required, for Level II species.

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Table 3.10-3. Forty Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern for Wyoming Coal Mines: Historical Occurrence and Status in or within 0.5 Mile of the Buckskin Mine Permit Area1 (2006–2008)
Species2
LEVEL I Mountain plover* Charadrius montanus Greater sage-grouse* Centrocercus urophasianus McCown’s longspur* Calcarius mccownii Baird’s sparrow Ammodramus bairdii Ferruginous hawk* Buteo regalis Brewer’s sparrow* Spizella breweri Sage sparrow Amphispiza belli Swainson’s hawk* Buteo swainsoni Long-billed curlew Numenius americanus Short-eared owl* Asio flammeus Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus Burrowing owl* Athene cunicularia Bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus Upland sandpiper* Bartramia longicauda LEVEL II Cassin’s kingbird Tyrannus vociferans Lark bunting* Calamospiza melanocorys Dickcissel Spiza americana Chestnut-collared longspur* Calcarius ornatus Black-chinned hummingbird Archilochus alexandri Pygmy nuthatch Sitta pygmaea never recorded common breeder never recorded rarely recorded never recorded never recorded — presumed breeder — — — — — presumed breeder — — — — — presumed breeder — — — — never recorded occasional breeder rarely observed never recorded historic breeder regular breeder (beyond general analysis area) never recorded rare breeder infrequent spring migrant infrequently observed never recorded rare breeder occasional in winter infrequently observed — potential breeder — — — presumed breeder — — — breeder — — limited winter resident — — — observed — — presumed breeder — potential breeder — — — — limited winter resident — — — — — observed presumed breeder — — — observed — — limited winter resident —

Historical Occurrence in the Vicinity of the Buckskin Mine3

2006

2007

2008

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Historical Occurrence in the Vicinity of the Buckskin Mine3
never recorded never recorded rarely observed occasional breeder never recorded never recorded never recorded never recorded	 never recorded never recorded never recorded never recorded occasional breeder common breeder occasional breeder never recorded	 never recorded rarely observed never recorded never recorded

Species2
Marsh wren	 Cistothorus palustris Western bluebird	 Sialia mexicana Sage thrasher*	 Oreoscoptes montanus Grasshopper sparrow* Ammodramus savannarum Bobolink	 Dolichonyx oryzivorus Common loon	 Gavia immer Black-billed cuckoo 	 Coccyzus erythropthalmus Red-headed woodpecker Melanerpes erthrocephalus Yellow-billed cuckoo 	 Coccyzus americanus Eastern screech-owl 	 Megascops asio Western screech-owl 	 Megascops kennicottii Western scrub-jay	 Aphelocoma coerulescens Loggerhead shrike* 	 Lanius ludovicianus Vesper sparrow* 	 Pooecetes gramineus Lark sparrow*	 Chondestes grammacus Ash-throated flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens Bushtit	 Psaltriparus minimus Merlin*	 Falco columbarius Sprague’s pipit Anthus spragueii Barn owl 	 Tyto alba
1	

2006
— — — potential breeder — — — — — — — — potential breeder presumed breeder — — — — — —

2007
— — observed once potential breeder — — — — — — — — potential breeder presumed breeder potential breeder — — — — —

2008
— — — presumed breeder — — — — — — — — — presumed breeder — — — — — —

The survey area for the Buckskin Mine overlapped the entire proposed tract and much of the general analysis area in most years (from 1984-2008). Both areas were completely covered during baseline studies conducted from 2007 through 2008. Species are arranged in descending priority within each level as assigned in the Wyoming Bird Conservation Plan (Cerovski et al. 2001). Level I indicates a clear need for conservation action. Level II represents a need for continued monitoring.

2	

3	

Historical occurrence in the Buckskin Mine survey area is based on records from baseline or monitoring studies conducted at the mine (1984-2008). * 	 Species noted with an asterisk regularly nest in the Powder River Basin.

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The Buckskin Mine has conducted specific surveys for migratory birds of concern annually since at least 1993, incorporating new lists and survey protocols (breeding bird point counts) as they were issued. These surveys have been conducted in both spring and summer to detect both migrating and breeding birds. Beginning in 2006, annual point count surveys for breeding bird (primarily passerines) were conducted per a request by the USFWS Ecological Services Office in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Survey efforts used a fixed-radius circular plot method adapted from Reynolds et al. (1980). Although these surveys are not included in either Appendix B, results are included in the annual for the Buckskin Mine each year. These survey methods and areas are in accordance with the USFWS approved Avian Monitoring and Mitigation Plan for the Buckskin Mine. As described in section 3.10.2, the annual monitoring survey area for most migratory bird species of concern includes the existing permit area and a 0.5-mile radius. Because they are protected under one or more federal laws, the survey area for bald eagles and other raptor species is expanded to a 1-mile radius. The annual monitoring survey area for sage-grouse is also a 1-mile radius, but leks within 3 miles of the general analysis area were considered for this EIS to meet BLM concerns about this species. Due to the proximity of the general analysis area to the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, the entire tract has been included in annual surveys for avian species of concern since at least 1993, with significant coverage in the general analysis area during that period. Results from surveys conducted for migratory birds at the Buckskin Mine are available in baseline and annual wildlife reports, on file with the WDEQ/LQD in Sheridan, Wyoming. Those reports include a tabulation of the regional status, expected occurrence, historical observations, and breeding records for each species on the current list of avian species of concern for a given report year, as well as two or more preceding years; additional information for each species observed in a given year is also included in each report. Table 3.10-3 provides a tabulation of the regional status and expected occurrence, historical observations, and breeding records for each of the species on the “Coal Mine List of 40 Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming,” based on a compilation of the results of the annual surveys conducted for the Buckskin Mine from 2006 through 2008. Eighteen of the 40 listed species have historically been observed in the migratory bird survey area, though they may not have been seen in the general analysis area: 10 Level I species and 8 Level II species. None of the Level I species regularly breed in the general analysis area, though they are often recorded elsewhere in the survey area. Twenty-two of the 40 avian species of concern have never been recorded in the general analysis area or Buckskin Mine permit area: 4 Level I and 18 Level II species. Some raptor species of management concern, including species that nest in the general analysis area, are discussed in section 3.10.5. Sage-grouse are discussed in section 3.10.6. The most frequently recorded nesting species in the migratory bird survey area are the lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), and grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum). All three of those species are considered Level II. The

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Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), a Level I species, often nests in sagebrush stands in unmined portions of the existing permit area, beyond the general analysis area. Five additional species have nested (including failed attempts) less often in the area, including the Swainson’s hawk, sage-grouse, short-eared owl, loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), and lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus); the grouse and both raptor species are considered Level I. The bald eagle is only observed in the winter or as a migrant. The other eight species have been observed infrequently (table 3.10-3). The mountain plover is included on the “Coal Mine List of 40 Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming.” The USFWS proposed listing the mountain plover as a threatened species in February 1999 but withdrew the proposal in September 2003 (USFWS 2008). The agency continues to encourage provisions that would provide protection for this species, as it continues to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a sensitive species under BLM policy (Bureau Manual 6840.06 E. Sensitive Species). This species has not been documented in within the migratory bird survey area; nor was it documented during other wildlife surveys conducted for the Buckskin Mine. Bald eagles are relatively common winter residents and migrants in northeastern Wyoming’s PRB. No bald eagle winter roosts have ever been documented in the bald eagle survey area, though potential winter roosting habitat for this species is present. That habitat consists of isolated cottonwood shelterbelts in the general analysis area, as described in section 3.9. No known bald eagle nests, or consistent yearly concentrated prey or carrion sources (e.g., sheep, fisheries) for bald eagles have been documented in the bald eagle survey area. The bald eagle was more common and abundant in the area during winters from 2004 through 2007 than in previous years. This may have been a result of mild winters and the abundance of lagomorphs (rabbits) to prey upon. Bald eagles also scavenged road-killed rabbits off of adjacent roads. Rabbit numbers appeared to be at or near a peak in their cycle during those years. During those winters, one or two bald eagles occasionally used the shelterbelt is in the overlap area between the general analysis area and existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Bald eagles had never been observed concentrating in this windbreak during the previous two decades of wildlife surveys. No bald eagles have ever been documented in the tree shelterbelt around the recently vacated residence near the junction of the Collins and McGee roads in the general analysis area, or the shelterbelt surrounding the occupied residence between the two roads. A single adult bald eagle was observed once perched in an isolated cottonwood just south of the latter residence. As noted, bald eagle sightings within the Buckskin Mine survey area averaged only 0.5 per year over the last 25 years (1984–2008). The burrowing owl is uncommon at the Buckskin Mine and has never been observed in the general analysis area. This species is an infrequent breeder in the prairie dog colony just beyond the northeastern corner of the general analysis area. The sage-grouse was recently added to the Level I list of avian species of concern at coal mines. This species is becoming less common in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine, as described in section 3.10.6. No sage-grouse leks are present in the general analysis area, and sage-grouse
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have not been recorded in either area during the last 25 years of annual monitoring. Both areas are dominated by upland grassland habitats, with only 11% (46 and 302 noncontiguous acres, respectively) of their areas comprised of sagebrush habitats. Suitable nesting habitat is scarce if not absent in the general analysis area for the remainder of the “Coal Mine List of 40 Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern in Wyoming;” therefore, the other species have rarely or never been recorded. Under natural conditions, limited seasonal waterfowl and shorebird habitat is present in the general analysis area. Prior to CBNG development, the natural aquatic habitat in the general analysis area was mainly available during spring migration as a single ephemeral stream, two stock impoundments, and a closed-basin playa. All of these water features generally were quite low or dry after spring. The relatively recent development of CBNG resources upstream and within the general analysis area has enhanced surface water availability to some degree resulting in a limited increase in habitat for waterfowl and shorebird species. However, all water bodies within the general analysis area continue to be dry or nearly so by mid-summer in most years; exceptions occur during years with above average precipitation. The adjacent Buckskin Mine has conducted a voluntary program of waterfowl and shorebird monitoring at various native and reclaimed water bodies in the existing permit area. Multiple surveys were conducted in spring and summer each year since 2004. Those surveys did not include the playa located between the Collins and McGee roads, the largest and most persistent water body in the general analysis area, but it did include a similar playa in the mine permit area, approximately 1.25 miles south of the general analysis area. Both playas have been enhanced by CBNG discharge water in recent years. Common species seen at the playa within the permit area include the Canada goose (Branta Canadensis), American wigeon (Anas Americana), blue-winged teal (Anas discors), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), northern pintail (Anas acuta), northern shoveler (Anas clypeata), gadwall (Anas strepera), and green-winged teal (Anas crecca), along with common shorebirds such as the killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) and spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia). Similar species have been or would be expected to be recorded at the playa in the general analysis area.

3.10.7.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have no new impacts on migratory bird species of management concern in Wyoming; impacts on waterfowl and shorebirds would be negligible. Ongoing impacts from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate; these impacts are short-term and minor to moderate, and occur incrementally through the area. None of the 18 migratory bird species of management concern for Wyoming coal mines that have historically been observed in the migratory bird survey area are regularly seen in the
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proposed tract. The upland grasslands that dominate the tract lack the specific characteristics (shrubs, wetlands, prairie dog colonies, or shorter, less dense grasses) typically associated with most Level I species that have historically been recorded in the area. No sage-grouse leks are present in the proposed tract. The bald eagle is the only avian species of concern that has been recorded in the proposed tract. This species has been documented fewer than 0.5 times per year in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine, with even fewer observations in the tree grove in the overlap between the proposed tract and existing permit area. That shelterbelt is already subject to mine related disturbance from previously permitted activities on existing leases. Additional potential impacts on the sage-grouse and raptors in general, as well as measures in place to prevent impacts on these species from existing mining operations, were included in the preceding discussions. The Proposed Action could have impacts on existing habitat for these species in the proposed tract and buffer. The habitat loss would be short-term for grassland species, but would last longer for shrub-dependent species. However, with less than 11% of the total composition, sagebrush is not a dominant species in those areas. Reclamation practices at Buckskin are designed to provide a mosaic of upland and bottomland habitats that would potentially host most of these species. All disturbance and reclamation efforts would occur incrementally throughout the area. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by upland grassland communities, the establishment of reclaimed grasslands after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape. Periodic breeding bird surveys at other surface mines with similar habitats in the region since the mid-1980s have demonstrated that species richness and abundance in reclaimed habitats are equal to or greater than in their native counterparts, though species composition may not be the same due to differences between premining and postmining vegetation. Additionally, surface coal mines in the PRB of northeastern Wyoming are required to replace each tree lost to mining, though it will take many years for newly planted trees to reach maturity. Research projects on habitat reclamation on mined lands within the PRB for small mammals and birds concluded that the diversity of song birds on reclaimed areas was less than on adjacent undisturbed areas, although their overall numbers were greater (Clayton et al. 2006; Shelley 1992). No impacts on mountain plovers are anticipated because this species has never been documented in its survey area in the last 25 years of monitoring. Additionally, typical suitable habitat (short and sparse vegetation) for this species is not present in the general analysis area. The Proposed Action would have a negligible effect on migrating and breeding waterfowl and shorebirds due to the limited presence and seasonal nature of open water and wetland habitats in the area. Sedimentation ponds created during mining would provide interim habitat for aquatic fauna. The current reclamation plan for the Buckskin Mine requires that the segment of the Hay Creek channel in the northern portion of the general analysis area affected by currently permitted mining be reclaimed to restore its premining functions and aquatic habitats. The diversion channel and other future diversions would not provide the same habitat as the natural channels, although natural stream flow and the presence of CBNG discharge water would not be affected. Mitigation for all impacts on jurisdictional wetlands would be required in accordance with
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section 404 of the Clean Water Act (section 3.7). If new wetlands do not duplicate the exact function and/or landscape features of the premine wetlands, species associated with those habitats could be beneficially or adversely affected as a result, depending on their premine status. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3. Few avian species of concern have been recorded in the overlap area itself, so impacts are expected to be negligible. No trees or unique habitat features occur in that area other than Hay Creek, which has already been diverted during previously permitted activities. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration would have no new impacts on migratory bird species of management concern in Wyoming; impacts on waterfowl and shorebirds would be negligible. Impacts would be the same as or similar to those described under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. None of the 18 migratory bird species of management concern for Wyoming coal mines that have historically been observed in the vicinity are regularly seen in the general analysis area. The upland grasslands and agricultural lands that dominate the area lack the specific characteristics (shrubs, wetlands, prairie dog colonies, or shorter, less dense grasses) typically associated with most Level I species that have historically been recorded in the area. No sage-grouse leks are present in the general analysis area; the lone sage-grouse lek in the immediate vicinity is located in the existing permit area and, thus, is already subject to previously permitted disturbances. Fewer than 0.5 bald eagle sightings per year have been recorded in the entire Buckskin survey area that overlaps the general analysis area. The tree grove where bald eagles have occasionally been observed is in the overlap with the existing permit area, which is already scheduled for eventual disturbance associated with previously permitted activities. Additional potential impacts on the sage-grouse, bald eagle, and raptors in general, as well as measures in place to prevent impacts on these species from existing mining operations, were included in the preceding discussions. Impacts on existing habitats for these species would be short-term for grassland species, but would last longer for shrub-dependent species. However, with less than 11% of the total composition, sagebrush is not a dominant species in the general analysis area. Reclamation practices at Buckskin are designed to provide a mosaic of upland and bottomland habitats that would potentially host most of these species. All disturbance and reclamation activities would occur incrementally throughout the area. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by
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upland grassland and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grasslands after mining has been completed would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape. Periodic breeding bird surveys at other surface mines with similar habitats in the region since the mid-1980s have demonstrated that species richness and abundance in reclaimed habitats are equal to or greater than in their native counterparts, though species composition may not be the same due to differences between premining and postmining vegetation. Additionally, surface coal mines in the PRB of northeastern Wyoming are required to replace each tree lost to mining, though it will take many years for newly planted trees to reach maturity. Research projects on habitat reclamation on mined lands within the PRB for small mammals and birds concluded that the diversity of song birds on reclaimed areas was less than on adjacent undisturbed areas, although their overall numbers were greater (Clayton et al. 2006; Shelley 1992). No impacts on mountain plovers are anticipated because this species has never been documented in its survey area in the last 25 years of monitoring. Additionally, typical suitable habitat (short and sparse vegetation) for this species is not present in the general analysis area. Alternative 2 would have a negligible effect on migrating and breeding waterfowl and shorebirds due to the limited presence and seasonal nature of this habitat in the area. Sedimentation ponds created during mining would provide interim habitat for aquatic fauna. The current reclamation plan for the Buckskin Mine requires that the segment of the Hay Creek channel in the northern portion of the general analysis area affected by currently permitted mining be reclaimed to restore its premining functions and aquatic habitats. The diversion channel and other future diversions would not provide the same habitat as the natural channels, although natural streamflow and the presence of CBNG discharge water would not be affected. Mitigation for all impacts on jurisdictional wetlands would be required in accordance with section 404 of the Clean Water Act (section 3.7). If the mitigated wetlands do not duplicate the exact function and/or landscape features of the premine wetlands, species associated with those habitats could be beneficially or adversely affected as a result, depending on their premine status. Only three shelterbelts are present in the general analysis area. One stand is in the overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and the other two surround currently or recently occupied residences.

3.10.8

Amphibians, Reptiles, and Aquatic Species

3.10.8.1 Affected Environment
Wildlife surveys completed specifically for the Buckskin Mine and adjacent mines, as well as biological research projects in the eastern PRB, have documented numerous other wildlife species that inhabit the region, including various amphibians, reptiles, and aquatic species. Some of these species are common inhabitants of the wildlife survey area for the Buckskin Mine, but they have not necessarily been regularly observed in the general analysis area.

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Reptile and amphibian species have been recorded during the various surveys at the Buckskin Mine and on adjacent lands, including the general analysis area. These species include the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), great plains toad (Bufo cognatus), boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris triseriata maculata), eastern short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassi brevirostre), prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis), and bullsnake (Pituophis melanoleucas sayi). The abundance of these reptiles and amphibians is difficult to determine but these species appear to be common to the area. Under natural conditions, aquatic habitat is limited by the temporary nature of most surface waters in the general analysis area. The lack of deep-water habitat and extensive and persistent water sources within that region precludes the presence and diversity of fish and other aquatic species. Consequently, monitoring of aquatic species is not regularly conducted at the Buckskin Mine, and fish surveys were not required or conducted specifically for the proposed tract. The scarcity of mesic habitats throughout the majority of the wildlife survey area for the Buckskin Mine also reduces the potential of the area to attract aquatic species. Recent influxes of CBNG discharge water into Hay Creek has provided extended periods of surface water in some, but not all, of the last few years.

3.10.8.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract (419 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in the buffer area to the north would have short-term, negligible to minor impacts on reptiles, with short-term, negligible impacts on amphibians and aquatic species. Ongoing impacts from current facilities and mining techniques would be the same as those described above under “Affected Environment,” but would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Mining the proposed tract would remove habitat for amphibians and reptiles in some areas. Disturbance and reclamation activities would occur incrementally throughout the area. Due to the limited presence of water in the area, no fisheries and few, if any, other aquatic species would be impacted. Because the proposed tract is dominated (71%) by upland grassland communities, the establishment of reclaimed grasslands after mining would not result in a dramatic change in habitat types from the premining landscape. Under jurisdiction of the Buckskin Mine’s current WDEQ/LQD mine permit, Hay Creek has already been diverted to recover coal from the existing coal leases (section 3.5.2.1). This diversion does not impact the proposed tract. The aquatic resources of Hay Creek would be restored after mining to approximate premining conditions. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Impacts on reptiles, amphibians, and

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aquatic species within the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area, and would be associated with activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, as described in section 1.1.3.3; those impacts would be negligible to minor, depending on the species. Disturbance and reclamation activities would occur incrementally throughout the area. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Water resources in the overlap area are not sufficient to support fisheries and few, if any, other aquatic species would be impacted. Under jurisdiction of the Buckskin Mine’s current WDEQ/LQD mine permit, Hay Creek has already been diverted to recover coal from the existing coal leases (section 3.5.2.1). This diversion affects the northern part of the overlap between the general analysis area and existing permit area. The aquatic resources of Hay Creek would be restored after mining to approximate premining conditions. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area (up to 1,883 acres) and mining support activities (described in section 1.1.3.3.) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration would have short-term negligible to minor impacts on reptiles, and short-term negligible impacts on amphibians and aquatic resources. Impacts would be the same as or similar to those described under the Proposed Action, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Mining in the general analysis area would remove habitat for amphibians and reptiles in some areas. Disturbance and reclamation activities would occur incrementally throughout the area. Due to the limited presence of water in the area, no fisheries and few, if any, other aquatic species would be impacted. Because the general analysis area is dominated (71% combined) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats, respectively, compared to those in the premining landscape. Under jurisdiction of the Buckskin Mine’s current WDEQ/LQD mine permit, Hay Creek has already been diverted to recover coal from the existing coal leases (section 3.5.2.1). This diversion does not impact the proposed tract, but it does span the northern part of the general analysis area. The aquatic resources of Hay Creek would be restored after mining to approximate premining conditions.

3.10.9	

Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Candidate Animal Species, and BLM Sensitive Species

Appendix I of this document contains the biological assessment, and appendix J contains a discussion of the sensitive species evaluation.

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3.10.10 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation and Monitoring
Regulatory guidelines and requirements designed to prevent or reduce surface coal mining impacts on wildlife include: „ fencing designed to permit passage of pronghorn and other big game species to the extent possible; „ development of a monitoring and mitigation plan for raptors and other migratory bird species of management concern that must be approved by the USFWS, including the following provisions: •	 creating raptor nests and nesting habitat through enhancement efforts (nest platforms, tree plantings) to mitigate other nest sites impacted by mining operations; •	 relocating raptor nests that would be impacted by mining in accordance with the 
 approved raptor monitoring and mitigation plan; 
 •	 obtaining a permit for removal and mitigation of golden eagle nests and those of other raptor species; •	 restricting mine-related disturbances from encroaching within stipulated buffers of active raptor nests from egg-laying until fledging to prevent nest abandonment and injury to eggs or young; •	 reestablishing ground cover necessary for the return of a suitable raptor prey base after mining; •	 requiring use of raptor-safe construction for overhead power lines; „ development of a Migratory Bird Species of Management Concern for Coal Mines in Wyoming Monitoring and Mitigation Plan, which must be approved by USFWS; „ restoring sage-grouse habitat after mining including reestablishing sagebrush and other shrubs on reclaimed lands and grading reclaimed lands to create swales and depressions suitable for sagebrush obligates and their young; „ restoring diverse landforms, replacing topsoil, and constructing brush piles, snags, and rock piles to enhance habitat for wildlife; „ restoring short-grass habitat for species that nest and forage in those habitat types; „ restoring habitat provided by jurisdictional wetlands; and „ reclaiming the stream channels and restoring surface water flow quantity and quality after mining to approximate premining conditions. The current permit for the Buckskin Mine requires reconstruction of bed form features in major stream channels, such as pools and runs, that should help restore the channels’ natural function, as well as provide habitat. Restoration will be or may be achieved by salvaging sufficient material from channel terrace alluvium or material having the same physical characteristics to reconstruct pool features. Current reclamation, as well as future reclamation of Hay Creek would incorporate any alluvium salvaged from the original channel. These measures are

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included in the existing mining and reclamation permit and would be included in the amended mining and reclamation plans, if either of the action alternatives is implemented. Baseline wildlife surveys were conducted for the adjacent Buckskin Mine before mining operations began. Annual wildlife monitoring surveys have been conducted since the mid-1980s. These surveys are required by state and federal regulations, and will continue for the life of the mine; the annual survey area would be expanded to accommodate new coal leases, as needed. The mine has also voluntarily conducted annual and/or periodic surveys for additional species that are not included in the monitoring required by state or federal regulations. The wildlife monitoring surveys cover the areas included in the mine permit areas and a surrounding perimeter that varies in size according to the species being surveyed. As a result, the entire proposed tract and most of the surrounding general analysis area have been surveyed as part of the required monitoring surveys for the Buckskin Mine for many years. The annual monitoring programs include: „ spring surveys for new and/or occupied raptor nests, upland game bird lek locations, threatened and endangered species, and migratory birds; „ late spring surveys of raptor production for occupied nests, opportunistic observations of all wildlife species, threatened and endangered species, and migratory birds; „ raptor territorial occupancy and nest productivity surveyed annually in and within a 1- or 2-mile radius of the existing permit areas; „ summer surveys for raptors, migratory birds, and lagomorph density; „ winter surveys for bald eagle winter roosts in and within 1 mile of the permit area (conducted as needed based on proximity of disturbance to potential roosting habitat); „ voluntary winter surveys for big game in and surrounding the permit area (currently conducted during alternate years); „ voluntary aquatic surveys for fish and macro-invertebrates in the existing permit area (previous annual schedule, currently conducted during alternate years); „ voluntary annual surveys for migrating and nesting waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water obligate avian species; and „ breeding bird surveys (now required annually at all mines). Monitoring data were collected by all of the surface coal mines in the PRB for big game species from at least 1995 until 1999, with most mines conducting annual surveys since the mid- to late 1980s until the early 2000s. In 1999, the WGFD reviewed monitoring data and requirements for big game species on those mine sites. They concluded that monitoring had demonstrated a lack of impacts on big game on existing mine sites. No severe mine-caused mortalities had occurred, and no long-lasting impacts on big game had been noted on existing mine sites. The WGFD recommended at that time that big game monitoring be discontinued on all existing mine sites. New mines will be required to conduct big game monitoring if located in crucial winter range or

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in significant migration corridors, neither of which are present within the proposed tract or general analysis area. Although big game surveys are no longer required as part of the annual wildlife monitoring program at the Buckskin Mine, Kiewit has voluntarily continued these surveys on a reduced but regular schedule. The Buckskin Mine currently operates under a raptor monitoring and mitigation plan approved by the USFWS. This plan would be amended to include the final tract configuration if additional coal reserves are leased and proposed for mining. The amended raptor mitigation plan would be subject to review and approval by USFWS before the amended mining plan is approved. A monitoring and mitigation plan for migratory bird species of management concern has also been developed in cooperation with USFWS for the existing Buckskin mining operation, and that plan would be amended to include the final tract configuration. If additional species are documented nesting or using the area regularly, a mitigation plan would be developed to protect those birds and their habitat.

3.10.11 Residual Impacts
Although the lands disturbed by future mining would be reclaimed in accordance with the requirements of SMCRA and Wyoming statutes, some residual wildlife impacts would occur. The reduction in topographic variety would result in a permanent loss of habitat diversity and a potential decrease in slope-dependent shrub communities. This would reduce the carrying capacity of the land for shrub-dependent species. Limited riparian and aquatic habitats are present in the general analysis area. Areas that currently support sagebrush would be altered to a grassland community, perhaps for decades, during the interim between sage plantings and maturity in reclamation. Until premining habitats have been fully reestablished, such habitat transformations would likely result in a change in wildlife species composition. Those species may repopulate reclaimed areas, but populations may not attain premining levels. The limited presence of sagebrush communities in the general analysis area would help minimize such residual impacts. Minimal residual impacts on threatened and endangered, candidate, or proposed plant and animal species would occur, because few such species have ever been recorded in the general analysis area, and state and federal regulations require reclamation of specific habitats important for these species.

3.11 Land Use and Recreation
This section discusses the affected environment and environmental consequences in the general analysis area as they relate to surface and mineral ownership, land use (private and industrial), and recreation, including impacts resulting from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.11.1

Affected Environment

Campbell County does not have a countywide land use plan, but has been working on a comprehensive land use plan jointly with the City of Gillette. The City of Gillette’s land use

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plan, City of Gillette/Campbell County Comprehensive Planning Program, provides general goals and policies for land use in the county, including state and federal coal leases, and is an integral part of the overall plan for Campbell County (City of Gillette 1978). The proposed lease area does not have a designated zoning classification. The entire surface of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and general analysis area is privately owned by individuals or companies (map 3.11-1), while most of the subsurface minerals (all of the coal and the majority of oil and gas reserves) are federally owned (map 3.11-2). All oil and gas production facilities located in the proposed tract are privately owned; facilities in the rest of the general analysis area under a mix of federal and private ownership. Section 3.11.1.1 provides additional information about mineral ownership. Wildlife habitat and livestock grazing are the primary present and historical land uses in the general analysis area. Secondary land uses include pastureland (ranching), dryland cropland, transportation, and CBNG development. Coal mining at the Buckskin Mine is and has been the dominant land use to the east and south of the general analysis area since the mid-1980s. In addition to existing surface disturbance associated with the Buckskin Mine, the general analysis area includes small crop areas, two Campbell County roads (the Collins and McGee roads), several overhead electric transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, and three residences. Only one of the three residences is currently occupied. U.S. Highway 14-16 lies approximately 1 mile southwest of the general analysis area; it is accessed from the general analysis area via the Collins Road. The Collins Road forms the western boundary of the proposed tract, crossing vertically through the western part of the general analysis area. At its intersection with the McGee Road, it continues to the north while the McGee Road angles to the northeast. Wyoming Highway 59 is approximately 2 miles east of the general analysis area; no public access connects that highway with the general analysis area. Section 3.15 provides additional details about transportation facilities in the general analysis area.

3.11.1.1 Oil and Gas Production
Oil and gas estates in the general analysis area fall under a mix of federal and private ownership (map 3.11-2). Table 3.11-1 shows the breakdown of ownership in the proposed tract and BLM study area.

Table 3.11-1.	 Distribution of Oil and Gas Ownership in the Proposed Tract and BLM Study Area
Federal Ownership
Proposed tract BLM study area 251.1 acres 806.5 acres 60% 43%

Private Ownership
167.9 acres 1,076.5 acres 40% 57%

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0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.11-1 Surface Ownership in the General Analysis Area

  

0

2,500 feet


5,000


 

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.11-2 Oil and Gas Ownership, Leases, and Facilities in the General Analysis Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Table 3.11-2 lists the current (May 2008) federal oil and gas lessees in the general analysis area.

Table 3.11-2. Current Federal Oil and Gas Leases in the General Analysis Area
Lease Number
T52N R72W WYW 134209 WYW 138419 Section 17; Lots 1,9 Section 17; Lots 6,7,10,11,14 Section 19; Lots 11,13–15, 19, 20 Section 20; Lots 3,6,10,11 Section 9; Lots 9,10 And other lands outside of BLM study area Expired 10/31/06, closed 3/19/2007 Relinquished 2/6/2008, closed 2/12/2008

Location

Lessees of Record

WYW 146781

Majestic Petroleum Operations LLC Preston Reynolds & Co., Inc. Redstone Resources Inc. Storm Cat Energy (Powder River) LLC Woodward Enterprises LLC Majestic Petroleum Operations LLC Preston Reynolds & Co., Inc. Redstone Resources Inc. Storm Cat Energy (Powder River) LLC Woodward Enterprises LLC Van K. Bullock Terminated 8/8/2008 Devon Energy Production Co. L.P. Majestic Petroleum Operations LLC Redstone Resources Inc. Woodward Enterprises LLC

WYW 146782

Section 7; Lots 13,20 Section 8; Lots 10-16

WYW 154928 WYW 144486 T52N R73W WYW 130063

Section 17; Lots 2–4 Section 19; Lot 10 Section 2; Lots 7,10,12,18

According to Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records (May 2008), no permitted, operating conventional oil wells are located in the general analysis area. The Supreme Court has ruled (98-830) that CBNG, previously referred to as coal bed methane or CBM, belongs to the owner of the oil and gas estate. As of May 2008, 30 permits had been issued for drilled or proposed well sites on lands in the BLM study area itself. Of those, 12 have expired without drilling, 3 are reported as plugged and abandoned, and 15 are currently producing. In the portion of the general analysis area outside of the BLM study area (in the 0.25-mile-wide buffer) another 12 wells are producing CBNG. Additional information relative to conventional oil and gas and CBNG development in the general analysis area is included in section 3.3.2. When surface rights are in private ownership and the rights to develop the mineral resources (e.g., underlying oil and gas estates) are publicly held and managed by the federal government, it is referred to as a split estate. In split estates, mineral rights are considered dominant, taking precedence over other rights associated with the property, including surface ownership. The mineral owner must show due regard for the interests of the surface owner and occupy only those portions of the surface that are reasonably necessary to develop the mineral estate (BLM 2009a).

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Under FLPMA, the BLM is mandated to manage public lands under a multiple-use approach, including the federal mineral estate, to enhance the quality of life for all present and future generations. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 guides the land use planning, leasing, bonding, operations, and reclamation associated with all development of federal oil and natural gas resources. Various laws granted land patents to private individuals but reserved the mineral rights for the federal government. The BLM must comply with the provisions of the laws under which the surface was patented; however, many of those laws do not identify the rights of the surface owner in split estate mineral development situations (BLM 2009a). Numerous ancillary facilities exist in support of current oil, gas, and CBNG development in the general analysis area. This supporting infrastructure may include well access roads; well pads; surface or underground production equipment at the wellheads; well production casing that extends from the surface to the production zone; underground gas-gathering lines and high-pressure transmission pipelines; facilities for the treatment, discharge, disposal, containment, or injection of produced water; metering and compressor stations; and electrical overhead or underground power lines to energize pumps and compressors. Because CBNG development and production have been occurring near the Buckskin Mine for many years, some of these facilities, particularly pipelines, lie within the general analysis area (section 3.15). Section 3.3.2 and section 3.11.1 address producing, abandoned, and shut-in oil and gas (conventional and CBNG) wells in the general analysis area; appendix E (table of permitted oil/gas wells) discusses these features within 3 miles of the general analysis area. Well location information, oil and gas ownership and oil and gas lease information are presented on map 3.11-2 and in table 3.11-2. The BLM manages federal lands on a multiple-use basis, in accordance with federal regulations. In response to conflicts between oil and gas and coal lease holders, BLM policy advocates optimizing the recovery of all minerals to ensure that the public receives a reasonable return for these publicly owned resources. Optimal recovery of coal and oil and gas resources requires negotiation and cooperation between the oil and gas lessees and the coal lessees. In the past, negotiations between some applicant mines and existing oil and gas lessees have resulted in agreements that allowed development of both resources on portions of recently issued LBA tracts. In the PRB, royalties have been and would be lost to both the state and federal governments if federally owned CBNG is not recovered prior to mining, or if federal coal is not recovered due to conflicts between lessees. State and federal governments can lose bonus money when the costs of the agreements between the lessees are factored into the fair market value determinations.

3.11.1.2 Coal Mining
South and east of the general analysis area, coal mining is the dominant land use. The mines in this area—Buckskin, Rawhide, Eagle Butte, Dry Fork, and Wyodak—form a contiguous development area from the northernmost mine (Buckskin) to the Wyodak mine located just outside and immediately east of the City of Gillette. This cluster of mines represents the northernmost group of developed coal mines in Campbell County. The permitted coal production rate at the Buckskin Mine is currently 42 million tons; actual production in 2007 was

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25.3 million tons, representing an increase of approximately 11% over the 22.8 million tons produced in 2006. The other four coal mines are permitted for a combined total annual production of 86 million tons, and reported a total actual production in 2007 of 52.4 million tons. The Hay Creek II lease application is the only LBA currently pending in this group of mines. Eagle Butte’s West LBA (WYW-155132) was the last lease granted to a mine in the group.

3.11.1.3 Recreation
Big game hunting (pronghorn, mule deer, and white-tailed deer) is the principal recreational land use within approximately 3 miles of the general analysis area (recreation analysis area) (section 3.10). Surface land ownership in the PRB is approximately 80% private, and hunting is allowed only with the landowner's permission. The WGFD reports that limited hunter access to private lands has become a primary issue in providing hunting opportunities and controlling optimal harvest levels and distribution (WGFD 2008a). During the past two or three decades, landowners have been increasingly reluctant to allow sportsmen to freely cross and hunt on their lands, thus reducing the amount of private lands that are open and reasonably available for hunting. Access fees are commonly levied and continue to rise. Most of the private land in the recreation analysis area is leased to professional outfitters catering to nonresident hunters. In general, USDA-FS- or BLM-managed public lands in Wyoming, as well as state-owned school sections, are open to hunting if legal access is available. Due to safety concerns, however, publicly owned surface lands contained in active mining areas are closed to the public. No public lands are included in the recreation analysis area. In addition to access, WGFD (2008) cites that drought, severe winters, and increased incidents of poaching have diminished the hunting opportunities for deer and pronghorn in the recreation analysis area during the past decade. The WGFD classifies most of the recreation analysis area as yearlong habitat for pronghorn. None of the area is classified as severe winter range, crucial, or critical habitat, and no migration corridors have been identified. The recreation analysis area is in pronghorn hunt area 17, which is within the Gillette pronghorn herd unit. During the 2007 season, harvest from this herd unit (including all animals harvested in hunt areas 17, 18, and 19) included 958 bucks, 533 does, and 0 fawns (a total of 1,481 pronghorn). Post-season population estimated for the same pronghorn herd unit in 2007 numbered 16,823, which is well above the objective (11,000) for the herd (WGFD 2008a). The WGFD has classified the lands in the recreation analysis area as a mix of yearlong and winter/yearlong range for mule deer. No winter, crucial, or critical mule deer habitat or migration corridors have been identified in this area. The recreation analysis area is located in mule deer hunt area 18, part of the Powder River mule deer herd unit, which also includes hunt areas 17, 23, and 26. During the 2007 season, harvest from this herd unit (in hunt area 18) included 657 bucks, 255 does, and 0 fawns (a total of 912 mule deer out of 1,553 active licenses issued). Total harvest for the Powder River mule deer herd unit included 2,590 bucks, 1,076 does, and 44 fawns (a total of 3,710). The 2007 post-season population estimate was 49,560 with a herd management objective of 52,000. The WGFD believes that, because
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outfitters lease much of the private land in this herd unit and hunting antlered bucks is encouraged, the buck/doe ratios are skewed, and additional pressure is placed on any accessible public lands. The WGFD manages white-tailed deer separately from mule deer. This species is rarely seen in the recreation analysis area because white-tailed deer prefer riparian areas and irrigated agricultural lands (WGFD 2008). The entire area is outside of any white-tailed hunting area authorized by WGFD; therefore, no licenses may be issued or filled. Rare sightings of elk have been confirmed in recreation analysis area. No elk hunt areas have been assigned in Campbell County. The closest is the Fortification area herd approximately 18 miles southwest of the mine, and another in the Rochelle Hills near the Thunder Basin National Grasslands, approximately 70 miles southeast of the general analysis area. Upland game birds (e.g., turkeys, grouse) inhabit some parts of the recreation analysis area. Hunting opportunities are limited because of lack of habitat and restricted access to private lands. The turkey hunting seasons are spring and fall, while other upland game birds are hunted only in fall. No sport fisheries exist in the recreation analysis area.

3.11.2

Environmental Consequences

3.11.2.1 Proposed Action
Under the Proposed Action, all existing oil and gas surface and downhole production and transportation equipment and facilities in the proposed tract would be removed, and all oil and gas development in the tract would be stopped during mining and reclamation activities. Oil and gas development in the proposed tract could resume after reclamation is complete and the bond is released (approximately 10 years). Deeper conventional oil and gas could be reestablished, and coal seams deeper than those intended for mining would also be available for CBNG development in the postmine environment. Existing coal and transportation activities, infrastructure, and facilities would continue to operate in the area. Coal production would be expected to remain at its current average rate of 25 million tons per year for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No major public roadways would be affected; Kiewit does not anticipate relocating the Collins Road to access new coal reserves. Livestock and wildlife would be incrementally displaced during mining as the active pit moves through the coal reserves, but the proposed tract would provide suitable grazing habitat for both groups after reclamation. Section 3.10 provides a detailed description of impacts on livestock and wildlife. General access to and across the proposed tract for recreation, ranching, and oil and gas development would be restricted or eliminated during mining and reclamation. Following

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reclamation bond release, management of the privately owned surface would revert to the private surface owner. Mining support activities, described in section 1.1.3.3, would cause temporary surface disturbance in a buffer area north of the proposed tract. These activities would extend access limitations as well as impacts on all infrastructure and premining land uses to the buffer area.

3.11.2.2 Alternative 1 (No Action)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.11.2.3 Alternative 2
Under Alternative 2, impacts would be the same as those described under the Proposed Action, but would extend over an area of up to 1,883 acres. This alternative could impact public use of the Collins and McGee roads if one or both were closed or relocated, but Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing either option. Section 3.15 contains additional information regarding impacts on transportation. Mining support activities, described in section 1.1.3.3, would cause temporary surface disturbance within a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration. These activities would extend access limitations as well as impacts on all infrastructure and premining land uses to the buffer area.

3.11.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

If one of the action alternatives is implemented, mined areas will be reclaimed as specified in the approved mine permit reclamation plan to support the primary postmining land uses of wildlife habitat and livestock grazing. Reclamation of agricultural pastures and croplands may occur, but is highly dependent on the postmine topography and landowner agreements. Mining and reclamation procedures would include stockpiling and replacing topsoil, using reclamation seed mixtures approved by the WDEQ/LQD, and replacing stock reservoirs to assure full use of all grazing and wildlife habitat restored under reclamation. Steps to control invasive non-native plant species using chemical and mechanical methods would be included in the amended mine plan. Revegetation growth and diversity would be monitored until the final reclamation bond is released (a minimum of 10 years following seeding with the final seed mixture). Erosion would be monitored to determine if corrective action is needed during vegetation establishment. Controlled grazing would be used during revegetation to determine the suitability of the reclaimed land for anticipated postmining land uses.
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See section 3.3.3.3 for discussion of regulatory requirements, mitigation, and monitoring related to oil and gas development. The reclamation standards required by SMCRA and Wyoming state law meet the standards and guidelines for healthy rangelands for public lands administered by the BLM in Wyoming.

3.11.4

Residual Impacts

No residual impacts on land use and recreation are expected.

3.12 Cultural Resources and Native American Consultation
This section describes cultural resources, including Native American resources, in the general analysis area, and identifies impacts on these resources that could result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.12.1

Cultural Resources

3.12.1.1 Affected Environment
Cultural resources represent the nonrenewable remains of past human activity. The PRB, including the general analysis area, has been inhabited by hunting and gathering populations for at least 13,000 years. Throughout prehistory, groups of mobile hunters and gatherers depended on the wide variety of plant and animal resources in the area for their survival. Chronology Frison’s (1978, 1991) chronology for the Northwestern Plains divides the occupation of the area into the Paleoindian, Early Plains Archaic, Middle Plains Archaic, Late Plains Archaic, Late Prehistoric, Protohistoric, and Historic periods. „ Paleoindian period (13,000 to 7,000 years before present [B.P.]) „ Early Plains Archaic period (7,000 to 5,000–4,500 years B.P.) „ Middle Plains Archaic period (5,000 to 4,500–3,000 years B.P.) „ Late Plains Archaic period (3,000 to 1,850 years B.P.) „ Late Prehistoric period (1,850 to 400 years B.P.) „ Protohistoric period (400 to 250 years B.P.) „ Historic period (250 to 120 years B.P.) The Paleoindian period included a number of cultural complexes that were associated with distinctive styles of lanceolate or stemmed projectile points (Frison 1978). On the Northwestern Plains, the Paleoindian period is synonymous with the “big game hunting tradition,” in which large mammals such as bison and mammoth were hunted. Evidence for the use of vegetal

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resources is present among Paleoindian populations occupying the Black Hills and Big Horn Mountains. Projectile point styles from the Early Plains Archaic period reflect a change from the large lanceolate and stemmed projectile points characteristic of the Paleoindian Period to large side- or corner-notched types. The subsistence pattern reflects use of a broad spectrum of resources and a much-diminished use of large mammals. The onset of the Middle Plains Archaic is defined by the appearance of the McKean Techno Complex around 4,900 years B.P. (Frison 1978, 1991, 2001). McKean Complex projectile points include the Duncan and Hanna stemmed variants as well as the McKean lanceolate type. These point types continued to be used until 3,100 years B.P. when they were replaced by a variety of corner-notched points (Pelican Lake and Besant) (Martin 1999). Sites dating from this period exhibit a continued emphasis on plant procurement and processing. The Late Plains Archaic is generally defined by the appearance of corner-notched dart points. These projectile points dominate most assemblages until the introduction of the bow and arrow around 1,500 years B.P. (Frison 1991). The period witnessed the continued expansion of groups into the interior basin grasslands as well as the foothills and mountains. The Late Prehistoric period (1,850 to 400 years B.P.) is marked by a transition in projectile point technology around 1,500 years B.P. The corner-notched and side-notched dart points characteristic of the Late Archaic are replaced by smaller corner- and side-notched points for use with the bow and arrow. Ceramic technology also appears. Around 1,000 years B.P., the entire Northwestern Plains appears to have suffered an abrupt collapse or shift in population (Frison 1991). This population shift may reflect a narrower subsistence base focused on the communal hunting of pronghorn and bison. The Protohistoric period (400 to 250 years B.P.) was the beginning of Euro American influence on the aboriginal cultures of the Northwestern Plains. Additions to the material culture include the horse and European trade goods such as glass beads, metal, and firearms. Projectile points of this period include side-notched, tri-notched, and un-notched points, with the addition of metal points. Groups occupying the basin at this time appear to have practiced a highly mobile settlement strategy. The Historic period (250 to 120 years B.P.) is summarized from Schneider et al. (2000). The Oregon Trail brought numerous pioneers through Wyoming, but few stayed. It was not until the cattle industry developed in the late 1860s that what is now Wyoming became attractive for settlement. The region offered abundant grazing lands for raising livestock that could be shipped across the country via the recently completed (1867–1868) transcontinental railroad. Settlement of the region surrounding Gillette, Wyoming, began in the late 1800s, after the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1876 placed the Sioux on reservations outside the territory. Cattlemen were the first settlers to establish themselves in the area, with dryland farmers entering the area after 1900. The town of Gillette was established by the railroad in 1891 to promote the settlement of undeveloped areas along the rail lines. The presence of the railroad allowed the cattle industry to
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further develop because it facilitated shipping cattle from the area. Several early ranches established in the region include the 4J Ranch (1875), Half Circle L Ranch (1880s), I Bar U Ranch (1888), and the T7 Ranch (1881). The dryland farming movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had a profound effect on the settlement of the PRB during the years around World War I. Although the principles of dryland farming were sound, success still required a certain amount of precipitation each year. Wyoming encouraged dryland settlement of its semi-arid lands through a Board of Immigration created in 1911. Newspapers extolled the virtues of dryland farming, and railroads conducted well-organized advertising campaigns on a nationwide basis to settle the regions through which they passed. The most intensive period of homesteading activity in the eastern PRB occurred in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Promotional efforts by the state and the railroads, the prosperous war years for agriculture in 1917 and 1918, and the Stock Raising Act of 1916 with its increased acreage (but lack of mineral rights) all contributed to this boom period. A large number of land filings consisted of existing farms and ranches expanding their holdings in an optimistic economic climate. However, an equally large number of homesteaders had been misled by promotional advertising and were not adequately prepared for the experiences that awaited them in the PRB. It soon became apparent to the would-be dryland farmer that he could not make a living by raising only crops. Some were initially successful in growing wheat, oats, barley, and other small grains, along with hay, alfalfa, sweet clover, and other grasses for the increased number of cattle. A drought in 1919 was followed by a severe winter, and market prices fell in the spring of 1920. Those homesteaders who were not ruined by the turn of events often became small livestock ranchers and limited their farming to growing forage crops for their livestock and family garden plots. Some were able to obtain cheap land as it was foreclosed or sold for taxes. During the 1920s, the size of homesteads in Wyoming nearly doubled and the number of homesteads decreased, indicating the shift to livestock raising (LeCompte and Anderson 1982). With serious drought beginning in 1932, Weston, Campbell, and Converse counties were eligible for a drought relief program. The Northeast Wyoming Land Utilization Project began repurchasing the low value homestead lands and making the additional acres of government land available for lease. This helped the small operator expand his grazing land. Cropland taken out of production could be reclaimed and added to the grazing lease program. Grazing associations were formed to regulate grazing permits. In 1934, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration began studying portions of Converse, Campbell, Weston, Niobrara, and Crook counties. In all, 2 million acres were included in the Thunder Basin Project (LA-WY-1). Nationally, the program hoped to shift land use from farms to forest, parks, wildlife refuges, or grazing districts. In marginal agricultural areas, cash crops were replaced by forage crops, the kind and intensity of grazing was changed, and the size of operating units was expanded (USDA Forest Service n.d.). During the development program to rehabilitate the range, impounding dams were erected, wells were repaired, springs developed, and homestead fences were obliterated while division fences
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were constructed for the new community pastures. Farmsteads were destroyed and the range reseeded. Remaining homesteaders and ranchers often purchased or scavenged materials from the repurchased farmsteads. Pits were dug on some homesteads and machinery and demolished buildings buried (many of these were dug up during the World War II scrap drives). Ironically, the rehabilitation project used a labor pool of former farmers who had spent years building what the government paid them to destroy. Their efforts were so successful that almost no trace remains of many homesteads. While counties lost much of their population base as a result of the Resettlement Administration relocation program, they were strengthened financially through school closings, limiting road maintenance to main arterioles, and receipt of delinquent taxes payments. The remaining subsidized ranches were significantly larger and provided a stabilizing effect on the local economies. Three grazing associations were formed: the Thunder Basin Grazing Association, the Spring Creek Association, and the Inyan Kara Grazing Association. These associations provided more responsible management of the common rangeland than in earlier years. Early fur trappers noted the presence of coal in Wyoming in the mid 1800s and in northeastern Wyoming as early as the 1830s. The oldest coal mines in Wyoming were established along the Union Pacific Railroad; however, transportation systems were not developed in northeastern Wyoming until after the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1876. In the vicinity of Gillette, local ranchers and settlers unofficially mined coal in the area for their own use. Similar to the history described for the cattle industry and ranching, once the railroad arrived commercial development of coal mining began. Steam locomotives were the major consumer of coal in northeastern Wyoming, and coal production accelerated during World War II. Annual coal production declined after the war when the railroads transitioned from steam- to diesel-powered locomotives. In 1965, the demand for low-sulfur coal increased for use in power plants, and coal leasing began at an intensive level (Rosenberg 1990). Class I and Class III Cultural Resources Surveys A Class I files search is conducted through the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) prior to beginning field surveys for new projects to determine if the area has been previously searched and to identify any known resources in the area. The files are accessible only to qualified archaeologists with appropriate clearance from the agency. A Class III cultural resources survey is an intensive and comprehensive pedestrian inventory of a proposed project area conducted by professional archaeologists and consultants. The survey is designed to locate and identify all prehistoric and historic cultural properties 50 years and older that have exposed surface manifestations. These cultural properties are then evaluated for eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The properties must be recorded at a sufficient level to allow for this evaluation. Determinations of eligibility are made by the managing federal agency in consultation with the SHPO. If a property is determined to be not eligible for inclusion in the NRHP, no further work is required and the property can be disturbed without any further analysis or mitigation. Consultation with the SHPO must be completed before the mining plan can be approved.
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Eighteen cultural resource surveys have been conducted in the vicinity of the general analysis area. Eleven of those surveys were associated with expansion of the Buckskin Mine and seven were conducted for other activities as follows: one pipeline project, one power line project, one seismic line project, two CBNG developments, and two conventional oil well developments. In November 2007, a Class III cultural resource survey was conducted in the portion of the general analysis area that had not been previously surveyed: Sections 7, 9, 18, and 19 of T52N R72W and Sections 12, 13, and 24 of T52N R73W. The 2007 survey was conducted over an area of approximately 920 acres (Newberry 2008). A total of 19 cultural sites have been documented in the vicinity of the Buckskin Mine. Of these, 14 are located in the general analysis area (table 3.12-1). One isolated find was recorded and one previously recorded site, 48CA1832, could not be located during the 2007 survey.

Table 3.12-1. Cultural Sites Previously Identified in the General Analysis Area
Site Number
48CA862 48CA865 48CA868 48CA1828 48CA1830 48CA1832 48CA1834 48CA2223 48CA3376 48CA3898 48CA6360 48CA6361 48CA6362 48CA6797

NRHP Status
NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE

Author(s)/Organization
University of Wyoming University of Wyoming University of Wyoming High Plains Consultants High Plains Consultants High Plains Consultants High Plains Consultants LTA Incorporated TRC/Mariah Associates TRC/Mariah Associates Ecosystems Management Ecosystems Management Ecosystem Management Antiquus Cultural Resource Consulting

Report/Study Name
Buckskin Mine Buckskin Mine Buckskin Mine Spring Draw Survey Spring Draw Survey Spring Draw Survey Spring Draw Survey Exxon Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Project Segment 2 Class III Inventory of the Hay Creek Tract Buckskin Mine Triton Coal Company LLC Buckskin Mine Lease Expansion Buckskin Mining Company Hay Creek II Buckskin Mining Company Hay Creek II Buckskin Mining Company Hay Creek II Hay Creek II LBA

Year
1980 1980 1980 1982 1982 1982 1982 1985 2000 2001 2006 2006 2006 2007

Site Type
P P P P H H H P H P H H H H

NRHP = National Register of Historic Places; NE = Not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places Site types: P = prehistoric; H = historic Source: Newberry 2008

The entire general analysis area has been inventoried for cultural resources at a Class III level. Of the 14 sites identified in that area, 6 are prehistoric and 8 are historic (Newberry 2008). All of the prehistoric sites are determined not eligible for the NRHP. No further protection is afforded these sites and no further work is required. Historic site categories documented in the general analysis area fall under the context of rural settlement. Specifically, the historic sites in
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the general analysis area are associated with homesteading and stock-raising circa the 1910s to the 1940s. All of the historic sites are determined not eligible for listing on the NRHP. No further protection is afforded these sites and no further work is required.

3.12.1.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, up to 6 prehistoric and 8 historic sites would be removed as a result of mining. All of these sites were determined to be not eligible for inclusion in the NHRP. Therefore, the Proposed Action would have no impacts on known cultural resources. Alternative 1 (No Action) Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Currently approved surface disturbances associated with mining operations would continue in the overlap between the general analysis area and the existing Buckskin Mine permit area. Ongoing activities will have no impact on NRHP cultural resources. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, up to 6 prehistoric and 8 historic sites would be removed as a result of mining. All of these sites were determined to be not eligible for inclusion in the NHRP. Therefore, Alternative 2 would have no impacts on known cultural resources.

3.12.1.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring
Class I and Class III surveys are conducted prior to disturbance to identify cultural resources on all lands affected by federal undertakings, including leasing of federal minerals. All cultural sites documented in the general analysis area during surveys associated with this EIS were determined to be not eligible for listing on the NRHP. Therefore, these sites are afforded no further protection and no further work is required before mining can begin. Mining activities are monitored during topsoil stripping and other surface-disturbing activities. If previously unknown cultural resources are discovered during these operations, Buckskin will stop all activity in that vicinity until a qualified archaeologist can evaluate the find. If the archeologist determines it is warranted, SHPO is consulted to further evaluate the eligibility of the discovery for inclusion on the NRHP. Cultural resources that are determined to be eligible for the NRHP would be avoided or, if avoidance is not possible, a recovery plan would be implemented prior to disturbance and data would be collected (recorded or excavated) from the site(s) prior to removal. If a lease is issued under either of the action alternatives, the BLM would attach a stipulation requiring the lessee to notify appropriate state and federal personnel if cultural materials are uncovered during mining operations. This stipulation is included in appendix D. Full consultation with SHPO must be completed prior to approval of a mining plan.

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3.12.1.4 Residual Impacts
No cultural resources eligible for listing on the NRHP have been formally identified and recorded in the general analysis area to date. If either of the action alternatives is implemented, sites determined to be ineligible for the NRHP would be permanently removed as a result mining. If cultural resources are discovered in the future that are determined to be eligible for the NRHP and cannot be avoided, they would be permanently removed as a result of mining. Although cultural resources that are not removed or that remain undiscovered prior to disturbance would be permanently destroyed by surface coal mining operations, the analyses (e.g., intensive pedestrian inventories, site evaluations and excavation, and analysis of prehistoric cultural resources) required prior to implementation of these activities provide substantial information and a better understanding regarding existing resources and local prehistory in the region.

3.12.2

Native American Consultation

3.12.2.1 Affected Environment
Native American heritage sites can be classified as prehistoric or historic. Some may be presently in use as offering, fasting, or vision quest sites. Other sites of cultural interest and importance may include rock art, stone circles, various rock features, fortifications or battle sites, burials, and locations that are sacred or part of the oral history and heritage but possessing no human-made features. No Native American heritage, special interest, or sacred sites have been formally identified and recorded in the general analysis area to date. However, the geographic position of the general analysis area between mountains considered sacred by various Native American cultures (the Big Horn Mountains to the west, the Black Hills to the east, and Devil’s Tower to the north) creates the possibility that existing locations may have special religious or sacred significance to Native American groups.

3.12.2.2 Environmental Consequences
No Native American heritage, special interest, or sacred sites have been formally identified and recorded in the general analysis area to date. Therefore, the Proposed Action and alternatives would have no impact on known sites.

3.12.2.3 Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring
The following tribes have been identified as groups with potential concerns about actions in the PRB: Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapaho, Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma, and Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Copies of the EIS have been sent to these tribal governments and representatives. They are also being provided with more specific information about the known cultural sites in the general analysis area. Their
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help is being requested in identifying potentially significant Native American heritage, special interest, or sacred religious or cultural sites in the general analysis area before a leasing decision is made on the Hay Creek II application. Native American tribes were consulted at a general level in 1995–1996 as part of an update to the BLM Buffalo Resource Area RMP. Some of the Sioux tribes were consulted by the BLM on coal leasing and mining activity in the PRB at briefings held in Rapid City, South Dakota, in March 2002. If Native American heritage, special interest, or sacred sites are discovered in the future in the general analysis area, Buckskin will stop all activity in that vicinity until all appropriate entities have been notified and all steps have been taken to address concerns related to those sites.

3.12.2.4 Residual Impacts
Although cultural resources that are not removed or have remain undiscovered prior to disturbance would be permanently destroyed by surface coal mining operations, the analyses (e.g., intensive pedestrian inventories, site evaluations and excavation, and analysis of prehistoric cultural resources) required prior to implementation of these activities provide substantial information and a better understanding regarding existing resources and the local prehistory in the region.

3.13 Visual Resources
This section describes existing visual resources in the general analysis area and identifies impacts that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.13.1

Affected Environment

Visual sensitivity levels are determined by the concern of viewers for what they see and the frequency of travel through an area. Natural views within and into the general analysis area consist mainly of vegetated open landscapes, including rolling mixed-grass prairie, scattered stands of sagebrush, and a small region of rough breaks. Natural views from the general analysis area to the north and west are similar to those within the area. Views to the south and east consist mostly of surface mining activities and facilities. Signs of human use in and near the area include active farming and ranching activities (fences, homesteads, hayfields, croplands, farm equipment, and livestock), tree shelterbelts around residences, CBNG development (pipeline rights-of-way, well shelters, and compressor stations), transportation facilities (roads and railroads), and overhead electric power lines and substations. U.S. Highway 14-16 lies approximately 1 mile to the southwest of the general analysis area. The southern portion of the general analysis area can be viewed from this roadway with the Buckskin Mine storage silos beyond it. The Collins and McGee roads pass through the western half of the general analysis area, and active mining at Buckskin is visible from both roads.
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For management purposes, the BLM evaluated the visual resources on lands under its jurisdiction in the 1985 Buffalo RMP (BLM 1985). The inventoried lands were classified into visual resource management (VRM) classes used to describe increasing levels of change within the characteristic landscape. They are defined as follows (BLM 2001a): „ Class I—Natural ecologic changes and very limited management activity is allowed. Any contrast (activity) within this class must not attract attention. „ Class II—Changes in any of the basic elements (form, line, color, texture) caused by an activity should not be evident in the landscape. „ Class III—Contrasts to the basic elements caused by an activity are evident but should remain subordinate to the existing landscape. „ Class IV—Activity attracts attention and is a dominant feature of the landscape in terms of scale. „ Class V—The natural character of the landscape has been disturbed up to a point where rehabilitation is needed to bring it up to the level of one of the other four classifications. The 2001 RMP Update (BLM 2001a) covers Campbell County and the general analysis. The general analysis area is classified as VRM class IV because of the industrial nature of the energy development and active farming and residential use in the area. The overall natural scenic quality of class IV area is considered relatively low. Surface coal mines are not considered to be major emitting facilities in accordance with the WDEQ/AQD Rules and Regulations (Chapter 6, Section 4). Therefore, State of Wyoming does not require mines to evaluate their impacts on class I areas, though the BLM does consider such issues during leasing.

3.13.2

Environmental Consequences

3.13.2.1 Proposed Action
Under the Proposed Action, mining operations in the proposed tract (419 acres) would be within 1 mile of and visible from U.S. Highway 14-16; mine support activities such as topsoil stripping and stockpiling (described in section 1.1.3.3) could be 0.25 mile closer to the highway. Mining activities would encroach to within 100 feet of the eastern right-of-way of the Collins Road (section 3.15). The road would remain in its existing alignment, but mined areas immediately east of the right-of-way would be lowered during and after mining operations. The areas disturbed under the Proposed Action would be considered VRM class V prior to reclamation. Reclamation would restore these areas to at least the premining VRM class IV conditions. The reclaimed land would resemble the surrounding undisturbed terrain, although slopes might appear smoother (less intricately dissected) and the vegetation would be more homogenous for several years. No visual resources that are unique to this area have been identified in or near the proposed tract.

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3.13.2.2 Alternative 1 (No Action)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Mining operations would continue on existing Buckskin Mine leases and the current VRM class designations for the mine would not change.

3.13.2.3 Alternative 2
Under Alternative 2, mining in up to 1,883 additional acres of the BLM study area would be within 0.5 mile of and visible from U.S. Highway 14-16; mine support activities such as topsoil stripping and stockpiling (described in section 1.1.3.3) could be 0.25 mile closer to the highway. Mining activities would encroach to within 100 feet of the eastern rights-of-way for both the Collins and McGee roads (section 3.15). The roads would remain in their existing alignments, but adjacent mined areas would be lowered during and after mining operations. Mining could only occur between and west of these two roads if they were closed or relocated, as described in section 2.2.1.1 and section 2.2.3.1. Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing either of those options, and neither road is expected to be disturbed under this alternative. After mining and prior to reclamation, areas disturbed under Alternative 2 would be considered VRM class V; after reclamation they would be restored to at least their premining VRM class IV condition. The reclaimed area would resemble the surrounding undisturbed terrain. No visual resources that are unique to this area have been identified in or near the general analysis area.

3.13.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Landscape character would be restored during reclamation to resemble the original contours. Disturbed areas would be reseeded with an approved seed mixture that includes native species. Section 3.2 and section 3.9 provide more detailed discussions of the regulatory requirements, mitigation, and monitoring for topography and vegetation, respectively.

3.13.4

Residual Impacts

No residual impacts on visual resources are expected.

3.14 Noise
This section describes existing conditions in the general analysis area associated with noise, and identifies impacts that would occur under the Proposed Action and alternatives.

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3.14.1

Affected Environment

The affected environment is described for noise in the general analysis area and vicinity.

3.14.1.1 Noise Terminology
A decibel (dB) is the unit of measure used to represent sound pressure levels. The A-weighted decibel (dBA) is a measure designed to simulate human hearing by placing less emphasis on lower frequency noise, because the human ear does not perceive lower frequencies in the same manner as higher frequencies. Figure 3.14-1 presents noise levels associated with some commonly heard sounds. Short-term noise, lasting from several seconds to several hours, is quantified by the equivalent noise level (Leq). The 24-hour average noise levels are quantified as “day-night” noise levels.

3.14.1.2 Noise-Sensitive Areas
For the purposes of this noise analysis, noise-sensitive areas have been categorized into the following groups. Map 3.4-4A and shows the occupied residences in and near the general analysis area discussed in this section; map 3.4-4B zooms in on the residence to the west and southwest of the general analysis area. Occupied Residences within the General Analysis Area One occupied residence is located within the general analysis area, less than 0.25 mile north of the existing mine permit area (map 3.4-4A). This residence is in direct line-of-sight of the current mine pit and associated support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling). The lack of obstacles between the residence and mine operations results in no buffering of noise generated at the mine. Occupied Residences North of the General Analysis Area These four residences range from 1.5 to 2.5 miles north of the general analysis area, and at least 2 miles north of the existing mine permit boundary (map 3.4-4A). The high rolling terrain between these residences and the general analysis area blocks their line-of-sight and creates a buffer from noise generated by current mine operations. Occupied Residences along U.S. Highway 14-16 and West of the General Analysis Area The nearest of these residences is approximately 0.5 mile west of the general analysis area (map 3.4-4B) and approximately 1.5 miles from overlap between the general analysis area and the Buckskin Mine permit area (map 3.4-4A). The small Green Valley Estates subdivision is immediately west of Highway 14-16, approximately 0.75 mile from the general analysis area and 1.75 miles from the majority of its overlap with the permit boundary. The high rolling terrain between these residences and the general analysis area provides a visual and audio buffer from current and future mine operations.

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HOW I T FE E LS

EQUIVALENT S OUNDS
50 hp siren (100 ft) Jet engine (75 ft) Turbo-fan jet at takeoff power (100ft) Scraper-loader Jet fly over (1000 ft)

DECIBELS


E Q UIVALE NT
 S OUNDS

Jackhammer


HOW IT S OUNDS

Near permanent damage level from short exposures Pain to ears Danger to hearing

130 120 110 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20

Chainsaw
 Fire cracker
 (15 ft.)
 Rock and roll
 band Unmuffled motor bike (2-3 ft.) Car horn Unmuffled cycle (25 ft.) Garbage trucks and city buses Diesel truck (25 ft.) Garbage disposal
 Food blender
 Muffled jet ski
 (50 ft.)
 Passenger car 65 mph (25 ft) Busy downtown area

135 dB(A) Approx. 64 times as loud as 75dB(A) 125 dB(A) Approx. 32 times as loud as 75dB(A) 115 dB(A) Approx. 16 times as loud as 75dB(A) 105 dB(A) Approx. 8 times as loud as 75dB(A) 95 dB(A) Approx. 4 times as loud as 75dB(A) 85 dB(A) Approx. 2 times as loud as 75dB(A) 75dB(A)

Uncomfortably loud

Discomfort threshold Very loud Conversation stops

Noisy newspaper press Air compressor (20 ft) Power lawnmower Steady flow of freeway trafic 10-HP outboard motor Automatic dishwasher Vacuum cleaner Window air conditioner outside at 2 ft. Window air conditioner in room Occasional private auto at 100 ft. Quiet home during evening Bird calls Library

Intolerable for phone use Extra auditory physiological effects

Quiet Sleep interference

Normal conversation

55 dB(A) Approx. 1/4 as loud as 75dB(A) 45 dB(A) Approx. 1/8 as loud as 75dB(A) 35 dB(A) Approx. 1/16 as loud as 75dB(A)

Very quiet

Soft whisper 5 ft. In a quiet house at midnight

Leaves rustling

10

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 3.14-1 Adapted From ABC's of Our Noise Codes A-Weighted Decibel Readings and Sounds of Daily Life Relationship Between published by
Citizens Against Noise, Honolulu, Hawaii

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

Occupied Residences along U.S Highway 14-16 and Southwest of the General Analysis Area The nearest of these residences is within the existing permit area, approximately 0.25 mile west of the general analysis area (map 3.4-4B); this residence is immediately north of an existing coal lease (map 3.0-1). The Pineview Ranchettes and Bredthauer subdivisions lie mostly to the west of U.S. Highway 14-16, less than 0.25 mile from the Collins Road and the western limit of the existing Buckskin Mine permit area (map 3.4-4B). One house in the Pineview Ranchettes subdivision lies between the highway and the permit boundary, approximately 0.5 mile west of the general analysis area. The residence within the permit area is on the far side of a hill that separates it from all but the extreme southwestern corner of the general analysis area. Most of the residences in the two subdivisions are on a hillside above the rolling terrain to the northeast. Their line-of-sight to both the general analysis area and the existing permit area is generally unobstructed, so few potential buffers from mine-related noise are present. However, nearly all of the residences in this area are adjacent to and west of Highway 14-16, a well-traveled major highway and, thus, are currently exposed to regular traffic noise.

3.14.1.3 Existing Noise Sources and Existing Noise Levels
Existing noise sources in the general analysis area include coal mining activities, traffic on Highway 14-16 and the Collins and McGee roads, mine-related rail traffic along the rail spur serving the mines, wind, and CBNG activities and facilities. Noise originating from CBNG development equipment (e.g., drilling rigs and construction vehicles) and production facilities (e.g., well sites and compressor stations) is apparent locally over the short term (i.e., 30 to 60 days) where well drilling and associated construction activities occur. The amount of noise overlap between well sites is variable and depends on the timing of drilling activities on adjacent sites and the distance between the site locations. No baseline noise studies have been conducted for existing noise levels at the northern and western residences nearest the general analysis area, and no site-specific noise level data are available for the general analysis area. Studies of background noise levels at other PRB mines indicate that ambient sound levels generally are low, owing to the isolated nature of the area. Because the general analysis area is immediately adjacent to an operating mine, the current median noise level is estimated to be between 40 and 60 dBA for day-night, with the noise level increasing with proximity to active mining operations. Mining activities are characterized by noise levels of between 85and 95 dBA at 50 feet from actual mining operations and activities. The residences in the general analysis area and the one in the permit area are both close to ongoing mine operations and county or federal road systems. Noise at these two residences is likely dominated by sources from the Buckskin Mine and public roads. The three subdivisions are close to other neighboring residences and Highway 14-16. Therefore, existing noise levels at those residences are likely dominated by traffic and ranching or suburban noise sources.

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3.14.2

Environmental Consequences

The assessment of noise impacts from the Proposed Action and alternatives focuses on the following related noise issues: „ increased noise levels at residences with a direct line-of-sight to and within 0.25 to 0.5 mile of new mining activity; „ noise impacts on wildlife; „ increased railroad noise along the rail spur serving the mine; and „ hearing protection for mine workers. The Noise Control Act of 1972 indicates that a 24-hour equivalent noise level of less than 70 dBA prevents hearing loss, and that a level below 55 dBA, in general does not constitute an adverse impact (EPA 1974).

3.14.2.1 Proposed Action
Increased Noise Levels at Occupied Residences Within the General Analysis Area Under the Proposed Action, mining and mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, stockpiling) described in section 1.1.3.3 associated with the proposed tract would be approximately 0.75 mile farther from the occupied residence in the general analysis area than allowed under existing conditions. That occupied residence is currently experiencing mine- and traffic-related noise impacts from activities approximately 0.5 mile from the home; operations in the permit area could encroach to within 0.25 mile. Based on these factors, the Proposed Action would not increase noise levels at this residence; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. North of the General Analysis Area Under the Proposed Action, mining and mine support activities associated with the proposed tract would be approximately 0.75 mile farther from the occupied residences north of the general analysis area than allowed within the existing permit boundary. Mining activities would remain at least 2 miles from the nearest residence. High terrain between these residences and the proposed tract would provide a visual and audio barrier from mine operations. Based on these factors, the Proposed Action would not increase noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. West of the General Analysis Area Under the Proposed Action, the majority of mining and mine support activities associated with the proposed tract would be 0.5 to 0.75 mile closer to these residences than allowed within the existing permit boundary, depending on whether or not the Collins Road is closed or relocated.

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Under either scenario, mining activities would remain at least 0.75 mile from the nearest residence and farther away from the nearest subdivision in this area than allowed under existing conditions. High terrain and an active highway located between the residences and the proposed tract provide visual and audio buffers from current and future mine-related noise. Therefore, the Proposed Action would not cause a significant increase in noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Southwest of the General Analysis Area Under the Proposed Action, mining and mine support activities associated with the proposed tract would be at least 0.75 mile farther from the majority of occupied residences than allowed within the existing permit boundary. Mining activities associated with the proposed tract would remain at least 0.5 mile from the nearest residence; that residence is within the permit area and immediately adjacent to an existing lease. Few potential buffers from mine-related noise are present between the majority of residences in this area and current or future mine operations. However, nearly all of the residences in this area are adjacent to and west of a well-traveled major highway and, thus, are currently exposed to regular traffic noise. Based on this factor, the Proposed Action would not cause a significant increase in noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Noise Impacts on Wildlife Under the Proposed Action, wildlife in the immediate vicinity of the proposed tract would be exposed to noise from mine-related activities for an additional two years, but noise levels are not expected to increase during that period. Anecdotal observations at surface coal mines in the area indicate that wildlife may adapt to increased noise associated with coal mining activity. After mining and reclamation are completed, noise levels would return to premining levels. Increase in Noise Levels near the Rail Spur Under the Proposed Action, the proposed tract would be mined as an extension of existing operations. Annual coal production would not increase, but it would be extended by two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No new railroads or rail loading facilities would be constructed under this alternative; rail car loading would continue at the loadout facility in the existing permit area approximately 1.5 miles southeast of the proposed tract. The nearest occupied residence is approximately 2.25 miles to the northwest, with numerous hills and existing noise sources between the rail spur and the residence. Based on these factors, the Proposed Action would not cause a significant increase in levels near the rail spur. The mines north of Interstate 90 (including Buckskin) share a common rail spur connecting to the main east-west rail line along the interstate to ship coal to users throughout the U.S. No residences are located near the common rail spur north of the railroad junction. Under the Proposed Action, average coal car loading would remain at the same level as under existing conditions for Buckskin Mine (five trains per day). Railroad noise impacts are usually evaluated

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by considering the 24-hour average noise increase compared to existing conditions, rather than evaluating short-term Leq noise impacts from each individual train (Federal Transit Administration 2006). Because the average number of coal trains would not increase, the Proposed Action would not cause an increase in the 24-hour average noise levels along the rail spur.

3.14.2.2 Alternative 1 (No Action)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. As discussed under the Proposed Action, previously leased coal reserves and permitted mine operations would be closer to most occupied residences west and southwest of the mine than under either action alternative. Mine operations would remain at least 2 miles from residences to the north of the permit boundary. The nearest residence to the existing permit area would remain less than 0.25 mile north of that boundary. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.14.2.3 Alternative 2
Within the General Analysis Area Under Alternative 2, mining and mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, stockpiling) described in section 1.1.3.3 could eclipse the single occupied residence within the BLM study area (map 3.4-4A) if the McGee road is closed or relocated, as described in section 2.2.3.1. However, Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing road closure or relocation. Therefore, under Alternative 2, mine-related noise sources would remain several hundred feet from the residence, exposing the residence to greater noise levels when mining is closest and continued noise sources for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. North of the General Analysis Area Under Alternative 2, mining and mine support activities associated with the BLM study area could extend up to 0.5 mile closer to the occupied residences north of the general analysis area than allowed within the existing permit boundary (map 3.4-4A). Mining activities would remain at least 1.5 miles from the nearest residence. High terrain between these residences and the general analysis area would provide a visual and audio barrier from mine operations. Based on this factor, Alternative 2 would not increase noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.

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West of the General Analysis Area Under Alternative 2, the majority of mining and mine support activities associated with the BLM study area would be 0.5 to 1 mile closer to these residences than allowed within the existing permit boundary, depending on whether or not the Collins and McGee roads are closed or relocated, as described in section 2.2.1.1 and section 2.2.3.1. Regardless of whether one or both roads is affected, mining activities would remain at least 0.5 mile from the nearest residence and farther away from the nearest subdivision in this area than allowed under existing conditions (map 3.4-4B). High terrain and an active highway located between the residences and the proposed tract provide visual and audio buffers from current and future mine-related noise. Therefore, the Proposed Action would not cause a significant increase in noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Southwest of the General Analysis Area Under Alternative 2, mining and mine support activities associated with the BLM study area would be approximately 0.5 mile farther from the majority of occupied residences than allowed within the existing permit boundary. Mining activities associated with the BLM study area would remain at least 0.25 mile from the nearest residence (map 3.4-4B); that residence is within the permit area and immediately adjacent to an existing lease. Few potential buffers from mine-related noise are present between the majority of residences in this area and current or future mine operations. However, nearly all of the residences in this area are adjacent to and west of a well-traveled major highway and, thus, are currently exposed to regular traffic noise. Based on this factor, Alternative 2 would not cause a significant increase in noise levels at these residences; however, noise from mine-related activities would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.

3.14.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Mine operators are required to comply with Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations concerning noise, which include protecting employees from hearing loss associated with noise levels at the mines. This agency periodically conducts mine inspections to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

3.14.4

Residual Impacts

No residual noise impacts are expected.

3.15 Transportation
This section describes the affected environment as it relates to transportation in the general analysis area, and identifies impacts that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

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3.15.1

Affected Environment

Transportation facilities near the general analysis area include Highway 14-16; Wyoming State Highway 59 (Wyoming 59); the Collins and McGee roads; unimproved local and access roads; the improved Buckskin Mine access road; the Buckskin Mine rail spur; oil and gas pipelines; electric corridors; and associated rights-of-way (map 3.15-1 and map 3.4-4A). Oil and gas pipelines are shown on map 3.15-2.

3.15.1.1 Roadways
Highway 14-16 and Wyoming 59 are the major north-south public transportation corridors in this area. Highway 14-16 is approximately 0.5 mile west of the southwestern corner of the general analysis area and approximately 2 miles west of its northwestern corner. It is accessed from the general analysis area via the Collins Road. The Collins Road forms the western boundary of the proposed tract, crossing vertically through the center of the general analysis area. At its intersection with the McGee Road, it continues to the north while the McGee Road angles to the northeast. Wyoming Highway 59 is approximately 2 miles east of the general analysis area; no public access connects that highway with the general analysis area. Both highways are paved, two-lane roads. The county roads are improved, two-lane, dirt roads that also run roughly northsouth.

3.15.1.2 Railways
Coal extracted from the existing surface coal mines in the PRB is transported in rail cars along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific (UP) rail lines. The coal mines north of Gillette, including the Buckskin Mine, ship most of their coal via the east-west BNSF Railroad that runs through Gillette for destinations in the Midwest. The coal mines south of Gillette and in the Wright area ship most of their coal via the Gillette-to-Douglas BNSF/UP joint rail lines that travel south through Campbell and Converse counties, then east over separate BNSF and UP rail lines headed for destinations in the Midwest. Individual spur lines connect each PRB mine to the BNSF or UP mainlines. The Buckskin Mine rail spur provides access to the mine and is located approximately 1.5 miles southeast of the general analysis area. This rail spur is the northern terminus of a series of spur lines that serve the surface coal mines north of Gillette and extends south for more than 13 miles.

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0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.15-1 Transportation Facilities in the Vicinity of the General Analysis Area

0

2,500 feet


5,000


No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 3.15-2 Oil and Gas Pipelines in the General Analysis Area

3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

3.15.1.3 Oil and Gas Pipelines and Electric Corridors
Several power lines and active oil and gas pipelines are present in the general analysis area. The overhead, electric transmission and distribution lines traverse the entire area (map 3.15-1) and are primarily associated with mine operations, but they also serve the nearby subdivisions and surrounding homes described in section 3.14. The pipelines are predominately associated with CBNG production, though some oil is transported as well. Two pipelines cross the length of the general analysis area from south to north, but most are concentrated in the southwestern corner (map 3.15-2).

3.15.2

Environmental Consequences

3.15.2.1 Proposed Action
Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract could impact one public roadway, two overhead power lines, and three oil and gas pipelines. Temporary surface disturbance from mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling) in a buffer area to the north of the proposed tract could affect two additional pipelines. The Proposed Action would have no impact on rail lines. No public roadways are located within the proposed tract, but the Collins Road is adjacent to its western boundary. As described in section 2.2.1.1, lands within 100 feet of the outside line of the right-of-way of a public road are considered unsuitable for surface coal mining. Consequently, the federal coal reserves underlying the Collins Road, its right-of-way, and an associated 100-foot buffer zone cannot be accessed under current conditions. Mining could only occur under the Collins Road or its right-of-way and buffer if the road were closed or relocated, as described in section 2.2.1.1. Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing either of those options, and the road and its right-of-way and buffer are not expected to be disturbed under this alternative. Unless an exception is granted to the BLM’s prohibition against mining under or immediately adjacent to a public road (coal screening unsuitability criterion 3, section 2.2.1.1), a stipulation would be attached to the lease stating that mining activity would not be conducted within the Collins Road right-of-way or its 100-foot buffer zone. Vehicular traffic to and from the Buckskin Mine would remain at existing levels, but would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Coal mined in the proposed tract would be transported by rail. Mining would be an extension of existing Buckskin operations, and would rely on existing rail facilities and infrastructure. Annual coal production would not increase under the Proposed Action, nor would the volume of rail shipments; however, rail shipments would continue for up to two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Three active oil and gas pipelines intersect the proposed tract. Surface disturbance such as overland travel, topsoil stripping, and trenching associated with removal of the existing line and construction of a new line would result if a pipeline is relocated. Minor surface disturbance would also result from relocating and rebuilding the two overhead power lines in the area. Such disturbance is typically limited to overland travel by small- to

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medium-sized vehicles and augering holes approximately 3 feet in diameter to accommodate the new power poles.

3.15.2.2 Alternative 1 (No Action)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities necessary to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Because the overlap area is within the existing permit area, all power line and pipeline issues have already been addressed. No new roads or rail lines would be affected under this alternative. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.15.2.3 Alternative 2
Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining could impact two public roadways, eight overhead power lines, and five oil and gas pipelines. Temporary surface disturbance from mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling) in a 0.25-mile-wide buffer around the final tract configuration could affect one additional power line and two additional pipelines. Alternative 2 would have no impact on rail lines. Two public roadways pass through the western half of the BLM study area (map 3.15-1). As described under the Proposed Action, above, and in sections 2.2.1.1 and 2.2.3.1, the coal reserves underlying the Collins and McGee Roads, their rights-of-way, and the associated 100-foot buffer zones are considered unsuitable for mining and cannot be accessed unless one or both roads are closed or relocated. Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing either of those options, and neither road is expected to be disturbed under this alternative. Unless an exception is granted to the BLM’s unsuitability criterion 3, a stipulation would be attached to the lease stating that mining activity would not be conducted within the rights-of-way or 100-foot buffer zones for these county roads. Vehicular traffic to and from the Buckskin Mine would remain at existing levels, but would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Coal mined in the final tract configuration would be transported by rail. Mining would be an extension of existing operations and would rely on existing rail facilities and infrastructure. Annual coal production and volume of rail shipments would not increase, but rail shipments would continue for an additional six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Several active oil and gas pipelines and electric corridors run through the BLM study area. Surface disturbance associated with construction would result if a pipeline is relocated. If relocation of these pipelines or corridors is necessary, it would be handled according to specific agreements between the coal lessee and the pipeline or utility owners. Multiple power lines and active oil and gas pipelines would be affected under Alternative 2. Surface disturbance such as overland travel, topsoil stripping, trenching, and augering associated

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with removal and relocation of associated infrastructure and facilities would result in varying levels of surface disturbance in current and new locations.

3.15.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Regulatory requirements regarding transportation facilities preclude any public road from being relocated or closed unless the appropriate authority has allowed it. Existing pipelines and oil and gas lines can be relocated, if necessary, in accordance with specific agreements between the coal lessee and the pipeline and utility owners. After mining, the land will be reclaimed to support the premining uses described in section 1.1.3.1. Oil and gas wells, pipelines, and utility easements will be reestablished as required.

3.15.4

Residual Impacts

With the opening of the PRB in Wyoming in the late 1970s, U.S. coal shipments have grown dramatically from 4.8 million carloads to 8.4 million carloads in 2006 as the railroads deliver low-sulfur coal to help electric utilities achieve clean air standards. The largest coal trains are from the PRB to power plants in Illinois, Missouri, and Texas (Federal Railroad Administration 2008). Shifting and blowing coal dust and coal chunks coming off freshly loaded moving railroad cars can accumulate along railroad tracks, railroad rights-of-way, and on adjacent lands. Coal dust can wash into drainages where large deposits of lost coal can accumulate. Accumulated coal dust has been linked to train derailments and can spontaneously combust and cause wildfires. Coal can be lost from rail cars through leakage from the rail car discharge doors, spillage over the rail car sides, or it can be blown from rail car tops during transit. In testing conducted by Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF, and the National Coal Transportation Association, the average loss of coal from an individual rail car’s rapid discharge doors was about 19 pounds per 216 miles, or 0.09 pound per mile. The same testing indicated that an average of 225 pounds of coal was lost from the top of a coal car through either top spillage or being blown off during a 567-mile test trip, which equated to about 0.4 pound per mile (National Coal Transportation Association 2007). The derailment of two trains in the PRB in 2005 resulted from track instability problems caused by a buildup of coal dust and other particles on the rail bed in combination with high concentrations of moisture (Union Pacific Railroad 2005). BNSF railway officials toured the PRB rail infrastructure in June 2007. According to a BNSF official, when coal dust is blown off rail cars, it becomes lodged in the rail bed, allowing moisture to intrude. The moisture then degrades the structural stability of the rail bed and leaves the rail more vulnerable to buckling under stress (Gartrell 2007a). The National Coal Transportation Association (2007) testing results suggested that rail car bottom spillage may have more of a negative impact on rail bed stability than loss from the top

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of rail cars since the leakage is directly above and near the ballast. The testing also indicated a 32% decrease in bottom spillage of coal after adjustment of the rapid discharge doors. Accumulating coal dust deposits have become a concern in Converse County. While the coal mines north of Gillette, including the Buckskin Mine, ship most of their coal via the east-west BNSF Railroad to destinations in the Midwest, the majority of coal mined in the PRB travels through Converse County on railroads. Coal dust blows off the freshly loaded coal cars on their way from the mine load-outs to Bill, Wyoming, and through Converse County (Delbridge 2007). The Converse County Board of Commissioners is concerned with the coal dust piles that have accumulated in the county from rail transport of coal. Spontaneous combustion of accumulated coal dust can cause rangeland fires. Smoldering coal dust in a railroad right-of-way can ignite a wildfire and quickly spread to surrounding private lands if the fire is not immediately controlled. The Douglas Volunteer Fire Department Chief, Rick Andrews, estimates that coal fires account for at least 50% of the department’s average summer call volume and are an ongoing problem for them. Often water only temporarily puts down the flames; some fires repeatedly ignite over the course of several hours or days. While the county’s rural fire district is compensated for some of the costs involved in putting out fires caused by transported coal, the compensation does not come close to the actual costs, according to the Douglas Volunteer Fire Department Chief (Delbridge 2007). A Converse County private landowner invited the BLM to examine and survey the coal that had fallen from coal trains traveling through his land. On July 7, 2008, BLM personnel met with the landowner and toured his rangeland, which was adjacent to the railroad right-of-way, about 26 miles north of Douglas, Wyoming. The BLM surveyed various coal accumulations in Box Creek. One area had a coal accumulation 1.8 feet thick. Water runoff washed lost coal from the trains into drainages; the amount of coal deposited varied along the tracks (BLM 2008d). BNSF is working with the utility companies and the mines to encourage delivery of larger chunks of crushed coal (3-inch versus 2-inch diameter) to reduce the amount of small particles that are created in the crushing process. Another possibility that may help lessen blowing coal dust from trains is the application of surfactant to the tops of loaded coal cars. When applied to coal, the surfactant can stabilize and adhere coal dust to larger coal chunks. Tests have shown that coal dust on railroad tracks can be reduced as much as 95% with surfactant use. The specific surfactant used must meet utility companies’ burning specifications (Gartrell 2007a). A collaborative effort between the the National Coal Transportation Association, PRB mines, and BNSF and UP railroads has resulted in an improved design for a coal loading chute that distributes coal more evenly and produces a lower profile load. Preliminary results have demonstrated that this new design may result in a 30% to 60% reduction in coal dust blowing off the top of cars during the early portion of the route (Union Pacific Railroad 2006). Converse County Commissioners have formally expressed concerns to the BLM regarding fire, health, and safety issues associated with blowing coal dust from trains. They have stated that the health and wellbeing of Converse County citizens downwind of the railroad tracks continue to be

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jeopardized by the lack of coal dust mitigation in the coal mining permit process. The commissioners have recommended that coal dust mitigation be applied as a standard condition of approval before mining permits are issued (BLM 2008e). As discussed in section 1.3, the BLM does not authorize mining permits nor does it regulate mining operations with the issuance of a BLM coal lease. WDEQ/LQD is the agency that permits mining operations and has authority to enforce mining regulations. In Wyoming, WDEQ/LQD has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior to regulate surface coal mining operations. Mitigation and other requirements are developed as part of the mining and reclamation permit. These permits and the provisions they contain must be approved by WDEQ/LQD before mining of federal coal leases can occur. Other agencies that may be stakeholders in this issue include the Federal Railroad Administration, which implements U.S. Department of Transportation environmental policies related to U.S. railroads, and the National Coal Transportation Association, whose mission includes facilitating the resolution of coal transportation issues to serve the needs of the general public and industry (National Coal Transportation Association 2008).

3.16 Hazardous and Solid Waste
3.16.1 Affected Environment
Potential sources of hazardous or solid waste could include spilled, leaked, or dumped substances, petroleum products, and solid waste associated with coal and oil and gas exploration, oil and gas development, utility line installation and maintenance, or agricultural activities. No such hazardous or solid wastes are known to be present in the general analysis area. Wastes produced by current mining activities at the Buckskin Mine are handled according to the procedures described in chapter 1, section 1.1.3.5.

3.16.2

Environmental Consequences

3.16.2.1 Proposed Action
Under the Proposed Action, hazardous and solid wastes generated in the course of mining the proposed tract would be similar to those currently being created by existing mining operations, but they would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Wastes generated by mining the proposed tract would be handled in accordance with the existing regulations using the procedures currently in use, and in accordance with WDEQ/LQD-approved waste disposal plans at the Buckskin Mine (section 1.1.3.5).

3.16.2.2 Alternative 1 (No Action)
Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Disturbance in the general analysis area

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would be limited to its overlap with the existing Buckskin Mine permit area boundary, and would consist of temporary surface disturbance from activities (e.g., topsoil stripping) to support mining on existing leases, described in section 1.1.3.3. Coal removal and any associated waste production would continue on the existing Buckskin Mine leases. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future.

3.16.2.3 Alternative 2
Under Alternative 2, hazardous and solid wastes generated in the course of mining an alternative tract configuration would be similar to those currently being created by existing mining operations, but they would continue for up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Waste handling and disposal procedures would be the same as those described for existing mining operations (section 1.1.3.5), and would be in accordance with WDEQ/LQD-approved waste disposal plans at the Buckskin Mine.

3.16.3

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Kiewit will adhere to the regulatory requirements for production, use, storage, transport, and disposal of solid waste and hazardous or extremely hazardous materials that result from mining activities, described in section 1.1.3.5. All mining activities involving hazardous materials are and would continue to be conducted so as to minimize potential environmental impacts.

3.16.4

Residual Impacts

No residual impacts associated with hazardous and solid waste are expected.

3.17 Socioeconomics
This section describes existing socioeconomic conditions in Campbell County, the City of Gillette, and nearby unincorporated areas and identifies impacts on those conditions that would result from the Proposed Action and alternatives.

3.17.1

Local Economy

3.17.1.1 Affected Environment
Wyoming’s coal mines set a new annual production record of 466.3 million tons in 2008, an increase of about 14.2 million tons (3.1%) over the record 452.1 million tons produced in 2007. Coal produced from 14 active mines in Campbell and Converse counties accounted for approximately 96% of total statewide coal production in 2008 and virtually all of the gain in statewide production from 2007 to 2008 (Wyoming Department of Employment 2009a). Energy resource development has been the primary stimulus behind a significant economic expansion across the state in recent years. Recent estimates of the state’s gross state product
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(GSP)3 highlight the significance of the minerals industry to the statewide economy. Estimates of the 2007 GSP indicate the mining industry, including oil and gas and support activities, accounted for more than 30% of the state’s total GSP of $31.5 billion. Statewide GSP climbed by nearly 45% (in nominal dollars) between 2003 and 2007 largely due to the increases in natural gas development and production. The contribution of mining production to the 2007 statewide GSP was more than twice that of the government sector, the next largest sector, and more than three-and-one-half times the contribution of the real estate industry, the next largest private industrial sector (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis 2009). Wyoming, Campbell County, Campbell County School District 1, the City of Gillette, and many other governmental entities across the state receive revenues derived directly and indirectly from taxes and royalties on the production of federal coal, including that at the Buckskin Mine. Such revenues include lease bonus bids, ad valorem taxes, severance taxes, royalty payments, sales and use taxes on equipment and other taxable purchases, and portions of required contributions to the federal AML program and Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Companies pay lease bonus bids for the right to enter into lease agreements for federal coal. Current statutorily established allocation formulas presently cap the total annual distributions to local governments from the state’s share at levels substantially below the revenues generated by mineral development in the state. Consequently, the bulk of such revenues accrue to the state general fund, budget reserve fund, Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund, and school foundation and construction budgets. The combined statutory distributions to cities and counties during fiscal year 2007 was $53.5 million, about 2.9% of the total $1.79 billion in federal mineral royalties and severance taxes received by the state. Moreover, distributions to local government are not earmarked for those local entities where the activities are located or the social and economic effects are felt. Instead, the distributions are made to all cities and counties in the state. In 1994, a study conducted at the University of Wyoming estimated the total fiscal benefit to the State of Wyoming for coal produced in the PRB at $1.10 per ton (Borden et al. 1994). Calculating the estimated total fiscal benefit to the state in 2005 by including half of the bonus bid payments, half of the federal mineral royalties based on current prices, half of the AML fees, and all of the ad valorem taxes, severance taxes, and sales and use taxes for coal produced in Campbell County in 2005 results in an estimated $661 million, or $1.62 per ton (BLM 2006b). Revenues to the federal government from leasing and production of federal coal include retention of one-half of the lease bonus bids and federal mineral royalties. Bonus bids are paid in five annual installments, with half returned to the state. In 2004 and 2005, BLM held competitive sealed-bid lease sales for six coal tracts (NARO South, Hay Creek, West Hay Creek, Little Thunder, West Roundup, and NARO North). The successful bonus bids for these six sales ranged from 30 cents per ton to 97 cents per ton and totaled $1.69 billion, including
3	

GSP is a measure of the total market value of goods and services produced by the labor, capital, and property in the state, after netting out the value of intermediate outputs imported to the state.

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$146.3 million for the Hay Creek tract (BLM 2006b). The bonus bid payments associated with these sales topped $200 million in fiscal year 2006. The remaining bonus bid payments from those past sales, estimated at about $170 million per year to the State of Wyoming, will occur this year and the next fiscal year. Three sales involving coal in the Wyoming PRB were held in the first four months of 2008. Two of those sales were successful. The Eagle Butte and South Maysdorf tracts yielded bonus bids within the range of the 2004/2005 sales (BLM 2008f). As additional sales are planned, successful sales will generate additional coal lease bonus bid disbursements. Such disbursements to the state are then allocated to fund capital construction projects for cities, towns, and counties; the state’s highway fund; community colleges, and schools (Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group 2007). Federal mineral royalties (FMR) are collected by the federal government when the produced coal is sold, with a royalty rate equal to 12.5% of the sale price. The federal government retains 51% of the receipts and 49% of the FMR is disbursed to the State of Wyoming. Total FMR disbursements, including coal bonus bid payments to the state in fiscal year 2007 derived from all mineral production (not solely coal), was $927 million (Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group 2008). In 2006, the Buckskin Mine paid $17.8 million in FMR. In addition to the FMR, coal mines pay as much as 31.5 cents per ton of surface coal produced to fund AML reclamation programs. The Buckskin Mine payments to the federal mining reclamation program exceeded $6 million in 2006. Historically about 83% of the funds were to be returned to states and tribes with AML problems, subject to adjustments to reflect the actual appropriations authorized by Congress and overall AML program priorities. Future AML payments associated with the proposed coal sales are assumed to be 28.0 cents per ton. Wyoming historically received about 50% of the AML funds generated by production in the state. Amendments to Title IV of the SMCRA enacted in 2006 altered the structure of the AML program. Under the revised program, Wyoming will receive payments over the next seven years to replace past underpayments stemming from Congressional budget authorizations that were insufficient to fully fund the program. However, the state will not be entitled to receive future distributions from the AML program. Wyoming will receive an equivalent in-lieu amount, of 50%, in the form of grants from general treasury funds. The new funds will be subject to fewer restrictions regarding their use (OSM 2007a, b). Additional sources of revenue from coal mining include federal corporate and personal income taxes and annual lease rentals paid to the government. Sales and use taxes are levied by the state and by local governments. Approximately 70% of the revenues generated from the statewide 4.0% levy are retained by the state; the remaining revenues are distributed to the counties, cities, and towns according to statutory formula. In addition, Campbell County levies a 1% general purpose local option tax and a 0.25% specific county option tax. Sales and tax revenues are vital for local governments. Statewide total sales and use tax revenues totaled $922.1 million in fiscal year 2007. Fully $1 of every $6 in

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statewide sales and use tax receipts was derived directly from economic activity in Campbell County (Wyoming Department of Revenue 2007). A direct accounting of sales and use taxes paid by coal mining firms is not available; however, it is likely substantial given the operating budgets of the mines. In 2006, the Buckskin Mine had a total payroll, including benefits and incentives, of $19.3 million. In addition, the mine made outlays of nearly $91 million for non-labor operating expenses, capital investments, permits, licenses, fees, royalties, and taxes. Approximately 60% of the latter sum was spent with vendors and suppliers in Wyoming or paid directly to state and local governments. An internal analysis of the Buckskin Mine’s outlays yielded an estimated $1.8 million paid in sales and use taxes in 2006. The total payroll includes $31.7 million in federal mineral royalties, mined land reclamation, and black lung taxes, a considerable portion of which return to Wyoming (Ackermann pers. comm.). The County, Campbell County School District 1, and several special service districts also rely on ad valorem/property taxes levied on the real property and value of production and benefit from operations of the Buckskin Mine. Rising production and market values for oil, natural gas, and coal, coupled with increases in production have given rise to dramatic increases in the ad valorem tax bases of producing counties, particularly Campbell County. In 2008, Campbell County had an ad valorem tax base of $4.72 billion, an increase of more than $1.0 billion, or 29% increase in the past three years. Campbell County’s total ad valorem tax base accounted for more than 21% of the aggregate statewide assessed value on all real property and mineral production. The coal mining industry accounted for nearly 66% of Campbell County’s total assessed value (table 3.17-1). The Buckskin Mine, along with other coal mines and the natural gas industry, are the largest taxpayers in Campbell County.

Table 3.17-1. Contribution of Coal Mining to 2008 Assessed Valuation of Campbell County
Total Assessed Value
$ 4,772,822,444
1

Coal Mining (Real Property)
$ 258,857,305

State-Assessed Minerals—Coal
$ 2,852,086,593

Coal-Related Share of Total1
65.8%

(coal mining real property + state-assessed minerals) / total assessed value = coal-related share of total

Sources: Wyoming Department of Revenue 2008 and Wyoming State Board of Equalization 2008.

3.17.1.2 Environmental Consequences
Federal and state royalties, severance tax, and other revenues generated by leasing and mining coal depend on the eventual sale date and price of coal. This analysis assumes a conservative price estimate of $7.85 per ton of coal. It is approximately 25% below the statewide average price of $10.56 per ton for 2010 thru 2012 (reflecting both contracted and spot sales prices) used by Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group to estimate the state’s revenues from mineral severance and federal mineral royalty revenues over the next five years (Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group 2007, 2008). Royalty and severance tax revenues would

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increase above the amounts projected in this analysis should actual values be higher, and vice versa. Coal prices increased in 2005, generally in response to concerns over transporting and maintaining adequate stockpiles, but then declined in 2006. According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey, the average spot price of 8,400-Btu coal in the PRB was $11.06 per ton in the second half of 2005 and $9.86 per ton in 2006 (Wyoming State Geological Survey 2008). Prices trended upward in 2007 and the first half of 2008, topping $14.00 per ton for 8,800-Btu coal in April and again in November (U.S. Department of Energy 2008a). Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract4 is projected to generate $69.2–$87.3 million in federal revenues, $90.6–$108.8 million in state and local revenues (table 3.17-2), and potential bonus bids on the leased recoverable coal ranging from $0.30 to $0.97 cents per ton. The projected revenues are based on the total tons of recoverable coal, and, therefore, are not affected by future production rates.

Table 3.17-2.	 Projected Major Revenue Increases under the Proposed Action and Alternatives1
Additional Under Item
State and Local Revenues Federal Revenues Mine Life	 Additional Employees
1

Existing Buckskin Mine
$563.6 million $417.0 million 14 years 0

Alternative 1 (No Action)
0 0 0 0

Proposed Action
$90.6–$108.8 million $69.2–$87.3 million 2 years 0	

Alternative 2
$250.2–$300.4 million $191.0–$241.1 million 6 years 0

Includes severance taxes, federal mineral royalties, and payments to the AML and Black Lung Disability funds. Revenues assume an average sale price of $7.85 per ton for coal. State and local revenues include allowances for “in-lieu” amounts for AML, for sales and use taxes on direct purchases by the mine, and ad valorem/property taxes on real property and production, but not the sales and use taxes associated with the indirect and induced activity supported by the mine. The state revenues do not include any allowances for “recapture” revenues from Campbell County School District 1.

The overwhelming majority of the state and local revenues reported above would accrue to the state general fund, budget reserve, and Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund. Substantial revenue would also go to the Wyoming School Foundation Program and school construction programs. Due to statutorily established “caps” on distributions of federal royalty and severance tax revenues to local government, only a relatively small share of these revenues would go to Campbell County and the City of Gillette. The Wyoming School Foundation Program is also likely to benefit from revenues generated by the “recapture” provisions of local ad valorem taxation. These provisions are triggered when local school districts collect revenue based on state-mandated property tax levies for education that exceed authorized expenditure levels under the state’s funding equalization program. These
4

Based on the coal production tonnages shown in table 3-1.

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provisions require such excess tax revenue to be forwarded to the state for use in funding operations in districts with relatively smaller property tax bases. Campbell County School District 1 is among the few districts in the state that is consistently subject to the “recapture” provisions. Under the Proposed Action, the local economic activity supported by the mine’s wages and local purchases would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Currently approved mining operations and associated economic benefits would continue on the existing Buckskin Mine leases for the current life-of-mine estimate; however, the additional years of economic and fiscal benefit under the action alternatives would be lost. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Successfully leasing the tract in the future would trigger the same types of revenue flows to the federal, state, and local governments, though the magnitude of the revenues could be higher or lower than reported here due to differences in future market prices for coal, tax rates, and other factors. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area5 would generate $191.0-$241.1 million in projected federal revenues, $250.2–$300.4 million in state and local revenues (table 3.17-2), and potential bonus bids on the leased recoverable coal ranging from $0.30 to $0.97 cents per ton. The projected revenues are based on the total tons of recoverable coal and hence are insensitive to future production rates. Allocation of revenue would be the same as described for the Proposed Action. Under Alternative 2, the local economic activity supported by the mine’s wages and local purchases would continue for six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate.

3.17.2

Population

3.17.2.1 Affected Environment
Future residency patterns of the Buckskin Mine’s employees would be expected to mirror that of the mine’s current workforce. More than 80% of the current workforce resides in or near Gillette, with 12% living elsewhere in Wyoming, and 8% commuting from locations in South Dakota. Because of the proximity of the mine to Gillette, the company does not sponsor bus service for employees to and from the mine as do some of the other mines in the region. Rather, employees drive personal or company vehicles or participate in informal carpools.
5

Based on the coal production tonnages shown in table 3-1.

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The community of Gillette, the county seat, would most likely attract the majority of any new residents due to its current population levels and the availability of services, shopping amenities, and educational institutions. Campbell County’s population climbed from 33,698 in 2000 to an estimated 41,473 in July 2008, ranking it the third most populous of Wyoming’s 23 counties (table 3.17-3). The increase represents 23% net growth since 2000, trailing only Sublette County (43%) in terms of population growth rates among Wyoming counties. However, Campbell County ranked first in terms of net absolute population growth with a net gain of 7,775 residents. Natrona County, where Casper, the state’s largest city is located, registered the second-largest absolute change, gaining 6,596 residents between 2000 and 2008 (U.S. Census 2009).

Table 3.17-3. Population Change, 2000 to 2008
Change Since 2000 2000
Campbell County City of Gillette
NA = Not yet available Source: U.S. Census (2008a and 2009). * Indicated change is for the period 2000 to 2007.

2006
38,480 23,264

2007
40,433 25,031

2008
41,473 NA

Absolute
7,775 5,385*

Percent
23.1 27.4

33,698 19,646

Gillette’s July 2007 population of 25,031, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, ranks it the fourth-largest city in the state, behind Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie. Gillette’s net population gain of 5,385 residents led all municipalities in the state by a considerable margin; Casper’s net gain of 3,359 residents was the second-largest increase among Wyoming cities and towns (U.S. Census 2008a). The City of Gillette has long maintained that the Census Bureau population estimates are low. The city’s population estimates were 27,533 and 30,636, respectively for December 2006 and 2007: the latter is more than 5,600 residents higher than the census estimates. The city cites updated housing inventories, household demographics, and the extremely low housing vacancy rates for its higher estimates (City of Gillette 2008a). Beyond the direct implications for population, the latter also suggests that the Census estimates overlook households that would qualify as residents but are unable to find housing and consequently are living in local hotels and motels on a longer-term basis (Langston pers. comm.). The city also believes the Census estimates overlook the many single-status workers who reside in the community on a long-term basis, but who maintain a permanent legal place of residence elsewhere.6 Though they technically are not residents, these individuals place demands on the city and other local public service providers.

6	

Single-status workers are married with spouses or families, or are unmarried but living in household settings, who relocate temporarily for employment purposes but who are not accompanied by other family or household members.

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In comparison to the statewide population, the median age of Campbell County residents was substantially lower and it had relatively fewer minority residents, a higher percentage of residents under 18, and a larger average household size as shown in table 3.17-4.

Table 3.17-4. Demographic Characteristics, 2000
Characteristic
Median Age Percent Residents < 18 Years Old Average Household Size Percent Minority Residents
Source: PRB Coal Review Task1C Report (BLM 2005b)

Wyoming
36.2 26.1 2.5 7.9

Campbell County
32.2 31.0 2.7 3.9

The majority of the current population directly and indirectly associated with the Buckskin Mine’s current workforce resides in and is already integrated into the Gillette community.

3.17.2.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract would extend the current life-of-mine estimate by two years, but mine employment would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2). Consequently, the Proposed Action would not result in any noticeable incremental change in population in Campbell County, the City of Gillette, or nearby unincorporated areas. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Currently approved mining operations and associated employment levels would continue on other existing Buckskin Mine leases. The extension in the life of the mine and associated benefits on population stabilization would be lost. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the BLM study area would extend the current life-of-mine estimate by up to six years, but mine employment would be expected to remain as described under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2). Consequently, Alternative 2 would not result in any noticeable incremental change in population in Campbell County, the City of Gillette, or nearby unincorporated areas.

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3.17.3

Employment

3.17.3.1 Affected Environment
Coal mining processes and productivity have changed substantially in recent times. New technologies and higher-capacity equipment are major contributors to these changes. Local coal mining employment grew rapidly during the 1970s as more mines opened and production climbed. Between 1980 and 1998, overall production rose while the number of mining employees decreased or remained constant. The employment declines followed major capital investments in facilities and production equipment aimed at increasing productivity (BLM 2005b). Since 1998 direct employment in Powder River coal mines has climbed, but relatively slower than production, which has risen by more than 50% (Wyoming Department of Employment 2009a). At the beginning of 2008, the mining sector, including oil and gas workers, accounted for more than 26% of all wage and salary jobs in Campbell and neighboring Converse counties, more than two-and-one-half times the statewide percentage. Surface coal mines or coal contractors in those two counties directly employed approximately 7,400 people, representing about 23% of the total employment labor force (Wyoming Department of Employment 2009a, 2009b; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009). Total statewide covered employment7 stood at 276,195 in the first quarter of 2008, nearly 20% higher than the corresponding 230,554 jobs in 2003. Approximately one-out-of-four new jobs added in the state during the five-year period was related to the energy industry, with most of that increase concentrated in support industries for oil and gas development. During that same period, statewide coal mining employment increased by 1,809 jobs (27%) to 6,614, while total employment in Campbell County grew by 8,010 jobs (29%) (Wyoming Department of Employment 2009b). The recent increases in the numbers of local jobs has affected all industries, but was concentrated in mining, construction, transportation, and local government (Wyoming Department of Employment 2009b and 2009c). The mining sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, accounts for about 28% of all employment and 39% of the total labor wages paid in Campbell County. Coal mining is the major constituent of the mining industry in Campbell County, unlike most other areas of Wyoming where oil and gas development is the primary constituent. Local labor market conditions reflect the strong economic expansion in recent years, driven principally by energy resource development. Unemployment has been near historic lows with average unemployment dipping below 2.0% in Campbell County in 2008, even as the local labor force has grown due to immigration and the attraction of additional residents into the labor force (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009).
7

Covered employment refers to those full- and part-time, private and government wage and salary workers covered under the state’s unemployment insurance program. About 97% of non-agricultural workers are included. Exclusions include insurance and real estate agents on commission; most railroad workers; the self-employed; unpaid volunteers or family workers; members of the military; and many agricultural workers.

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The Buckskin Mine provides work for 338 (October 2008) employees. The current employment level resulted from an increase of about 130 employees following the 2004 acquisition of additional reserves in the West Hay Creek coal lease and subsequent increase in production. The mine also purchased additional mining equipment to boost production as it worked to address increased stripping ratios (overburden to coal ratio) in its active production seams. Although the primary purpose of the proposed tract is to support an efficient transition of mining from the current production area to other existing leases, the expansion in reserves associated with the tract would also extend the life-of-mine by two years at current production rates (about 25 million tons per year). The additional reserves associated with Alternative 2 would add up to six years to the life of the mine. The Buckskin Mine is contemplating the addition of a few additional employees to reach its currently desired staffing levels. Filling these positions, a part of the No Action Alternative, would raise the workforce to 345 to 350 workers (Ackermann pers. comm.). Little or no further change in direct employment is anticipated at the mine in conjunction with either the Proposed Action or Alternative 2, assuming a sustained annual production of 25 million tons per year.

3.17.3.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, surface coal mining in the proposed tract would extend the current life-of-mine estimate by two years, but mine employment would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2). Consequently, the Proposed Action would have a beneficial impact on the region’s labor market by extending the duration of current employment rates at the mine. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Current mining operations and employment levels would continue in association with other existing Buckskin Mine leases. The extension in the life of the mine and associated benefits on continued employment would be lost. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, surface coal mining in the alternative tract configuration would extend the current life-of-mine estimate by up to six years, but mine employment would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2). Consequently, Alternative 2 would have a beneficial impact on the region’s labor market by extending the duration of current employment rates at the mine.

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3.17.4

Housing

3.17.4.1 Affected Environment
The 2000 census tallied 13,288 housing units in Campbell County (U.S. Census 2008b). Population growth since 2000 has prompted new housing construction in the region. According to the Census Bureau estimates, net additions to the number of housing units in Campbell County from 2000 through 2007 total 1,240 units (table 3.17-5). However, for many years construction did not keep pace with demand. Consequently, vacancy rates have fallen to record lows and housing prices have climbed. In the second half of 2007, a survey of rental housing estimated a vacancy rate of just 0.3% (4 units) in Campbell County (Wyoming Housing Database Partnership 2008). Another recent housing survey in Gillette yielded a vacancy rate of 0.1% for rental properties with many complexes reporting significant waiting lists. That survey also estimated a year-end vacancy rate of 2.0% among 11 mobile home parks (City of Gillette 2008a).

Table 3.17-5. Campbell County Housing Inventory, 2000 and 2007
2000
13,288
Source: U.S. Census 2008b

2007
14,528

Change
+1,240

In 2007, a major surge in new residential construction occurred in Campbell County, triggered by pent-up housing demand and anticipated future demands associated with the pending construction of the Dry Fork Station power plant (2008 thru 2010), rising coal production, and continuing natural gas development. The City of Gillette alone issued 986 building permits for new housing units in 2007. That total, consisting of 244 single-family units, 140 duplex units, and 602 multi-family units, nearly equaled the combined total of the previous six years. In addition, the city issued 126 permits for new manufactured homes. At year’s end 624 multifamily units were under construction with another 72 units expected to be permitted in early 2008 (City of Gillette 2008a). In the fourth quarter of 2007, average rental housing costs in Campbell County were $708 for a two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment; $308 for a single-wide mobile home lot; and $1,185 for a two- or three-bedroom single-family home. As compared to the same period in 2006, those averages represent increases of 1.5%, 9.1%, and 21.6% for apartments, mobile home lots, and single family homes, respectively. Within the state, only Teton and Sublette counties have higher costs (Wyoming Department of Administration and Information 2008). The average selling price of homes in Campbell County in 2006, based on 436 sales, was $199,945. That average was the fifth highest among Wyoming counties, a 7.6% increase over 2005, and an overall increase of 52% in five years (Wyoming Housing Database Partnership 2008).

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In addition to permanent housing, a substantial number of temporary or transient housing exists in Campbell County, the City of Gillette, and nearby unincorporated areas. Such housing includes hotels or motels, campgrounds, and some spaces within recreational vehicle (RV)/mobile home parks. Given the tight housing market conditions in Gillette, workers and families waiting for traditional housing to become available are reportedly using some units for longer-term occupancy. Gillette currently supports 18 motels and inns offering a total of about 1,370 guest rooms; Wright recently opened a 27-room motel (Wyoming Travel and Tourism 2007). Commercial construction permits for a new 80-room motel and a new dormitory to house railroad employees were also issued in 2007 (City of Gillette 2008a). Gillette has two year-round, commercial campgrounds with approximately 135 hookups for RVs plus tent areas (Wyoming Travel and Tourism 2007). In an effort to address current and anticipated housing needs (particularly those associated with temporary workforces for power plant construction and oil and gas development) Campbell County amended its zoning regulations in 2007 to include a new district for recreational vehicle parks. Such parks can accommodate travel trailers, campers, motor homes, and other recreational vehicles that are commonly used as housing, in a setting that offers centralized laundries, showers, and recreational support activities, as well as utility service and hookups (Campbell County 2008b).

3.17.4.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be extended by two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Production levels would remain at 25 million tons per year, so no increase in workforce would be necessary to accommodate this rate. Current efforts to add a small number of employees at the mine are unrelated to the coal lease application. Consequently, the Proposed Action would have no substantial impact on population influx or new demands on housing resources in Campbell County, the City of Gillette, and nearby unincorporated areas. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Little change on local housing resources would be expected due to the lack of change in employment at the Buckskin Mine under this alternative. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be extended by up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Production levels would remain at 25 million tons per year, so no
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increase in workforce would be necessary to accommodate this rate. Production levels would remain at 25 million tons per year, so no increase in workforce would be necessary to accommodate this rate. Current efforts to add a small number of employees at the mine are unrelated to the coal lease application. Consequently, Alternative 2 would have no substantial impact on population influx or new demands on housing resources.

3.17.5

Local Government Facilities and Services

3.17.5.1 Affected Environment
The availability of revenues generated by mineral production has helped local government facilities and services address growing demands for public services. Current facilities and services are generally adequate for the current population, although several service providers are engaged in expansion plans to accommodate future growth and improve service delivery. Campbell County School District 1, the third-largest district in Wyoming in total enrollment, is the public school district most directly affected by operations at the Buckskin Mine. Total enrollment in Campbell County School District 1 declined by more than 500 students between 1998 and 2004, and climbed by 390 students through the fall of 2007 in response to economic and population growth in the county (Wyoming Department of Education 2008a). The enrollment increase is marked by a disproportionate increase in the number of very young children, i.e., the total number of students enrolled in kindergarten through third grade accounting for more than 70% of the net increase. This pattern is indicative of the recent migration by younger households into the area. Campbell County School District 1 facilities include 15 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 2 high schools (one with two campuses in Gillette). The school district is in the midst of a five-year plan to replace several schools, modernize others, and complete other major systems maintenance and upgrades. The overall plan is budgeted at more than $57 million. Plans for the next two years include completion of a new elementary school and additions to a high school (Wyoming School Facilities Commission 2007). The Campbell County Sheriff’s Department and Gillette Police Department are the two primary local law enforcement agencies in the county. In addition to general law enforcement throughout the county, the Sheriff’s staff provides court security, conducts criminal investigations, operates the detention center, and provides animal control and dispatch for multiple entities. The Sheriff’s office is budgeted for 60 sworn deputies and other employees. Campbell County is proceeding with a major expansion and remodel of the Campbell County detention center. The existing facility has 128 beds, with separate modules for women and juveniles (BLM 2005b). The expansion will add 144 beds for adult inmates along with a separate 16-bed facility for juvenile offenders. Additional space for detention center support functions and departmental administrative, dispatch, and records storage are also included in the expansion (Campbell County 2008a).

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The Gillette Police Department has primary responsibility for law enforcement within the municipal boundaries. The department had 70 full-time positions in 2007, an increase of 10 positions as compared to 2005. In part, the increase reflects heightened demands for services associated with a rapid influx of energy-related workers and the corresponding population growth (City of Gillette 2008b). Fire suppression, fire safety, first responder medical emergency, and hazardous material response throughout Campbell County is provided by the Campbell County Fire Department, which is governed by a city-county joint powers board. The department maintains four stations in Gillette and six rural stations dispersed throughout the county. Construction of a new departmental headquarters facility commenced in 2007. The facility includes administrative office space, training facilities, parking bays for apparatus, and maintenance and storage facilities (City of Gillette 2008a). The Buckskin Mine maintains equipment and trained staff to fight fires on mine property. The primary medical care facility serving the region is the Campbell County Memorial Hospital, a 90-bed acute care hospital, located in Gillette. The hospital is planning for a major expansion and renovation project that will add 73 new rooms, as well as other diagnostic, treatment, patient-care, and support facilities. Local health care capabilities include a nursing program at Gillette College, housed in a newly completed facility, built by the city. The new Health Science Center provides opportunities for expanded cooperative teaching and training between the college and the hospital. Ambulance service for Campbell County is provided by the hospital, which has a 24-hour emergency service capability. The Campbell County Fire Department provides first responder service to emergency calls, but transport is the responsibility of the hospital-affiliated ambulance service. Emergency air transport service for severe injuries or critically ill patients is available through Wyoming Life Flight, based in Casper, Wyoming. Wyoming Life Flight provides transport to Wyoming Medical Center, a level 2 trauma facility, and other appropriate regional health care facilities in Billings, Montana, Denver, Colorado, or elsewhere. The principal water and wastewater utilities are operated by the City of Gillette. The city’s water system has ample capacity for its service area for most of the year. However, the system operates near capacity during the peak demand months of June, July, and August. The city recently completed a level II water study to identify longer-term solutions to its water supply problems and is now proceeding to implement its recommendations. High-priority actions include drilling a new well, promoting additional conservation through education and new rate structures, and adopting outside watering/irrigation schedules during the summer (Petersen pers. comm.; City of Gillette 2008a). Gillette’s sewer treatment system was originally designed for a service population of approximately 35,000. Recently completed improvements increased treatment capacity to accommodate a population of 50,000. The city is also proceeding with plans to expand/extend major sewer lines to provide capacity to accommodate new development. Currently, the system

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serves in excess of 30,000 residents and visitors in the city and surrounding areas (City of Gillette 2008a).

3.17.5.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be extended by two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Current efforts to add a small number of employees at the mine are unrelated to the coal lease application. Consequently, the Proposed Action would not increase demands on the existing community facilities or services in the county No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Demand on local government facilities and services would be the same as under existing conditions. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be extended by up to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Current efforts to add a small number of employees at the mine are unrelated to the coal lease application. Consequently, Alternative 2 would not increase demands on the existing community facilities or services in the county.

3.17.6

Social Setting

3.17.6.1 Affected Environment
The social setting for coal development in the PRB is described in the Task 1C Report for the PRB coal review (BLM 2005b)8. That report emphasizes Campbell County and its communities as the nucleus for coal development in the PRB. The Buckskin Mine has been in production since 1981, and the mine and its employees contribute to the social and economic stability of Campbell County and the City of Gillette.

3.17.6.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be maintained for up to two years
8

This report is available online at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/energy/Coal_Resources/PRB_Coal/prbdocs.html.

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beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. Consequently, the Proposed Action would not affect the social setting of Campbell County or local communities, but would contribute to sustaining it for two additional years. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. The social setting would be the same as under existing conditions. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Under Alternative 2, employment at the Buckskin Mine would be expected to remain the same as under existing conditions (section 1.1.3.2), but would be extended by up to six years. Consequently, Alternative 2 would not affect the social setting of Campbell County or local communities, but would contribute to sustaining it for six additional years.

3.17.7

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is concerned with actions that have disproportionate impacts on a given segment of society as a result of physical location, perception, design, noise, or other factors. On February 11, 1994, Executive Order 12898, “Federal Action to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” was published at 59 Federal Register 7629. That executive order requires federal agencies to identify and address unreasonably high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations (defined as those living below the poverty level). The executive order makes it clear that its provisions apply fully to Native American populations and Native American tribes. Communities within Campbell County, entities with interests in the area, and individuals with ties to the area may have concerns about the presence of surface coal mines in the area. Environmental justice concerns are usually directly associated with impacts on the natural and physical environment, but these impacts are likely to be interrelated with social and economic impacts as well. Native American access to cultural and religious sites may fall under the umbrella of environmental justice concerns if the sites are on tribal lands or access to a specific location has been granted by treaty right. Compliance with Executive Order 12898 concerning environmental justice was accomplished through opportunities for the public to receive information on this EIS in conjunction with consultation and coordination described in section 1.6. This EIS and contributing socioeconomic analysis provide a consideration of the impacts with regard to disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority and/or low-income groups, including Native Americans.

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3.17.7.1 Affected Environment
Economic and demographic data (U.S. Census Bureau 2000 and 2006a) indicate that neither minority populations nor people living at or below the poverty level make up a “meaningfully greater increment” of the total population in Gillette or Campbell County than they do in the state as a whole. Also, the Native American population is smaller than in the state as a whole, and no known Native American sacred sites are located on or near the general analysis area (section 3.12.2.1).

3.17.7.2 Environmental Consequences
Proposed Action Because neither minority populations nor people living at or below the poverty level make up a “meaningfully greater increment” of the total population in Gillette or Campbell County than they do in the state as a whole, the Proposed Action would not have an adverse effect associated with environmental justice. No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the coal lease application would be rejected and no new coal reserves would be mined in the general analysis area. Because neither minority populations nor people living at or below the poverty level make up a “meaningfully greater increment” of the total population in Gillette or Campbell County than they do in the state as a whole, the No Action Alternative would not have an adverse effect associated with environmental justice. As discussed in section 2.2.2, a decision to reject the coal lease application would not preclude an application to lease a tract in the general analysis area in the future. Alternative 2 Because neither minority populations nor people living at or below the poverty level make up a “meaningfully greater increment” of the total population in Gillette or Campbell County than they do in the state as a whole, Alternative 2 would not have an adverse effect associated with environmental justice.

3.17.8

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

Surface coal mines are required to pay royalty and other taxes and fees as required by federal, state, and local regulations. The BLM compares the amount of coal reported as produced with the estimated amount of coal in the ground to verify that royalties are paid on all of the coal that is mined.

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3.17.9

Residual Effects

3.17.9.1 Human Health Impact Assessment
In 2008, public concerns were brought to the BLM’s attention in regard to conducting human health impact assessments in the PRB where coal mining activities occur. These public concerns included emissions from coal mining activities, such as particulate matter and NOx exposure, and their potential impact on the health of people living in the local area. Health impact assessments examine and assess the potential effects of proposed projects on human health on a broad scale, including social, emotional, and cultural, and physical impacts. These assessments rely on available scientific data, public testimony, and modeling to predict potential health impacts. The BLM does not have jurisdiction in regard to conducting human health assessments. However, the BLM has invited the Wyoming Department of Health/Environmental Health Section and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to review and provide comment on the draft EIS for the Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application. In reference to the stated public concerns, air pollution is controlled by state and federal air quality regulations and standards established under the federal Clean Air Act Amendments. State implementation plans are in place to ensure proposed actions such as coal mining comply with all associated air quality regulations and criteria. The WAAQS are stricter than the NAAQS and are enforced by the WDEQ/AQD. As described in section 3.4.2.3, the WDEQ/AQD in a joint effort with PRB mining stakeholders developed a detailed natural events action plan for the coal mines of Campbell and Converse counties, Wyoming, based on EPA natural event policy guidance. It identifies potential control measures for protecting public health and minimizing exceedences of the PM10 NAAQS. All mines are required to conduct long-term air quality modeling to show that their proposed operations will comply with the NAAQS and WAAQS. They are also required to conduct regular monitoring to demonstrate that their actual air emissions do not exceed these standards. The WDEQ/AQD permit process for coal mines requires air quality modeling of the primary air pollutants PM10 and NO2. Section 3.4.2.3 contains air quality mitigation measures that WDEQ/AQD implemented to prevent exceedences of NAAQS and WAAQS by surface coal mines.

3.18 The Relationship Between Local Short-Term Uses of the Human Environment and the Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-Term Productivity
Under NEPA, an EIS must include a discussion of the “relationship between short-term uses of man’s environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity” (40 CFR 1502.16). This requirement is duplicated in the BLM NEPA Handbook Chapter V, Section B.2.a.(3) and C.3.h.(2) (BLM 2008b). This section provides a summary of the residual
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impacts of surface coal mining (short-term use) on those resources that have some long-term production capability. Resources such as geology, paleontology, surface water, wildlife use, and others considered “non-producing” are not included in this section.

3.18.1

Local Area

3.18.1.1 Topography
If either action alternative is implemented, coal mining activities would modify almost all components of the present ecological system in the mined tract, which have developed over a long period. In the long term, the land surface would be topographically lower following reclamation. Although the reclaimed surface would resemble original contours, it would have a more homogenous appearance and lack some of its original diversity in shape, structure, and outline.

3.18.1.2 Coal Bed Natural Gas
CBNG is currently being recovered from within the general analysis area, and the BLM’s overall assessment of this resource suggests that a large portion of the CBNG resource in the area has been recovered or would be recovered prior to mining under either of the action alternatives. CBNG resources that have not been recovered from the Canyon and Anderson seams prior to mining would be lost when the coal is removed. Luca Technologies Inc. has developed a method of using methanogenisis to produce biogenetic methane. This technique is currently capable of producing up to 30 million cubic feet per day through nutrient enhancement of microbacterial communities; the bacteria metabolize the complex organic molecules in hydrocarbon deposits and produce the gas as a waste product. Selection of the No Action Alternative (Alternative 1) would not be likely to decrease the total U.S. methane emissions attributable to coal mining in the long term, because numerous other sources of coal exist that could meet the demand even after the Buckskin Mine recovered all of the coal in its existing leases. Likewise, it would not be likely that total U.S. methane emissions would measurably increase in the long term if one of the action alternatives is implemented, because the annual production rate would not increase under either alternative.

3.18.1.3 Air Quality and Visual Resources
Because annual coal production rates and supporting mining activities would continue at current levels under either action alternative, they would not increase existing impacts on the air quality and visual resources in the area on a short-term basis. However, existing effects would continue for two to six years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate. No residual impacts on air quality or visibility are expected following coal extraction, removal of surface facilities, and completion of reclamation.

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3.18.1.4 Water Resources
If either of the action alternatives is implemented, groundwater quality after reclamation may differ from premining conditions, but would be similar to the quality in previously reclaimed areas. Water quality would remain adequate for current uses such as livestock and wildlife. Mining would permanently remove any aquifers in the final tract configuration. Groundwater depth would increase in an area extending northwest (upstream) of mining operations due to drawdown from dewatering prior to mining, but should eventually return to premining levels because recharge areas would not be disturbed during coal recovery.

3.18.1.5 Vegetation
The forage and associated livestock grazing present in the general analysis area would be temporarily and incrementally disturbed during mining and reclamation. Croplands and pasture in the area would also be affected. Impacts on native vegetation and producing agricultural lands could occur on up to 2,847 acres due to mining and support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling), if the largest possible tract configuration is mined. However, because the county roads in the area are not likely to be closed or relocated, actual new disturbance is expected to be limited to a maximum of 618 additional acres (table 2-4). Any disturbance would occur incrementally over a period of years. Soils would be replaced and vegetation would be restored, as required by the mining plan (section 3.8 and section 3.9). Because the general analysis area is dominated (71% combined) by upland grassland communities and agricultural lands, the establishment of reclaimed grassland communities after mining has been completed would represent similar or somewhat improved habitats, respectively, compared to premining conditions. In the long term, reclaimed lands would provide equivalent or better forage production capacity for domestic livestock. This outcome would be required before the performance bond is released. Long-term productivity would depend primarily on postmining range management practices largely controlled by private landowners.

3.18.1.6 Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat
If either of the action alternatives is implemented, mining would disturb foraging habitat for a variety of wildlife species, particularly those associated with upland grasslands (the combined dominant habitat in the area). Sagebrush obligates such as the sage-grouse would not experience the same level of impacts due to the limited presence (approximately 11%) and broken distribution of shrubs in the general analysis area. Although some wildlife would be displaced or lost in the short term, monitoring of previously reclaimed lands indicates that reclamation can support levels of wildlife abundance and species richness similar to those present prior to mining disturbance over the long term. The timeline for the return to premine wildlife use varies widely by species, with the shortest period for grassland species and longest for species that depend on mature sagebrush, such as the sage-grouse and pronghorn.

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3.18.1.7 Recreational Resources
If either of the action alternatives is implemented, short-term impacts on recreational resources could occur from a reduction in big game populations resulting from habitat disturbance and reduction in access to some hunting areas. However, hunting opportunities are already limited due to the dominance of private lands in and around the general analysis area, so these impacts would be minimal. Reclamation efforts would eventually restore wildlife habitats similar to premining conditions, and access to hunting areas affected by mining would presumably be restored as well. Consequently, no long-term adverse impacts on recreation would be expected.

3.18.1.8 Socioeconomic Resources
If either of the action alternatives is implemented, the short- and long-term economy of the region would be enhanced. The Proposed Action would extend the current life-of-mine estimate by two years; Alternative 2 would extend it up to six years (Table 2-4).

3.18.2

Human Health Impact Assessment

In 2008, public concerns were brought to the BLM’s attention in regard to conducting human health impact assessments in the PRB where coal mining activities occur to assess the potential impacts of proposed projects on human health. These assessments examine health on a broad scale, including social, emotional, and cultural impacts as well as physical impacts. The impact assessments rely on available scientific data, public testimony, and modeling. The BLM does not have jurisdiction in regard to conducting specific human health assessments. However, that agency invited the Wyoming Department of Health/Environmental Health Section and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to review and provide comment on the Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application EIS. Neither agency was able to provide detailed information due to time and staffing constraints. Information regarding general aspects of human health impact assessments are included in sections 3.4 (Air Quality), 3.5 (Water Resources), 3.14 (Noise), 3.16 (Hazardous and Solid Waste), and 3.17 (Socioeconomics). While this information may not provide a thorough discussion of all aspects of these assessments, it is a summary of credible scientific data and evidence that is relevant to evaluating reasonably foreseeable significant impacts on human health. Public concerns were largely focused on the potential for exposure to particulate matter and NOx emissions from coal mining, and the potential impacts of such exposures on the health of people living in the vicinity of surface coal mines located in the eastern PRB. Air pollution is controlled by state and federal air quality regulations and standards established under the federal Clean Air Act Amendments. State implementation plans are in place to ensure proposed actions like coal mining comply with all associated air quality regulations and criteria. Wyoming standards, WAAQS are stricter than their national counterparts, NAAQS, and are enforced by the WDEQ/AQD. As described in section 3.4.2.3, the WDEQ/AQD developed a Natural Events Action Plan for the coal mines of the PRB. The plan, based on the EPA Natural Event Policy guidance, identifies potential control measures for protecting public health and
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minimizing exceedances of the PM10 NAAQS, which is the only particulate emission required to be monitored at this time. All mines are required to conduct air quality modeling to show that their proposed operations will comply with the WAAQS and NAAQS, and they are required to demonstrate through monitoring that their actual air emissions do not exceed the standards. The WDEQ/AQD coal mining permit process requires air quality modeling of the primary air pollutants PM10 and NO2. Section 3.4.2.3 addresses air quality mitigation measures that the WDEQ/AQD has implemented to prevent exceedances of the WAAQS and NAAQS at other PRB surface coal mines. As stated above and as discussed in section 3.4, maintenance of current annual coal production rates and supporting mining activities under either action alternative would mean that ongoing, short-term impacts on air quality would not increase. However, ongoing impacts would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate under the Proposed Action and up to six years under Alternative 2. No residual impacts on air quality are expected following coal extraction, removal of surface facilities, and completion of reclamation. According to section 3.5.1, postmining groundwater quality may differ from premining quality, but is expected to be quite similar to the premining overburden aquifer and meet Wyoming Class III standards for use as stock water. While mining is in progress, surface water quality (section 3.5.2) would continue to be protected by directing surface runoff from affected areas to various sediment-control structures including sediment ponds, traps, ditches, sumps, and mine pits. Under normal conditions, exceedances of effluent limitations are not expected in the future as mining extends into new drainages and additional sediment-control facilities are added. After mining and reclamation are complete, surface water flow and quality would approximate premining conditions. Noise levels in the general analysis area would not increase near most occupied residences in the vicinity; however, existing activities such as blasting, loading, and hauling would continue for two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate under the Proposed Action, and up to six years under Alternative 2. Projected noise in the general analysis area would be farther from some homes than currently allowed within the existing permit area. The distance and terrain between occupied homes and disturbance area provide visual and audio barriers to the north and west of the general analysis area. Due to the general remoteness of the area, and because mining is already occurring there, noise would have few off-site impacts. No residual noise impacts are expected. As discussed in section 3.16, wastes generated by mining in the general analysis area would be handled in accordance with the existing regulations using the procedures currently in use and in accordance with the WDEQ/LQD-approved waste disposal plan at the Buckskin Mine. No residual hazardous and solid waste impacts are expected. As discussed in section 3.17.6, no change in the social setting of Campbell County or the community of Gillette would be anticipated under either action alternative. The Buckskin Mine has been operating for more than 25 years, and the mine and its employees contribute to the
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social and economic stability of Campbell County and the City of Gillette. No socioeconomic residual impacts are expected. Coal mines, including the Buckskin Mine, are under the jurisdiction of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That agency’s mission is to “administer the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), as amended by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act), and to enforce compliance with mandatory safety and health standards as a means to eliminate fatal accidents; to reduce the frequency and severity of nonfatal accidents; to minimize health hazards; and to promote improved safety and health conditions in the Nation's mines” (U.S. Department of Labor 2009). While an official health impact assessment is not within the agency’s authorization, it does monitor and enforce some of the health and safety standards for mining that are related to these impact assessment issues.

3.18.3

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Considerable scientific investigation and discussion continue to address the causes of the rise in global mean temperatures and whether a warming trend will continue. This section addresses greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as specifically related to the Buckskin Mine. GHGs have been raised as a concern due to the greenhouse effect. Ongoing scientific research has identified the potential impacts of anthropogenic (from human activities) GHG emissions and changes in biologic carbon sequestration on the global climate. Through complex interactions on a regional and global scale, these changes cause a net warming effect of the atmosphere, primarily by decreasing the amount of heat radiated by the earth back into space, much as glass traps heat over a greenhouse. Many GHGs occur naturally in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (including CBNG), water vapor, ozone (O3), and nitrous oxide. Other GHGs are synthetic, such as chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons, as well as sulfur hexafluoride. Although natural GHG levels have varied for millennia, recent industrialization and burning of fossil carbon sources have caused equivalent CO2 (CO2Eq) concentrations to increase dramatically, and are likely to contribute to overall global climatic changes. GHGs are not regulated, but a consensus has become established in the international community that global climate change is occurring and that GHGs may play a role. As with any field of scientific study, uncertainties are associated with the science of climate change. This does not imply that scientists do not have confidence in many aspects of climate change science. Some aspects of the science are known with virtual certainty, because they are based on well-known physical laws and documented trends (EPA 2008a). Climatic change analyses are comprised of several factors, including GHG emissions, land use management practices, and the albedo effect (i.e., the cycle of increased temperature of the environment resulting from increased absorption of normally reflected light). It is assumed that existing land and resource conditions in the general analysis area have been and will continue to be affected by climate change under all alternatives. National and regional data that are available
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3.0 Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences

have been referenced, including a recent comprehensive report, The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity in the United States (U.S. Climate Change Science Program 2008). Because the tools necessary to quantify incremental climatic changes associated with these GHG emissions are presently unavailable, the analysis cannot reach conclusions as to the magnitude or significance of the emissions on climate change, or to associate specific actions with the specific climate impacts. The impacts of climate change represent the cumulative impacts of, among other factors, all worldwide GHG and emissions and land use management practices. As discussed in section 1.3, the BLM does not authorize mining just by issuing a federal coal lease. The WDEQ/LQD, with oversight from the OSM, has regulatory authority in issuing permits to mine coal in Wyoming. However, the BLM considers the impacts of mining coal in this EIS because it is a logical consequence of issuing a maintenance lease to an existing coal mine. The use of the coal after it is mined is not determined at the time of leasing. However, almost all coal that is being mined in the Wyoming PRB is used to generate electricity by coal-fired power plants in 36 states. A discussion of emissions and by-products generated by burning coal to produce electricity is included in chapter 4, with a more complete discussion of the status of global climate change and cumulative considerations. That chapter also includes an assessment of cumulative impacts related to GHG emissions under all analyzed alternatives. As discussed in section 2.2.2, under the currently approved mining plan, which represents the No Action Alternative, Kiewit anticipates that Buckskin Mine would mine its remaining estimated 370.4 million tons of recoverable coal reserves in 14 years at an average annual production rate of approximately 25 million tons. Kiewit estimates that the life of mine would be extended by two years under the Proposed Action and up to six years under Alternative 2. Kiewit estimates that the average annual coal production rate of approximately 25 million tons would continue under either action alternative. To the extent that emission data were available or could be inferred from representative data, potential GHG emissions have been identified that could result from implementation of either of the action alternatives, as well as emissions that would result from the No Action Alternative. The analysis provides a qualitative measure of the incremental change in GHG emissions resulting from the action and no action alternatives. The analysis also provides a measure of the incremental change resulting from these alternatives in relation to GHG emissions from all current coal mining. Because surface coal mining is already occurring at the Buckskin Mine, additional methane would be released into the atmosphere under any of the alternatives. This study projects emissions for a typical year of operations at the Buckskin Mine, if additional coal reserves are leased and mined in the general analysis area. Emissions are measured as metric tons of CO2Eq, a conversion to put any of the various gases emitted (i.e., methane or nitrous oxides) into the equivalent greenhouse effect as compared to CO2. The completed inventory includes emissions from carbon fuels used in mining operations, electricity used on

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site (e.g., facility lighting and operation, lighting to illuminate roads, power for electrically operated equipment, and conveyors), and mining processes (e.g., blasting, methane released from mined coal, and spontaneous combustion). Net carbon sink effects from disturbed and reclaimed lands are considered negligible, as the projected annual stripping and reclamation acreages are roughly equal at 200 acres a year. Not included in this CO2Eq emissions estimate is rail transport, both on site and to the buyers. Total CO2Eq emissions per year from the Buckskin Mine are not expected to increase under either action alternative; maximum annual production would not increase and average strip ratios and haul distances would remain substantially the same as under existing operations. Table 3.18-1 summarizes the annual Buckskin Mine CO2Eq emissions inventory for nominal and maximum permitted production rates.

Table 3.18-1. Estimated Annual CO2Eq Emissions at the Buckskin Mine
Source
Fuel Electricity Mining Process Total of three sources
CO2Eq = Equivalent carbon dioxide Source: Air Quality Data Report, available for viewing at the BLM Wyoming High Plains District Office in Casper, Wyoming.

2008 Actual (25 million tons)
94,136 43,212 59,228 196,576

At 30 million metric tons per year
107,379 49,291 67,561 224,231

At 42 million metric tons per year
150,331 69,007 94,585 313,923

Conversely, projected CO2Eq emissions over the life of the mine would increase under either action alternative. Although annual average production and associated annual emissions are not expected to increase, CO2Eq emissions would be extended by two years beyond the current life-of-mine estimate under the Proposed Action, and up to six years under Alternative 2. The Center for Climate Strategies estimates that activities in Wyoming will account for approximately 60.3 million tons of gross CO2Eq emissions in 2010 and 69.4 million tons in 2020 (Center for Climate Strategies 2007). Using those projections, the 2008 Buckskin Mine emissions total (table 3.18-1) represents 0.33% of the 2010 statewide emissions. As mentioned above, the CO2Eq emission estimates in table 3.18-1 include projected methane emissions vented from exposed unmined coal. The estimated annual amount of CO2Eq emissions from vented methane is approximately 53,197 tons, or about 27% of the total Buckskin Mine CO2Eq emissions. Methane emissions from Wyoming’s coal mines in 2010 are projected to be 2.3 million tons of CO2Eq (Center for Climate Strategies 2007), of which the Buckskin Mine’s 2008 methane emissions represent 2.3%. Methane emissions from anthropogenic sources in the U.S. in 2007 totaled 699.9 million metric tons CO2Eq (U.S. Department of Energy 2008b). Therefore, the estimated 2008 methane emissions vented from recovered coal at the Buckskin Mine constitutes about 0.0076% of the total 2007 U.S. methane emissions from anthropogenic sources.

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3.18.4

Carbon Sequestration

Information relative to the carbon sequestration legislation was collected from news coverage posted on the internet and websites for the Wyoming Legislative Services Office, U.S. Department of Energy, and EPA. Carbon sequestration, the process of carbon capture, separation, and storage or reuse, is being researched as a means to stabilize and reduce concentrations of CO2 (a greenhouse gas). Direct options for carbon sequestration would involve means to capture CO2 at the source (e.g., power plant) before it enters the atmosphere coupled with “value-added” sequestration (e.g., use of captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery operations). Indirect sequestration would involve means of integrating fossil fuel production and use with terrestrial sequestration and enhanced ocean storage of carbon (U.S. Department of Energy 2007a). The PRB has geologic formations and producing oil and gas reservoirs that are potential target candidates for both enhanced oil recovery and/or deep geologic sequestration. The current limiting factor is the lack of pipeline infrastructure and economic feasibility for CO2 transmission and use. Although one enhanced oil recovery project involving CO2 injection is underway in the PRB (Salt Creek Field) and another is possibly planned (Highlight Field), no geologic carbon sequestration projects currently exist or are currently planned in the PRB at this time. This may change with the advent of new federal legislation, regulations, and economic incentives, particularly those that may combine enhanced oil recovery and sequestration projects or operations. Additionally, the EPA, from the perspective of considering CO2 as a waste, is proposing new federal requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act for the underground injection of CO2 for the purpose of long-term underground storage, or geologic sequestration. The regulation is being proposed to ensure protection of underground sources of drinking water from injection-related activities. It is currently expected that the final rulemaking will be completed by 2010. This new rulemaking may result in increased interest in using existing, depleted, deep, oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline formations and/or deep coal seams such as found in the PRB.

3.18.5

Regulatory Compliance, Mitigation, and Monitoring

CO2, methane, water vapor, O3, and nitrous oxide are all recognized GHGs. Although these gases are not regulated at this time, the EPA is required by the CAA to regulate emissions of six common “criteria air pollutants,” including O3 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), from an air quality standpoint. O3 and NO2 emissions are monitored at the south Campbell County air quality monitoring sites; monitoring results are included in the EPA AirExplorer database (EPA 2009a). NO2 is not a greenhouse gas but it can react with other components of the atmosphere to form O3. O3 and NO2 emissions relating to mining in the general analysis area are discussed in section 3.4. Voluntary mitigation measures to reduce mine-specific GHG emissions currently in place at some PRB mines, including the Buckskin Mine, include the following: „ minimizing blast size to the extent possible to reduce CO2 and NO2 emissions;
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„ using different blends of ammonium nitrate fuel oil and slurries and gels used in coal and overburden blasts to reduce CO2 and NO2 emissions; „ reducing fuel consumption by restricting equipment idling times, maintaining equipment (e.g., vehicles, compressors, generators) to improve fuel efficiency, and focusing on high-efficiency engines for replacement, thereby reducing CO2, NO2, and N2O emissions; and „ suppressing in-pit coal fires promptly, thereby reducing CO2 and NO2 emissions from coal combustion.

3.19 Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitments of Resources
Under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2, the major commitment of resources would be mining and consumption of approximately 54.1 million tons and up to 149.7 million tons of coal, respectively; nearly all of that coal will be used for electrical power generation. CBNG that is not recovered prior to mining would be irreversibly and irretrievably lost (see additional discussion of the impacts of venting CBNG to the atmosphere in section 3.18 and in chapter 4). An estimated 1 to 2% of the energy produced would be required to mine the coal; this energy would also be irretrievably lost. Under the Proposed Action and Alternative 2, the quality and characteristics of topsoil would be irreversibly changed on 419 acres (plus a buffer area to the north of the tract) and up to 1,883 acres (plus a 0.25-mile-wide buffer), respectively, as a result of mining and mine support activities (e.g., topsoil stripping, soil stockpiling). Actual impacts would likely be limited to 618 acres, under Alternative 2, because Kiewit does not anticipate pursuing closure or relocation of county roads necessary to mine additional reserves. Soil formation processes would continue but would be irreversibly altered during mining and related activities. Newly formed soil material would be unlike that in the natural landscape. Wildlife deaths resulting directly or indirectly from mining operations or associated activity would constitute irreversible and irretrievable losses, though future recruitment into the population would mitigate those losses to some degree. Loss of human life could occur as a result of mining operations and vehicular and train traffic. On the basis of surface coal mine accident rates in Wyoming, as determined by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (1997) for the 10-year period from 1987 through 1996, fatal accidents of personnel directly employed at surface coal mines excluding contractors) occur at the rate of 0.003 per 200,000 human-hours worked. Disabling (lost-time) injuries occur at the rate of 1.46 per 200,000 human-hours worked. Any injury or loss of life resulting from mining and related activities would constitute irreversible and irretrievable losses. Disturbance of all known historic and prehistoric sites in the mined area would be mitigated to the maximum extent possible. However, accidental destruction of presently unknown archeological or paleontological resources, including Native American resources, would constitute irreversible and irretrievable losses.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.0 CUMULATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES
Cumulative impacts result from the incremental impacts of an action added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions, regardless of who is responsible for such actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor, but collectively significant, actions occurring over time. This section summarizes the cumulative impacts that are occurring as a result of existing development in the PRB1 and considers how those impacts would change if a tract is leased and mined under the Proposed Action or Alternative 2, as well as if other projected development in the area occurs. A table is presented at the end of this chapter (table 4-41) to provide a summary of the magnitude and duration of cumulative impacts in the PRB based on upper and lower estimates for coal production in the region, as described in the following discussion. The Proposed Action and alternatives fall within those projections. The BLM completed three regional EISs evaluating the potential cumulative impacts of surface coal development in the 1970s and early 1980s (BLM 1974, 1979, and 1981). A draft document for a fourth regional EIS was prepared and released in 1984 (BLM 1984). Since those regional EISs were prepared, BLM has prepared a number of NEPA analyses evaluating coal leasing actions and oil and gas development in the PRB. Each of these NEPA analyses includes an analysis of cumulative impacts in the Wyoming PRB. Currently, the BLM is completing a regional technical study, called the PRB Coal Review, to help evaluate the cumulative impacts of coal and other mineral development in the PRB. The PRB Coal Review consists of three tasks: „ Task 1 identifies existing resource conditions in the PRB for the baseline year (2003) and, for applicable resources, updates the BLM's 1996 status check for coal development in the PRB. „ Task 2 defines the past and present development activities in the PRB and their associated development levels as of 2003 and develops a forecast of reasonably foreseeable development in the PRB through 2020. The reasonably foreseeable activities fall into three broad categories: coal development (coal mine and coal-related), oil and gas development (conventional oil and gas, CBNG, and major transportation pipelines), and other development, which includes development that is not energy-related as well as other energy-related development. „ Task 3 predicts the cumulative impacts that could be expected to occur to air, water, socioeconomic, and other resources if the development occurs as projected in the forecast developed under Task 2. A series of reports have been prepared to present the results of the PRB Coal Review task studies. The Task 1, 2, and 3 reports represent components of a technical study of cumulative development in the PRB; they do not evaluate specific proposed projects, but they provide
1

Refer to page xiii for a list of abbreviations and acronyms used in this document.

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4-1

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences information that BLM is using to evaluate the cumulative impacts that would be expected to occur if specific projects or applications, such as the Proposed Action, are approved. The Task 1 reports, which include air quality conditions, water resources conditions, social/economic conditions, and other resource conditions have been completed. The Task 2 Report has also been completed, as have the Task 3 reports for air quality conditions, social/economic conditions, and other resource conditions. The Task 3 evaluation of water resource conditions is in progress. The information in these reports is summarized later in this chapter, and the completed reports are available for viewing at the BLM offices in Casper and Cheyenne and on the Wyoming BLM at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/energy/Coal_Resources/PRB_Coal/prbdocs.html. The PRB includes portions of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. The Wyoming portion of the PRB is the primary focus of the PRB Coal Review reports. The Montana portion of the PRB is included in the Task 2 Report and in the Task 1 and 3 air resources studies. For the majority of resources in the Task 1 reports and for the Task 2 Report, the Wyoming portion of the PRB Coal Review study area encompasses all of Campbell County, all of Sheridan and Johnson counties outside of the Bighorn National Forest, and the northern portion of Converse County (map 4-1). For some components of the Task 2 Report and for the Task 1 and 3 air resource studies, the Montana PRB Coal Review study area includes portions of Big Horn, Custer, Powder River, Rosebud, and Treasure counties. For several resources, the Task 1 and Task 3 study areas include only potentially affected portions of the Wyoming PRB Coal Review study area; for other resources, the study area extends outside of Wyoming and Montana because the impacts would extend beyond the PRB. For example, the groundwater drawdown is evaluated in the area surrounding and extending west of the mines, because that is the area where surface coal mining operations would impact groundwater resources; but air quality impacts are evaluated over a multi-state area because they would be expected to extend beyond the PRB. Section 4.1 summarizes the information presented in the PRB Coal Review Task 1 and Task 2 reports. Section 4.2 summarizes the predicted cumulative impacts on air, water, socioeconomic, and other resources presented in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 reports.

4.1 Past, Present, and Reasonably Foreseeable Development
Past, present, and reasonably foreseeable development in the Wyoming PRB are considered in the Task 1 and Task 2 reports for the PRB Coal Review. The Task 1 reports describe the existing situation as of the end of 2003, which reflects the past and present levels of development. The Task 2 Report defines the past and present development activities in the PRB as of the end of 2003 and projects reasonably foreseeable development in the Wyoming PRB through 2020. When available, 2007 development information is included.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

! PSO ASH

CREEK MINE ! BIG HORN MINE
B. N .S

Sheridan

Sheridan County
.F .R R

59 ¬ «

Campbell
 County

14 £ #
 ¤ ARVADA

14 £ ¤ 90 ¦ ¨ § 16 £ ¤

16 £ ¤
DRY FORK

Buffalo

1 " )

#
 # #

WYGEN 1
 WYGEN 2


Gillette
90 ¦ ¨ § 25 ¨ ¦ §

The State of Wyoming

#

BARBER CK

WYODAK NEILSIMPSON 1
 NEILSIMPSON 2


Johnson County
50 ¬ «

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59 ¬ «

#


Wright

« ¬
192

HARTZOG

B.N.S .F. & U.P. RR

#


" )
3

TWO ELK UNIT 1

« ¬
387

Converse County

Coal Mine Lease Boundaries Railroads
59 ¬ « ! DAVE
JOHNSTON
 MINE


#
!

Existing and Proposed Power Plants Former Surface Coal Mine Sites Task 1 and 2 Study Area Boundary

Coal Mine Subregions
1 ) " 2 ) " 3 " ) Subregion 1 Subregion 2 Subregion 3 Buckskin, Dry Fork, Eagle Butte, Rawhide, and Wyodak Mines. Belle Ayr, Caballo, Coal Creek, and Cordero-Rojo Mines. Antelope, North Rochelle/Black Thunder, Jacobs Ranch, and North Antelope/Rochelle Mines.

#


DAVE JOHNSTON

0

5

10

±

20


30

40


Miles

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Map 4-1 Wyoming Study Area for PRB Coal Review Studies Evaluating Current and Projected Levels of Development

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.1.1 4.1.1.1

Coal Development Coal Mine Development

The Powder River Federal Coal Region was decertified as a federal coal production region by the PRRCT in 1990. Decertification of the region allows leasing to take place on an application basis, as discussed in the regulations at 43 CFR 3425.1-5. Between 1990 and 2008, the BLM’s Wyoming State Office held 25 competitive coal lease sales and issued 19 new federal coal leases containing almost 5.7 billion tons of coal using the LBA process. The lease sales are listed in chapter 1, table 1-1, and the leased tracts are shown on map 1-1. This leasing process has undergone the scrutiny of two appeals to the Interior Board of Land Appeals and one audit by the General Accounting Office. As can be seen on figure 4-1, leasing activity has generally paralleled production since decertification. This is consistent with the PRRCT’s objective at the time of decertification, which was to use the LBA process to lease tracts of federal coal to maintain production at existing mines. The pending applications in the Wyoming PRB are listed in table 1-2. The BLM has also completed three exchanges involving federal coal resources in the Wyoming PRB since decertification: „ Belco Exchange – an exchange of lease rights for a portion of the former Hay Creek federal coal tract for lease rights to coal near Buffalo, Wyoming, which became unmineable when Interstate 90 was constructed. This exchange was authorized by Public Law 95-554 and completed in 2000. „ Pittsburg and Midway Coal Mining Company (P&M) Exchange – an exchange of federal coal in Sheridan County, Wyoming, for land and mineral rights in Lincoln, Carbon, and Sheridan counties, Wyoming, completed in 2004. „ Powder River Coal Company Alluvial Valley Floor Exchange – an exchange of lease rights underlying an AVF at the Caballo Mine, which cannot be mined, for lease rights of equal value adjacent to existing federal leases at Powder River Coal Company’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine, completed in 2006.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

6,000,000,000

Powder River Basin Campbell and Converse Counties, Wyoming
5,000,000,000

4,000,000,000

Tons

3,000,000,000

2,000,000,000

1,000,000,000

Cumulative Tons Federal Coal Leased by Year Cumulative Tons Federal Coal Mined by Year
0
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Year

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 4-1 Tons of Federal Coal Leased Versus Tons of Coal Mined Since 1990

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences Table 4-1 provides information about the status, ownership and production levels for the existing surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB in 2003. In 2003, the baseline year for the PRB Coal Review Task 1 and Task 2 studies, there were 12 active surface coal mines and one inactive mine. Since 2003, the Coal Creek Mine has resumed operations and the North Rochelle Mine has ceased operation (as a distinct entity) following its purchase by the operator of the Black Thunder Mine. The North Rochelle Mine leases were divided between Black Thunder and North Antelope Rochelle mines in 2006. Peabody has deferred startup of their new mine, the School Creek Mine which is located between the Black Thunder and North Antelope Rochelle mines, until 2009 or later (Associated Press 2008). The Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines changed ownership in July 2009 from Foundation Coal West, Inc. to Alpha Coal West, Inc. (Boger pers. comm.). These mines are all located in Campbell and Converse counties, just west of the outcrop of the Wyodak coal, where the coal is at the shallowest depth (map 1-1). As indicated in table 4-1, there have been numerous changes in mine ownership since decertification, which have resulted in mine consolidations and mine closings within the PRB. Two recently active surface coal mines in Sheridan County (the Big Horn Coal Mine) and southern Converse County (the Dave Johnston Mine) have ended mining operations, relinquished their federal coal leases, and are reclaiming areas of disturbance. PacifiCorp owns the lands within the Dave Johnston Mine permit boundary. PacifiCorp requested a change in postmining land use from livestock/wildlife grazing to industrial for the areas that would be affected by a wind project right-of-way. Some of the area was on full reclamation bond release and some area included was on pre-law lands. The WDEQ/LQD approved this change of land use in three stages between September 2007 and May 2008. The Glenrock Wind Energy Project development is underway and, if all permits are granted, it is slated to go online in late 2009. There are existing permits for other surface coal mining-related operations in the PRB. These include the Ash Creek and Welch Mine permits in Sheridan County and the Izita Mine permit in Campbell County. Operations at these sites are completed and the disturbed areas have been reclaimed, and monitoring of the reclaimed areas is no longer ongoing. The KFx Mine, located north of Gillette on privately owned coal, has stopped mining coal for processing at the KFx coal enhancement plant, which is discussed later in the chapter. The Fort Union plant was idled down in March 2008, until further notice. The active mines in the Wyoming PRB are geographically grouped into three subregions (map 4-1). For purposes of this cumulative impact discussion, these subregions are called North Gillette, South Gillette, and Wright. Table 4-1 lists the mines included in each subregion.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-1.
2003 Mine
Buckskin Dry Fork Eagle Butte Rawhide Wyodak Total

Status and Ownership of Wyoming PRB Coal Mines for 2003 (PRB Coal Review Baseline Year)
1994 Mine Owner
SMC (Zeigler) Phillips/WFA & Fort Union Ltd Cyprus-Amax Carter (Exxon) Wyodak Resources

2007 Mine Owner
Kiewit Mining Properties WFA Foundation Coal West, Inc.3 Peabody Holding Co. Wyodak Resources

Actual Coal Production (million tons)1
17.5 4.4 24.5 3.6 4.8 54.8

Permitted Production Level (million tons)2
27.5 24.4 35.0 24.0 12.0 122.9 35.0 40.0 65.0 25.0 165.0 32.0 90.0 55.0 85.0-105.0 35.0 297.0-317.0 584.9-604.9

Status and Additional Comments
Active Active (includes former Fort Union Mine) Active Active Active (includes former Clovis Point Mine)

SUBREGION 1 (NORTH GILLETTE)

SUBREGION 2 (SOUTH GILLETTE) Belle Ayr Caballo Cordero Rojo Coal Creek Total SUBREGION 3 (WRIGHT) Antelope Black Thunder Jacobs Ranch North Antelope Rochelle North Rochelle Total TOTAL FOR 3 MINE GROUPS
1 2 3 4

Cyprus-Amax Carter (Exxon) & Western Energy Kennecott & Drummond ARCO

Foundation Coal West, Inc.3 Peabody Holding Co. Rio Tinto Energy America4 Arch Coal Inc.

17.9 22.7 36.1 0 76.7

Active Active (includes Rocky Butte and West Rocky Butte leases) Active (consolidation of former Cordero and Caballo Rojo Mines) Inactive in 2003, operations resumed in 2006

Kennecott ARCO Kerr-McGee Peabody SMC (Zeigler)

Rio Tinto Energy America4 Arch Coal Inc. Rio Tinto Energy America4 Peabody Holding Co. Arch Coal Inc.

29.5 62.6 36.0 80.1 23.9 232.1 363.6

Active Active Active Active (consolidation of former North Antelope and Rochelle Mines) Inactive since 2005, leases split between Black Thunder and North Antelope Rochelle Mines

Wyoming State Inspector of Mines (Wyoming Department of Employment 2003) 
 WDEQ permitting levels 
 Ownership of the Eagle Butte Mine and Belle Ayr Mine changed from Foundation Coal West, Inc., to Alpha Coal West, Inc., as of July 31, 2009. Notification of ownership submitted to BLM in August 2009.
 Kennecott Energy Company changed its name to Rio Tinto Energy America in 2006.


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4-7

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences A fourth subregion includes former and proposed mines in Sheridan County, Wyoming, and existing mines just north of Sheridan County, in Montana. There are currently no active mines in the Wyoming portion of the fourth subregion. However, the PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report projected that a new mine would be developed by P&M near Sheridan by 2010. In April, 2007, P&M and CONSOL Energy Inc. announced that they have formed a new company, Youngs Creek Mining Company, LLC, and entered into a joint agreement to develop a new mine in Wyoming north of Sheridan (Reuters 2007). According to the announcement, engineering, environmental, and permitting work are in progress, but actual mine construction will not start until the joint venture has enough coal sales under contract to justify the investment. The coal reserves included in this project are privately owned. The surface coal mines listed in table 4-1 currently produce over 96% of the coal produced in Wyoming each year. Since 1989, coal production in the PRB has increased by an average of 6% per year. The increasing production is primarily due to increasing sales of low-sulfur, low-cost PRB coal to electric utilities who must comply with the phase I requirements of Title III of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Electric utilities account for 97% of Wyoming’s coal sales. In the baseline year for the PRB Coal Review (2003), more than 35% of the coal mined in the U.S. came from the Wyoming PRB. By 2007, that amount had increased to about 38% (U.S. Department of Energy 2008). The BLM estimates that the surface coal mines listed in table 4-1 currently have about 125,180 acres of federal coal leased in Campbell and Converse counties. This represents approximately 4.1% of Campbell County, where the majority of the leases are located. Task 2 of the PRB Coal Review projected coal development into the future for the years 2010, 2015, and 2020. Due to the variables associated with future coal production, two projected coal production scenarios (representing an upper and a lower production level) were developed to bracket the most likely foreseeable regional coal production level. The basis for the projected production levels included: 1.	 analysis of historic PRB production levels in comparison to the gross domestic product and national coal demand; 2.	 analysis of PRB coal market forecasts that model the impact of gross domestic product growth, potential regulatory changes affecting coal-fired power plants, and mining and transportation costs on PRB coal demand; 3.	 availability, projected production cost, and quality of future mine-specific coal reserves within the PRB region; and 4.	 availability of adequate infrastructure for coal transportation. The projected upper and lower production levels subsequently were allocated to the Wyoming PRB subregions, discussed above, and to individual mines based on past market shares. Individual mine production levels were reviewed relative to potential future production constraints (e.g., loadout capacities), permitted production levels, mining costs, and coal quality.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences Then the projected future production was aggregated on a subregion basis. The actual 2003 production level, the 2007 production level as a reference point, and the two projected coal production scenarios for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in figure 4-2 and tables 4-2 and 4-3. Tables 4-2 and 4-3 also show the cumulative coal mining disturbance as of the baseline year and the cumulative coal mine disturbance projected for the future years for the upper and lower coal production scenarios. In these tables, the baseline year and cumulative projected disturbance areas are broken down into three categories: „ areas that are reclaimed or that are projected to be permanently reclaimed; „ areas that are being mined or that are projected to be undergoing active mining or that have been mined but are not yet reclaimed; and „ areas that already are or that are projected to be occupied by mine facilities, haul roads, stockpiles, and other long-term structures, and that are therefore unavailable for reclamation until mining operations are completed. The two tables also include estimates of baseline year and projected future coal mining employment, water consumption, and water production. The Hay Creek II LBA application is associated with the Buckskin Mine in the North Gillette subregion of mines. The analysis assumes that if the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration is offered and if the applicant becomes the lessee, the mine will increase current production to a level where the five mines collectively will produce at an aggregate production level midway between the low and high projected coal production scenarios for 2015 and 2020 shown in figure 4-2 and tables 4-2 and 4-3; Kiewit does not anticipate an actual increase in production as a result of acquiring a new maintenance tract. The existing and projected coal development levels and associated disturbance shown in tables 4-2 and 4-3 include production at the five North Gillette area mines during the baseline year (2003) and projected production at the mines for 2010, 2015, and 2020. As discussed above, the projected development levels shown in tables 4-2 and 4-3 are based on projected demand and coal market forecasts, which are not affected by a decision to lease or not to lease the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration. If the Proposed Action or Alternative 2 is implemented, mining of the federal coal reserves would extend the current Buckskin Mine life-of-mine estimate by two years or up to six years, respectively.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4-9

600,000,000

Lower Production Scenerio Upper Production Scenario Actual Production
500,000,000

400,000,000

Tons/ Year

300,000,000

200,000,000

100,000,000

0

2003

2005

2007

Year

2010

2015

2020

No warranty is made by the Bureau of Land Management for the use of the data for purposes not intended by BLM.

Figure 4-2 Projected Total Coal Production from Campbell and Converse Counties under the Lower and Upper Production Scenarios

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-2.

Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine Development, Lower Coal Production Scenario
Annual Production (million tons)
55 77 231 363 62 95 254 411 74 112 281 467 78 126 291 495

Subregion
BASELINE YEAR (2003) North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2003 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2010 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2015 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2020

Cumulative Disturbed Area (acres)
12,047 21,249 35,498 68,794 15,231 28,021 55,410 98,662 17,457 32,356 67,423 117,236 19,729 36,994 80,720 137,443

Cumulative Permanently Reclaimed Area (acres)
3,054 6,783 11,401 21,238 5,004 12,183 27,751 44,938 6,654 15,683 38,851 61,188 8,429 19,683 51,351 79,463

Cumulative Active Mining Area and Unreclaimed Mined Area (acres)
3,360 6,107 13,992 23,459 3,968 6,830 16,588 27,386 4,202 7,314 16,983 28,499 4,350 7,589 17,243 29,182

Cumulative Area Disturbed and Unavailable For Reclamation1 (acres)
5,633 8,359 10,105 24,097 6,260 9,008 11,070 26,338 6,601 9,359 11,589 27,549 6,950 9,723 12,124 28,797

Total Mine Employment
746 1,174 3,090 5,010 787 1,323 3,153 5,263 830 1,369 3,186 5,405 840 1,476 3,215 5,531

Annual Water Annual Water Consumption Production (mmgpy) (acre-feet)
387 544 1,709 2,640 441 656 1,874 2,971 543 764 2,077 3,384 569 845 2,157 3,571 586 1,373 2,295 4,254 505 2,072 4,354 6,931 505 2,072 4,354 6,931 505 2,072 4,354 6,931

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2010

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2015

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2020

mmgpy = million gallons per year Note: Area unavailable for reclamation includes disturbed areas occupied by permanent or long-term facilities such as buildings, roads, topsoil stockpiles, etc. Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-3.

Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine Development, Upper Coal Production Scenario
Annual Production (million tons)
55 77 232 363 78 117 284 479 104 138 301 543 121 148 307 576

Subregion
BASELINE YEAR (2003) North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2003 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2010 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2015 North Gillette Subregion South Gillette Subregion Wright Subregion Total for 2020

Cumulative Disturbed Area (acres)
12,047 21,249 35,498 68,794 15,911 29,279 57,258 102,448 18,490 35,624 70,431 124,545 21,311 42,981 84,797 149,089

Cumulative Permanently Reclaimed Area (acres)
3,054 6,783 11,401 21,238 5,404 13,416 27,951 46,771 7,329 18,616 39,451 65,396 9,529 25,016 51,651 86,196

Cumulative Active Mining Area and Unreclaimed Mined Area (acres)
3,360 6,107 13,992 23,459 4,217 7,536 18,236 29,989 4,500 8,248 19,391 32,139 4,766 8,758 21,021 34,545

Cumulative Area Disturbed and Unavailable For Reclamation1 (acres)
5,633 8,359 10,105 24,097 6,290 8,328 11,070 25,688 6,660 8,760 11,589 27,009 7,013 9,206 12,124 28,345

Total Mine Employment
746 1,174 3,090 5,010 811 1,375 3,153 5,339 905 1,431 3,186 5,522 1,019 1,444 3,215 5,678

Annual Water Annual Water Consumption Production (mmgpy) (acre-feet)
387 544 1,709 2,640 570 807 2,101 3,478 785 952 1,834 3,571 935 1,018 2,279 4,232 586 1,373 2,295 4,254 505 2,072 4,354 6,931 505 2,072 4,354 6,931 505 2,072 4,354 6,931

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2010

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2015

REASONABLY FORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR 2020

mmgpy = million gallons per year.
1

Area Unavailable for reclamation includes disturbed areas occupied by permanent or long-term facilities such as buildings, roads, topsoil stockpiles, etc.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences As discussed in sections 1.1.3.1, Kiewit estimates that the existing Buckskin Mine had approximately 344.3 million tons of recoverable coal reserves at the end of 2008. Overall, the mine had produced a total of 339.8 million tons of coal as of December 2008, with annual production averaging 20.6 million tons over the previous six years. The mine’s current air quality permit as approved by the WDEQ/AQD allows mining of up to 42 million tons of coal per year. If the mine produces coal at the projected estimate of 25 million tons per year, the remaining recoverable reserves would be depleted in less than 14 years (2022). If the mine increases production to the permitted level, the remaining recoverable reserves at the Buckskin Mine would be depleted in about 8.8 years (2016). Kiewit estimates that the proposed tract includes approximately 54.1 million tons of recoverable coal. Based on that estimate, acquisition of the proposed tract would increase the recoverable reserves at the Buckskin Mine by almost 14.6%. At the estimated future production level (25 million tons per year), mine life would be extended by over two years. However, if production levels increase to the currently permitted level (42 million tons per year) or if the WDEQ/AQD approves a higher annual rate of production, the coal would be recovered more quickly.

4.1.1.2

Coal-Related Development

Coal-related development as defined for this analysis includes railroads, coal-fired power plants, major (230-kilovolt) transmission lines, and coal technology projects. Table 4-4 summarizes the estimated disturbance associated with coal-related development activities for the baseline year and the projected disturbance through 2020. The subsequent paragraphs summarize the existing coal-related development in the Wyoming PRB and the reasonably foreseeable development considered in the PRB Coal Review.

Table 4-4. 	

Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal-Related Development Scenario
2003
4,891

Coal-Related Disturbance (acres)
Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

2010
4,966

2015
5,911

2020
5,911

Coal Transportation As discussed above, electric utilities account for about 97% of Wyoming’s coal sales. Most of the coal sold to electric utilities is transported to power plants by rail. A small part, about 2% in 2007, of national coal production is exported abroad, but data are not published as to where this export coal is produced. A joint BNSF and UP rail line serves the coal mines in the Wright and South Gillette subregions. For the baseline year of 2003, the existing capacity of the line was estimated at approximately 350 million tons per year. For that same year, the existing capacity of the BNSF line, which services the North Gillette subregion, was estimated at 250 million tons per year. Expansion work completed in 2008 increased the capacity to approximately 450 million tons per year, and plans have been announced to raise BNSF line capacity to 500 million tons per year by 2012 (BNSF 2008; CANAC 2007).

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4-13

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The PRB Coal Review projected that two coal transportation projects would be developed prior to 2020 in Wyoming: expansion of the BNSF and UP rail facilities south of Gillette and the construction of the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad Corporation (DM&E) rail line in Wyoming and South Dakota. A third project proposed by the Tongue River Rail Company would be built between Decker and Miles City, Montana. BNSF and UP have completed work to improve sections of the existing joint rail line and had increased capacity from 350 million tons per year to 450 million tons per year by 2008 with plans to improve additional sections of the existing joint rail line and to further increase capacity to 500 million tons per year by 2012. This work includes construction of third and fourth main line track segments where needed. The increased capacity would accommodate the projected upper and lower production rates at the southern mines, which are projected to produce 439 million tons per year and 455 million tons per year by 2020. The remaining planned expansion projects are considered highly likely to occur. The proposed DM&E rail line would include new rail construction in South Dakota and Wyoming (approximately 15 and 265 miles, respectively) and 600 miles of rail line rehabilitation in South Dakota and Minnesota. Approximately 78 miles of the new rail construction would occur in the PRB study area, where the project would provide new rail spur services to the mines in the South Gillette and Wright subregions. The Surface Transportation Board released a final supplemental EIS for this project on December 30, 2005, and granted final approval to construct the rail line on February 15, 2006. The supplemental EIS, which addressed issues that were successfully appealed after an EIS was completed in 2001, was also appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the appeal of the supplemental EIS in December 2006. In 2007, Canadian Pacific Railway acquired DM&E and plans to integrate DM&E’s operations into Canadian Pacific Railway’s operations. Those plans were approved by the Surface Transportation Board on September 30, 2008 (Surface Transportation Board 2008). The expansion into the PRB would require a substantial financial commitment, and Canadian Pacific is concentrating on the acquisition of DM&E before making a decision on the expansion project. The Surface Transportation Board recently announced approval of the final stretch of the rail line proposed by the Tongue River Railroad Company. The company must acquire necessary federal and state permits and ROWs through private and public property before constructing the line. If it is constructed, it would provide a shorter route for some of the mines in the North Gillette subregion, which ship coal on the existing BNSF rail line (Brown 2007). For the purposes of the PRB Coal Review, it was projected that the DM&E line would be constructed when the total rail haulage requirement from the eastern Wyoming PRB reaches 450 to 500 million tons per year and would potentially be operational by 2015. The construction of this rail line is considered moderately likely to occur. The PRB Coal Review assigned a low likelihood of development by 2010 under the upper coal production scenario, and projected the construction of the Tongue River Railroad Company line would not occur unless the Otter Creek Mine is developed. In July 2008, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation initiated an appraisal of two Otter Creek lease tracts on state lands to determine the

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences fair market value that the state should accept from a qualified bidder. The appraisal was completed in January 2009, but no leasing action has occurred yet. Electric Power Generation Five coal-fired power plants are in the Wyoming PRB study area analyzed in Tasks 1 and 2 (map 4-1). Black Hills Power Corporation owns and operates the Neal Simpson Units 1 and 2 (21.7-megawatts [MW] and 80-MW, respectively), Wygen I and II (80-MW and 95-MW, respectively), and Wyodak (330-MW) power plants, all of which are located approximately 5 miles east of Gillette, Wyoming. Pacific Power and Light’s Dave Johnston Power Plant is located near Glenrock, Wyoming outside of, but adjacent to, the study area. Three separate interconnected gas-fired power plants (Hartzog, Arvada, and Barber Creek) are also located near Gillette, Wyoming (map 4-1). Each contains three separate 5-MW-rated turbines that provide electric power to Basin Electric and its customers. In winter, the maximum capacity can reach 22.6-MW from each site. All units are in operating condition, although they do not operate at maximum capacity. Several additional power plants are projected to be built prior to 2020. The PRB Coal Review assumed that proposed coal-fired power plants that plan to initiate operation by 2010 would have to have been undergoing air quality permit review by 2003 in order to obtain the required construction permits and complete construction by 2010. The following two identified projects are considered likely for development by 2010: „ North American Power Group has permitted a coal-fired power plant (Two Elk Unit 1) at a 40-acre site located approximately 15 miles southeast of Wright, Wyoming. As originally permitted, the project also would include installation of a gas fired turbine. The unit would be dry-cooled, requiring very little water. The state has approved several hundred million dollars in tax-exempt bonds for the power plant. North American Power Group is completing financing for the remaining cost of the plant. The company recently announced that it has signed a transmissions agreement with Pacificorp and is planning to have the 320-MW plant in operation by October 2011 (Associated Press 2007b, Gartrell 2007b). The air quality permit was originally issued in August 2002, then revoked temporarily and restored by the WDEQ in 2007. In 2008, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council denied a request by the Sierra Club for a new hearing on the air quality permit allowing construction of the facility. The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in district court in Cheyenne to reverse the WDEQ decision (Brown 2008). „ Basin Electric Power Cooperative obtained permits from the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council in June 2006, and the WDEQ/AQD in October 2007, to construct and operate the Dry Fork Station Power Plant. As proposed, the Dry Fork Station would be a coal-based, mine-mouth 385-MW power plant located near the Dry Fork Mine, north of Gillette, Wyoming. The issuance of the air quality permit allowed construction of the plant to start in November 2007. In late October 2007, an appeal was filed regarding the air quality permit issued by the WDEQ. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council denied requests to suspend construction. After due process, on November 20, 2008, the council approved
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 4-15

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences orders to dismiss the issues before it and terminated the appeal. The orders were signed on December 12, 2008. The protestors announced intent to appeal in Wyoming District Court. Basin Electric estimates that the plant will be operational by 2011 (WDEQ/ISD 2007). At the time of the PRB Coal Review study, it was estimated that 1.2 million tons of coal per year would be required to fuel the facility. Construction of this facility is underway, and operation is expected to begin as scheduled. The PRB Coal Review assumes that, under the upper coal production scenario, a maximum of one additional 700-MW coal-fired power plant would be constructed by 2020 in the Gillette area or near one or more of the operating coal mines. North American Power Group submitted an application in September 2007 for a 750-MW coal-fired power plant, Two Elk 2, to be located at the same site as the proposed Two Elk plant, which is discussed above. Black Hills Power Corporation has also announced plans to construct the Wygen III power plant, sized at 100MW, which is planned to be similar in design to the Wygen II plant. As of November 2008, the project was on schedule. The air quality permit for this facility was issued in March 2007 and construction started in 2008 (SourceWatch 2008). The study assumes that all existing power plants in the PRB region would remain operational through 2020. Transmission Lines Major transmission lines in the Wyoming PRB study area that support the regional distribution system are associated with the Dave Johnston Power Plant located near Glenrock, Wyoming, and the power plants operated by Black Hills Power Corporation, which are located east of Gillette. These 230-kilovolt transmission lines have been in place for several years, and their associated permanent disturbance is minimal. Distribution power lines associated with conventional oil and gas and CBNG development also occur within the study area. For the PRB Coal Review, these lines were included by factoring them in proportionally on a per-well basis. The PRB Coal Review estimated that by 2020 four major transmission lines would be constructed. Markets would dictate the size and location of such facilities, and these are not known as of this time. Because transmission lines are a necessary supporting infrastructure for power generating facilities to provide connection to the grid, the PRB Coal Review assumes they would be required as part of the overall system development for the proposed power plants discussed earlier. Six specific proposals for these transmission lines have been identified. Information is insufficient to analyze or assign likelihood of development by 2020. The governors of California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming entered into a memorandum of understanding to encourage development of a high voltage power transmission line, the Frontier Line, connecting those states in April 2005. Since that time, no specific plans have been announced as to the location or timing of the Frontier Line. The 345-kilovolt Wyoming-Colorado Intertie as well as the Trans West and Gateway West and South projects have been proposed in Wyoming to move power from Wyoming to Idaho and Nevada and other western U.S. load demand areas (Hodges 2007). The TransWestern Express proposes to move electric power from Wyoming to Arizona through Colorado or Utah. The High Plains Express proposes to move power from Wyoming to New Mexico and Arizona.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences Coal Conversion Technology With rising energy prices, there has been considerable interest in either enhancing the quality of PRB coal and/or converting the coal to other fuels. Test facilities were previously constructed by KFx at the Fort Union Mine (now part of the Dry Fork Mine), by AMAX (now Alpha Coal West, Inc.) at the Belle Ayr Mine, and by ENCOAL at the Buckskin Mine. No commercial production has occurred, and these facilities have either been dismantled or are no longer in use. Although several coal conversion projects have been proposed, as discussed below, only one (the KFx Coal Beneficiation Project) was considered to have a high enough likelihood of proceeding to include it in the PRB Coal Review, based on its status and available information. The KFx (now Evergreen Energy) coal beneficiation plant, located near the Dry Fork Mine, north of Gillette, was operational but did not reach full capacity. KFx reported making its first production run and shipping coal to two customers for test burns in late December 2005. In August 2006, KFx reported that a trainload of enhanced coal had been loaded and sent to a customer in Ohio. The commercially viable product was produced through 2007 until the plant was idled down in 2008. It was predicted that the plant would eventually produce approximately 750,000 tons of enhanced coal per year. This operation had a high likelihood of proceeding with production given the technology being used and the forecast market conditions in the PRB. Evergreen Energy Inc. and its strategic partner, Bechtel Power Cooperation, have decided to improve the plant design and relocate the operation to a different area with a greater market (Evergreen Energy 2009). The company has suggested that up to five additional units will be built, some perhaps in the PRB, but the likelihood for development of additional units is not known. As a result, the potential development of additional units was not analyzed in the PRB Coal Review. The following coal conversion projects have been proposed, but were not included in the PRB Coal Review analysis because the likelihood of their occurrence was not known when the coal review analysis was conducted: „ Medicine Bow Fuel and Power, a subsidiary of DKRW Advanced Fuels, LLC, has announced that it plans to build a coal-to-liquids plant with an in-service year of 2013 in northern Carbon County, Wyoming. GE Energy and Rentech Clean Energy Solutions are also involved in the project, which would obtain coal from Saddleback Hills Mine facility. Both the plant and mine are located outside of the PRB. The primary product would be ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel produced from sub-bituminous coal. The company is in the process of permitting the plant and expects to begin initial site work in 2010, with completion planned for 2011 (Hodges 2007; DKRW Advanced Fuels 2008). „ LUCA Technologies Inc. has developed a method of producing biogenetic methane through methanogenisis. This process uses a group of predominantly anaerobic microorganisms that metabolize the complex organic molecules in hydrocarbon deposits and produce the gas as a waste product. The company transforms uneconomically producing CBNG wells and uses the existing infrastructure for its coal conversion and methane production operations, which are handled by their directly owned subsidiary, Patriot Energy Resources. The company has

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4-17

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences completed their test project near Sheridan, Wyoming and has begun operations using a chemical nutrient used to feed existing anaerobic microbacteria currently residing in the PRB coal seams. These microbacterial communities are currently capable of producing up to 30 million cubic feet per day of methane after nutrients are provided. The amount of coal converted through methanogenisis is less than 1% at the current level of technology. The future rate of the technological development and production of methane using microbacteria is unknown at this time but it is expected that, with continued success and public demand for either methane, hydrogen, or other biological metabolic byproducts of the microbial consortia, such operations could remain in place for the foreseeable future and produce some product until the coal has been converted into carbon and other remnant components of PRB coal such as ash and sulfur. LUCA is projecting the possibility of developing the same technology to produce methane and other products from non-coal hydrocarbon substrates and deposits (DeBruyn pers.comm.).Several groups, including the Wyoming Business Council, Campbell County Economic Development Corporation, and Converse Area New Development Organization are actively pursuing coal gasification development projects. Specifically, the Converse Area New Development Organization is pursuing the development of coal gasification leading to production of pure hydrogen with CO2 as a by-product within five to eight years. While there appears to be substantial interest in these opportunities, it is unknown whether large-scale operations would be developed within the 2010 to 2020 timeframe, given permitting, engineering, and construction time requirements. When the PRB Coal Review was prepared, a project proponent with adequate financing to pursue a project that would use PRB coal had not been identified, and one has not been identified since. Table 4-5 is a summary of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable coal mines, coal-related facilities, coal production, coal mine employment, and coal and coal-related disturbance in the Wyoming PRB.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-5.

Past, Present, and Projected Wyoming PRB Coal Mine and Coal-Related Development Scenario
Coal Production (mmtpy)
163 247 323 363 411 467 495 479 543 576

Year
1990 1995 2000 2003 2010 2015 2020 2010 2015 2020
1 2 3

Number of Active Coal Mines1
18 19 12 12 131 131 131 131 131 131

Number of Active Power Plants
3 4 4 4 7 7 7 7 7 8

Number of Active Coal Conversion Facilities2
1 1 2 0 12 12 12 12 12 12

Direct Coal Mine Employment
2,862 3,177 3,335 5,010 5,263 5,405 5,531 5,339 5,522 5,678

Total Coal Disturbance (acres)3
na na na 73,685 103,628 123,147 143,354 107,414 130,456 155,000

PAST AND PRESENT

PROJECTED DEVELOPMENT - LOWER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

PROJECTED DEVELOPMENT - UPPER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

mmtpy = million tons per year. 
 Mines have consolidated and may do so in the future. Also, new mines may be permitted to better access the coal reserves projected for mining by 2020.
 Several coal conversion facilities are currently being evaluated; however, only one has the likelihood of future development can be assessed.
 Disturbance area includes coal mine and coal-related disturbance areas.


Source: Annual Report of the Wyoming State Mine Inspector (Wyoming Department of Employment 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2003) and PRB Coal Review 
 Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

4.1.2

Oil and Gas Development

The following information on existing conventional and CBNG development is summarized from the PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b). The information reported is for 2003, which was the baseline year for the coal review.

4.1.2.1

Conventional Oil and Gas

Conventional oil and gas development includes all non-CBNG development activity. Approximately 1,500 conventional oil and gas wells, including producing, non-producing, and injection wells, were drilled between 1990 and 2003 (IHS 2004) in the PRB Coal Review Task 2 study area. Of those, 60% were development wells drilled in established producing areas. The remaining 40% were classified as wildcat wells, which are wells that are drilled in non-producing areas or drilled to evaluate untested prospective zones in producing areas. Approximately 75% of the wildcat wells were plugged and abandoned. By 2003, the successful new field wildcat wells had resulted in the discovery of 61 new fields that produced 719,000 barrels of oil and 1.45 billion cubic feet of non-CBNG (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2004).
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences As of the end of 2003, approximately 3,500 producing conventional oil and gas wells were in the Wyoming PRB study area plus 1,386 seasonally active wells (IHS 2004). The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reported that these wells produced approximately 13 million barrels of oil and 40 billion cubic feet of conventional gas in 2003 (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2004). The USGS (2002a) estimated that the mean undiscovered noncoal bed hydrocarbon resource in the PRB (including Montana) is 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Most of Wyoming’s current oil production is from old oil fields with declining production, and the level of exploration drilling to discover new fields has been low (Wyoming State Geological Survey 2002). This situation is reflected in the PRB where, over the 10-year period from 1992 through 2002, oil production from conventional oil and gas wells in Campbell and Converse counties decreased approximately 60.4% (from 32.8 million barrels in 1992 to 13.0 million barrels in 2002). Oil prices have been increasing, which is reversing projections of a continuing decline in oil and gas production. Thus, production is now expected to increase in the PRB, with a peak around 2010 of approximately 15.7 million barrels (WSO-RMG 2005). Oil production in the short term may also be bolstered by some planned CO2 flood projects in the PRB (Wyoming State Geological Survey 2003). This projected temporary upward trend in conventional oil and gas development is reflected in the PRB Coal Review projections (table 4-6).

Table 4-6. 	

Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Conventional Oil and Gas Development Scenario
Existing Projected for Task 3 Study Area 2010
33.8 13.8 5,603.0

Category
Annual Gas Production (billion cubic feet)1 Annual Oil Production (million barrels) Active and Seasonably Active Wells
1

2003 Task 1 Study Area
39.9 12.9 5,067.0

2003 Task 3 Study Area
36.3 11.4 3,890.0

2015
30.9 12.5 5,115.0

2020
28.0 11.2 4,625.0

Future gas production per well was estimated based on 2003 production levels per subwatershed. A greater number of future well sites were assumed to occur in locations with historically lower production rates, so the projected future conventional gas production varies within the cumulative effects study area relative to the number of projected producing wells.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

The active wells identified in table 4-6 include wells that produce year-round, seasonally producing wells, and service wells (mainly injection wells). It is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 idle conventional oil and gas wells in the PRB study area (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2005). However, the number of idle wells would gradually be reduced in the future through plugging programs, and the idle well locations (once the wells are abandoned) would be reclaimed, and would no longer represent a disturbance.

4.1.2.2

CBNG Development

Natural gas production has been increasing in Wyoming. In the PRB, this is due to the development of shallow CBNG resources. Commercial development of these resources began in

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences limited areas west of and adjacent to the northernmost surface coal mines in the late 1980s. Since that time, CBNG development has spread south and west into other parts of the PRB Coal Review Task 1 and Task 2 study area. On private and state oil and gas leases, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Wyoming SEO authorize CBNG drilling. On federal oil and gas leases, the BLM must analyze the individual and cumulative environmental impacts of all drilling (federal, state, and private), as required by NEPA, before CBNG drilling can be authorized. The BLM does not authorize drilling on state or private leases but must consider the impacts from those wells in their NEPA analyses. In many areas of the PRB, the coal estate is federally owned, but the oil and gas estate is privately owned. A June 7, 1999 Supreme Court decision (98-830) assigned the rights to develop CBNG on a piece of land to the owner of the oil and gas estate. Annual CBNG production increased rapidly in the PRB between 1999 and 2003 but has leveled off somewhat since then. At the end of 2003, 14,758 producing CBNG wells were in the study area (IHS 2004), and total production for 2003 was 346 billion cubic feet, or 88% of the total gas production from the basin (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2004). Total production for 2006 was 377 billion cubic feet (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2007). Average daily CBNG production was 900 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2003 (Holcomb 2003), and it is estimated that it will average 1,150 million cubic feet of gas per day for 2007 (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2007). From 1987 to 2003, the total cumulative gas production from PRB coals was over 1.2 trillion cubic feet. The total water production for the same period was approximately 2.3 billion barrels (96,600 million gallons). Water production in 2003 amounted to more than 500 million barrels (21,000 million gallons), or about 1.4 million barrels per day. According to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website, water production in the PRB associated with CBNG production has varied between just over 1.4 million barrels per day and about 2.2 million barrels per day since December 2003. Since the early 1990s, the Wyoming BLM has completed numerous environmental assessments and two EISs analyzing CBNG projects. The most recent of these is the four-volume final EIS and proposed plan amendment for the PRB oil and gas project, completed in January 2003 (BLM 2003). The level of CBNG development since 2003 appears to be lower than was forecast in that document. New CBNG well numbers fell from a high of slightly more than 4,600 in 2001 to approximately 2,000 in 2004. The PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report discusses the uncertain trends for future CBNG activity in recent years. The methodology used to project future activity is detailed in appendix E of that report. Table 4-7 shows the 2003 and projected 2010, 2015, and 2020 levels of CBNG development used to evaluate projected cumulative environmental impacts in the PRB Coal Review.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-7.

Baseline Year and Projected CBNG Development Scenario for Wyoming PRB
Existing Projected to Task 3 Study Area 2010
480 20,899

Category
Annual Production (billion cubic feet) Active Wells

2003 Task 1 Study Area
338 14,758

2003 Task 3 Study Area
284 12,152

2015
500 21,831

2020
443 19,366

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

4.1.2.3

Oil and Gas-Related Development

Oil and gas-related development activities considered in the PRB Coal Review include major transportation pipelines and refineries. Table 4-8 summarizes the net disturbance, reclamation, and water production associated with oil and gas activity (conventional oil and gas, CBNG, and major transportation pipelines) for 2003 (baseline year) and projects disturbance, reclamation, and water production for future years.

Table 4-8. 	

Wyoming PRB Conventional Oil and Gas, CBNG, and Related Development Disturbance and Water Production
Existing1 Projected for Task 3 Study Area1 2010
237,883 160,175 77,707 39,108

Category
Cumulative Disturbed Area (acres)2 Cumulative Permanently Reclaimed Area (acres) Cumulative Unreclaimed Area (acres) Annual Water Production (million gallons per year)
1 2

2003 Task 1 Study Area
187,761 115,045 72,715 26,405

2003 Task 3 Study Area
148,602 90,548 58,053 21,204

2015
304,543 225,426 79,108 41,484

2020
361,331 288,536 72,794 37,350

Minor discrepancies in total acreages are the result of number rounding. Inclusive of conventional oil and gas and CBNG activities and major transportation pipelines. Disturbance associated with ancillary facilities (including gathering lines and distribution power lines) has been factored in a per well basis.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

Pipelines The availability of pipeline capacity for the transport of oil and gas to outside markets is a key factor in the development of CBNG and conventional oil and gas resources in the Wyoming PRB. In 2003, the baseline year for the PRB coal Review, there were 13 major transportation pipeline systems that transported gas resources to markets outside of the basin (Flores et al. 2001). The 2003 capacity of these pipeline systems was 1.9 billion cubic feet per day. The combined natural gas production (CBNG and conventional gas) in the Wyoming PRB Coal Review Task 1 and Task 2 study area was approximately 1.03 billion cubic feet per day. Major transportation pipelines also provide for transport of CO2 to conventional oil fields for enhanced oil recovery. Increased recovery of crude oil also may depend somewhat on the

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences availability of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery projects, as well as the availability of pipelines to transport oil to refineries for processing. Gathering lines and power lines associated with conventional oil and gas and CBNG development also occur within the study area; disturbance from these ancillary facilities were factored into the PRB Coal Review analysis on a per well basis. A 315-mile-long pipeline project, the Bison Pipeline Project, was proposed in 2004 to move natural gas northward, directly out of the PRB and into the Northern Border Pipeline system (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 2004). Approximately 53 miles of the proposed route is within the Wyoming PRB Coal Review study area. If it is constructed, it would have a 240 million cubic feet per day capacity as proposed. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had expected the Bison project proposal to be filed in December 2003, but no filing has been made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 2004), and the project is not included as an active project in Wyoming on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website. As a result, the Bison Pipeline project was assumed to have a low likelihood rating for the purposes of the PRB Coal Review. The following two proposed pipeline projects in the PRB were listed on the Wyoming Pipeline Authority webpage (http://www.wyopipeline.com) as of October 2007: MDU Resources Group, Inc. Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline ‘Grasslands Pipeline’ Expansion and ONEOK Cantera Gas Holdings Fort Union Gas Gathering Expansion. These are both expansion projects which involve adding capacity to an existing pipeline. Information on pipeline projects proposed in Wyoming can also be found in the “For Citizens” section of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website at http://www.ferc.gov. The amount of available pipeline capacity could limit the amount of future CBNG development. In 2003, it was estimated that growth of Wyoming PRB CBNG production could rise from the 2003 level of 900 million cubic feet per day up to 3 to 4 billion cubic feet per day per day around 2007 and remain at or above those levels until 2015 (Holcomb 2003). If CBNG production levels reach 3 to 4 billion cubic feet per day, it is reasonable to assume that several pipeline projects with up to 1.0 billion cubic feet per day capacity each could be built in the PRB. However, as discussed previously, the actual average production for 2007 is currently projected to be 1.15 billion cubic feet per day and, based on the assumptions in appendix G of the PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report, the basin-wide CBNG production is projected to reach approximately 1.7 billion cubic feet per day in 2020. New pipeline construction projects were not considered in the PRB Coal Review analysis because the likelihood for additional new pipeline construction was unknown when the PRB Coal Review was prepared. The CO2 pipeline from Bairoil, Wyoming, to Salt Creek, Wyoming, may be extended into the PRB Coal Review study area to the Sussex Field to support additional enhanced oil recovery. Although it took many years for a CO2 source to reach the Wyoming PRB, it is very likely that several pipelines could be built in the study area in the near future to provide additional gas for enhanced oil recovery projects. However, no pipeline projects were identified that would

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences transport CO2 beyond Salt Creek, and the likelihood for construction of additional CO2 pipelines was unknown when the PRB Coal Review analysis was prepared, and they were not considered. Refineries Construction of a new refinery was completed in the Wyoming PRB study area in 2008. The NorthCut Refinery, owned and operated by Interline Resources, is located in Converse County, approximately 20 miles north of Douglas, Wyoming. Construction of the refinery, which was a conversion of the previously existing Well Draw Gas Plant, included installation of a crude oil pipeline between the company’s existing crude gathering system and the refinery. The NorthCut Refinery is a crude oil topping plant, specifically engineered to process 4,000 barrels per day of sweet crude produced in the PRB. Output from the refinery will include naptha, off-road diesel, and reduced crude oil. The markets for the products include ethanol manufacturers, mines, and other refineries. The company-owned crude oil pipeline and third-party tanker trucks will be used for delivery of crude stocks. Tanker trucks also will be used to transport finished products from the facility (Interline Resources 2008). The refinery is adjacent to and east of Wyoming 59, with the joint BNSF and UP rail line located just to the west of the highway. The site previously had been the location of the Well Draw Gas Plant (approximately 20 acres), which shut down in 2002 following a fire. Interline has acquired an additional 12 acres bordering the original site for administrative, maintenance, and transportation-related uses (Interline Resources 2008). The level and composition of outputs from the existing NorthCut Refinery would respond to various markets, potentially resulting in the construction of additional infrastructure and/or facilities in the future. Any future changes and associated disturbances would occur within the property currently owned by Interline Resources (Williams, pers. comm.). No specific plans for expansion have been identified. As a result, the likelihood for project expansion is considered speculative. Therefore, it has been eliminated from further analysis in this study. No other reasonably foreseeable plans for construction and operation of new petroleum refineries in the Wyoming portion of the PRB have been identified.

4.1.3 4.1.3.1

Other Development Activity Other Mining

Uranium, sand, gravel, bentonite, and clinker (or scoria) have been and are being mined in the Wyoming PRB study area. There are three defined uranium districts in the PRB: Pumpkin Buttes, Southern Powder River, and Kaycee (BLM 2003). Numerous mined out or uneconomic uranium mining sites are present in these districts. Uranium is currently produced in the Southern Powder River District using the in-situ leach method. There is one operating in-situ uranium recovery site in the PRB, the Smith Ranch-Highland Mine in Converse County, but the recent increase in interest in uranium for

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences power plants here and abroad is generating interest in new development in the PRB. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website (http://www.nrc.gov), interest has been expressed in restarting in-situ operations at the Christianson Ranch Site in Johnson County, Wyoming. An application has been received from Energy Metals Corporation to construct and operate an in-situ uranium recovery facility at Moore Ranch in Campbell County, Wyoming. Based on commodity forecasts and uranium activity as of June 2004, the likelihood and potential timing of new uranium mining operations in the PRB was not known, and additional development was not projected in the PRB Coal Review analysis. In the original Task 2 reports (BLM 2005b), reasonably foreseeable uranium development was eliminated from further consideration because: 1) there were no specific projects with pending applications and 2) no development was anticipated based on market conditions. Due to increased overall demand for energy in recent years, uranium prices have increased from a low of $7.00 a pound in 2001 to over $138 a pound in 2007 (Barry 2008). The price fell precipitously after that, but it appears to be stabilizing at approximately $75 per pound. In response to the increased price of uranium, a number of uranium mine developments are proposed in the Wyoming PRB study area (table 4-9). These include seven new proposed developments, two proposed expansions, and one proposed restart, all of which would use in situ recovery. Most of the proposed developments are in the Pumpkin Buttes uranium district in southwestern Campbell County. The actual number of the proposed developments that would become operational would depend on several factors including price and approval of permits. Bentonite is weathered volcanic ash that is used in a variety of products, including drilling mud and kitty litter, because of its absorbent properties. There are three major bentonite producing districts in and around the PRB: the Colony District in the Northern Black Hills, the Clay Spur District in the Southern Black Hills, and the Kaycee District west of Kaycee, Wyoming. Within the PRB Coal Review study area, bentonite is mined at Kaycee (Wyoming Mining Association 2006). The PRB Coal Review assumed that bentonite mining would continue throughout the study period and that production would continue at existing active mines, with no new mines developed through 2020. Aggregate, which is sand, gravel, and stone, is used for construction purposes. In the PRB, the more important aggregate mining localities are in Johnson and Sheridan counties (Wyoming State Geological Survey 2004). The largest identified aggregate operation is located in northern Converse County. It has an associated total disturbance area of approximately 67 acres, of which four acres have been reclaimed. Scoria or clinker (which is formed when coal beds burn and the adjacent rocks become baked) is used as aggregate where alluvial terrace gravel or in-place granite/igneous rock is not available. Scoria generally is mined in the Converse and Campbell counties portion of the Wyoming PRB study area.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-9.

U.S. Nuclear Resources Commission Applications for In-Situ Recovery Uranium Projects in the Wyoming PRB Study Area
Location
T41-42N, R74-75W; Campbell and Converse counties. Nichols Ranch: T43N, R76W; Campbell and Johnson counties. Hank Unit: T43-44N, 
 R75W; Campbell County.
 T44N, R76W; Johnson County. T36N, R74W; Converse County. T44N, R76W; Campbell County. T42N, T43N, R76W; Campbell County. Converse County

Project/ Company
Moore Ranch/Uranium One (formerly Energy Metals Corporation) 	 Nichols Ranch-Hank Unit/Uranerz

Type Application
New

Watershed/Mining District
Antelope Creek, Upper Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes District Upper Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes District 


Likelihood/ Rationale
Moderate for 2010. Application filed with USNRC October 2007. Moderate for 2010. Applications filed with USNRC and WDEQ.

New

Christensen Ranch/Cogema Smith Ranch/Cameco (Power Resources) North Butte/Cameco 	

Restart

Upper Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes District Middle North Platte River/South Powder Upper Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes District Upper Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes District Antelope Creek

Moderate for 2010. USNRC application pending, received April 2007. Moderate for 2015. Expansion of existing facility, letter of intent March 2008, application expected 2009. Moderate for 2015. Letter of intent to USNRC March 2008, application expected 2009. Moderate for 2015. Letter of intent to USNRC March 2008, application expected 2009. Moderate for 2015. Letter of intent to USNRC March 2008, application expected 2009. Moderate for 2015. Letter of intent to USNRC March 2008, application expected 2009. Moderate for 2015. Letter of intent to USNRC March 2008, application expected 2010. Speculative. No information on applications available.

Expansion

Expansion

Collins Draw/Uranerz	

New

Ludeman-AllemandRoss/Uranium One Ruby Ranch/Cameco

New

T43N, R75W; Campbell County T43N, R73; Campbell County

New

Upper Belle Fourche River/Pumpkin Buttes District Upper Belle Fourche River, Antelope Creek/Pumpkin Buttes District Antelope Creek/Pumpkin Buttes District

Reno Creek/ Strathmore Minerals Corporation Southwest Reno Creek/Strathmore Minerals Corporation 	

New

T42-43N, R73-74W

New

USNRC = U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
 Sources: Strathmore Minerals Corporation (2008), USNRC (2008a, 2008b, 2008c); World Information Service on Energy (2007) 


Increased sand, gravel, and scoria production and associated surface disturbance are anticipated in the Wyoming PRB study area in the future because aggregate would be required for road maintenance and new construction activities as other primary resources, such as coal and oil and gas, continue to be developed. New operations and increased production from existing operations can be expected. These operations would vary in size based on the immediate need from the primary industries, but there is no specific information about these projected operations. As a result, new sand, gravel, or scoria operations were not analyzed in detail in the PRB Coal Review.
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4.1.3.2

Industrial Manufacturing

A number of existing industrial manufacturing establishments are located in the Wyoming PRB Coal Review study area. Most are relatively small with fewer than 25 employees; they predominately serve regional and local markets, and most are directly or indirectly related to energy resource development and production. Over the years, some of these firms have expanded such that they now support activities and serve markets outside of the region, but those operations remain dependent upon the local and regional markets to sustain their existing operations. The PRB Coal Review anticipates that increased coal production would result in an increased demand for fuels and explosives. This increased demand could result in the need for the development of new off-site chemical feedstock plants in the study area. Project-specific information is not available, however, and the potential development of new chemical feedstock plants was not considered in the PRB Coal Review. Local economic development organizations, including Campbell County Economic Development Corporation and Converse Area New Development Organization, are continually engaged in efforts to recruit or assist new business formation in the PRB study area. For example, the latter has pursued development of long-term potential projects; however, the outcomes of those projects are uncertain and little information and detail are available. As a result, they were not considered in the PRB Coal Review.

4.1.3.3

Wind Power

Wind power facilities have been proposed at various sites in Wyoming, including the Powder River Basin region. There is potential in the Wyoming sites for wind power, and these facilities can contribute to meeting forecasted electric power demands; however, they depend on available transmission capacity to send power to users. The transmission capability is a constraining factor (Grasseschi 2008). Wyoming ranks seventh in terms of wind energy potential with current production in 14th place with 459 MW. Although many Wyoming locations having the highest potential are in the southern portion of the state, areas in both Converse and Campbell counties offer sufficient potential to support commercial-scale wind generation projects „ One such project currently is under development in the Wyoming PRB study area, and another is in the planning stages. PacifiCorp is constructing a three-phase project in Converse County, approximately 15 miles north of the existing Dave Johnston Power Plant, on and near the site of the former Dave Johnson Mine. The first two phases, known as the Glenrock Wind Energy Project and the Rolling Hills Wind Energy Project, were scheduled for completion in 2008. The third, currently unnamed phase is anticipated to be constructed between 2009 and 2011, depending on market demands and the performance of the first two phases. Each phase would consist of 66 wind turbine generators (each rated at 1.5 MW [99-MW total]) mounted on 80-meter-tall tubular towers, plus ancillary support facilities (PacifiCorp 2007). This project is considered highly likely.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences „ Third Planet Windpower is in the initial development phase of a wind generating project in the Pumpkin Buttes area of southwestern Campbell County. This company has acquired 13,000 acres of land leases for the project, installed meteorological towers on site, and is currently doing environmental and feasibility studies. Contingent upon the meteorological data and other results, the company could install up to 167, 1.5-MW towers, yielding a total capacity of 250 MW, if fully constructed (Gartrell 2008). The site for the Reno Junction wind farm is near the Black Hills Power substation, and the companies are seeking an agreement for interconnection. Third Planet Windpower plans to start construction in June of 2010 with an online date in the end of 2010.

4.1.3.4

Solar Power

Although Wyoming has been given a rating of very good for annual solar potential for flat plate collectors, there currently are no utility scale solar power collection facilities on federal, state, or private lands in the state of Wyoming. Furthermore, no applications for the development of utility scale solar energy projects have been filed as of January 1, 2009. The BLM and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are jointly preparing a solar energy programmatic EIS which could facilitate future solar energy development application processes. Wyoming is not covered in the programmatic EIS but still may be affected by it. Information on the programmatic EIS can be found at: http://solareis.anl.gov. The BLM currently evaluates solar energy project proposals on a case-by-case basis. Solar energy use in Wyoming is, as of January 1, 2009, limited to private residences and private commercial establishments. Current Wyoming solar energy incentives include a sales tax rebate on industrial or commercial solar energy generation equipment, a onetime grant of up to $3,000 offered thru lottery from the Wyoming Business Council, and the utility buy back of unused electricity at the wholesale price. Solar energy production equipment and installation at residential, commercial, and utility sites is expensive. Currently, the electric utility costs in Wyoming are such that the cost of installation does not favor solar energy development over existing forms of energy development.

4.1.3.5

Reservoirs

Currently, there are five key water storage reservoirs in the Wyoming PRB Coal Review study area (Healy, Lake DeSmet, Muddy Guard No. 2, Gillette, and Betty No. 1) (HKM Engineering et al. 2002a and 2002b). The total disturbance associated with these five key water storage areas is 3,263 acres. Based on the applicable water plans prepared for the Wyoming Water Development Commission for its Basin Planning Program (HKM Engineering et al. 2002a and 2002b), there are long-range projections for development of additional reservoirs in the study area. However, none of these reservoirs have reached the planning stage; therefore, there was not enough information to analyze them in the PRB Coal Review.

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4.1.3.6

Other Non-Energy Development

In addition to the specific projects and developments described above, a network of public and private physical infrastructure, private enterprises, and public activities has been developed in the PRB over time. Examples of infrastructure include the highway and road networks, airports, government offices, hospitals, public schools, municipal water systems, and extensive residential and commercial real estate development. Private enterprises include local retail and service establishments, newspaper publishing, and transportation and distribution firms. The construction, maintenance, and continuing operations associated with this network of development represent an extensive series of public and private investments, as well as changes in land use, surface disturbances, water consumption, and the factors that characterize local air quality. Those investments and changes have occurred over a period of time and in response to many different influences. Some of the identified and anticipated plans or proposals for future investment in public, private, and commercial infrastructure in the PRB are summarized below. „ The 2008 annual State Transportation Improvement Program includes planned construction for the 2008 fiscal year and preliminary engineering estimates for projects with anticipated construction dates through 2013 in the PRB Coal Review Study Area. In general, Wyoming transportation projects scheduled over the next six years include maintenance, reconstruction, and improvement projects. Airport improvement plans consist primarily of pavement rehabilitation and overlays, with some minor expansion of taxiways, aprons, and parking. No construction of new highways is scheduled, and no new airports are proposed. „ In addition to highway projects included in the 2008 State Transportation Improvement Program, the Eagle Butte Mine has received approval from Wyoming Department of Transportation to relocate a portion of U.S. Highway 14-16 in the vicinity of the Gillette/Campbell County Airport, north of the city of Gillette. The relocation is proposed to facilitate the recovery of approximately 40 million tons of additional coal recently acquired by the mine through the Eagle Butte West LBA tract coal sale. Three alternative alignments, involving the construction of up to 6.8 centerline miles of new roadway, were identified and a preferred alternative was subsequently chosen and approved by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Construction of the new highway segment is underway, with completion of the project anticipated in 2011/2012 (Wyoming Department of Transportation and Foundation Coal Company 2008). „ A $10.7 million expansion and renovation of the Campbell County courthouse was completed in late 2005, and a new public health building was completed in 2007. „ Expansion of the county’s detention center and remodeling of the sheriff’s office were undertaken in 2007. „ Expansion of the CAM-PLEX conference and multi-event center facility in Gillette was approved in a special election in May 2005.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences „ The 2005 approved master plans for Wyoming public school facilities spending included a total of $72.3 million in new capital construction for the seven school districts that are completely or partially in the Wyoming PRB study area (Wyoming School Facilities Commission 2005). „ Construction and maintenance projects for the city of Gillette include a recently completed project to renovate and expand the waste water treatment plant. „ Commercial development includes recently completed construction of a Home Depot store and expansion of the Wal-Mart store in Gillette. „ A new $10 million headquarters for the Campbell County Fire Department providing administrative, training, and storage space in addition to multiple parking bays for firefighting apparatus has been completed. „ A $55 million county recreation center is being planned, with opening expected in 2010. „ The city completed construction of a new Health Sciences Center at Gillette College. The facility will house the school’s nursing program, providing classrooms, labs, faculty offices, and other spaces. The nursing program functions in conjunction with the Campbell County Memorial Hospital. „ The county, city, and Gillette College are partnering on a Campus Housing Complex and Industrial Technical Education Center. These facilities are part of a long-range master plan for the college that is designed to provide a broad college-level curriculum and provide more focused education and training to support local business and industry. „ Campbell County Memorial Hospital is in the planning stage for a major expansion and renovation project (City of Gillette 2008a). A capital facilities tax ballot question in Campbell County in the 2004 election asking voters to approve the imposition of a $0.01 sales and use tax (to be used for updated and expanded diesel mechanic and welding programs at the Gillette Campus of the Northern Wyoming Community College (now Gillette College) and for two community development projects in Wright) and an increase in the lodging tax were defeated in 2004. A renewed attempt to get the lodging tax on the ballot for the 2006 primary election failed to gain the approval of the Campbell County Board of Commissioners. In their 2007 session, the Wyoming Legislature committed to pay half of the cost of a technical education center at Gillette College that will house diesel technology, welding, and industrial electrician programs. The Campbell County Board of Commissioners has approved a tax increase to pay for the other half of the cost of the project. Construction of this project is ongoing. Given the timing, scale, year-to-year variability, relatively short construction timetables associated with such investments, the existence of a relatively large and diversified construction industry in the region and nearby areas, and the limited potential for these projects to alter longterm conditions in the PRB, they are not included in the PRB Coal Review analysis. However, one or more of these and similar projects could warrant consideration in a cumulative analysis for a site-specific project due to proximity or coincidental project schedules and timetables.
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.2 Cumulative Environmental Consequences
Section 4.1 of this chapter discussed existing and projected levels of development in the Wyoming PRB, and included summaries of the results of PRB Coal Review Task 2 studies. This section summarizes the existing conditions resulting from baseline year (2003) development and the cumulative environmental consequences of the projected development for 2010, 2015, and 2020 based on the results of the analyses conducted for PRB Coal Review Task 1 and 3 reports, respectively. As discussed in the previous section, the Wyoming portion of the PRB is the primary focus of the PRB Coal Review analyses. For the majority of resources in the Task 1 analysis, the Wyoming PRB Coal Review study area encompasses all of Campbell County, all of Sheridan and Johnson counties outside of the Bighorn National Forest, and the northern portion of Converse County (map 4-1). The study areas for the Task 3 analyses are different. For the majority of the resources considered in the PRB Coal Review, the Task 3 study area is based on watershed boundaries in the PRB and includes the portions of the Upper Powder River, Little Powder River, Upper Belle Fourche River, Upper Cheyenne River, Antelope Creek, and Dry Fork Cheyenne River subwatersheds that lie within Sheridan, Johnson, Campbell and northern Converse counties (map 4-2). This study area includes over 4 million acres. Table 4-10 summarizes the total disturbance and reclamation acreages for the baseline year of 2003 and the total projected disturbance and reclamation acreages for 2010, 2015, and 2020 within the Task 3 study area described above.

Table 4-10.	

Baseline Year and Projected Wyoming PRB Total Development Scenario – Task 3 Study Area
Total Acres Disturbed1
220,688 339,912 426,084 503,085 343,698 433,392 514,732

Year
BASELINE YEAR 2003 2010 2015 2020 2010 2015 2020
1 2

Acres Reclaimed1
111,786 205,113 286,614 367,999 206,946 290,822 374,732

Acres Unreclaimed1
108,901 134,799 139,472 135,085 136,752 142,570 139,998

Acres Unavailable for Reclamation2
27,073 29,389 31,546 32,794 28,739 31,006 32,342

Acres Affected by Coal Mining
68,794 98,662 117,236 137,443 102,448 124,545 149,089

PROJECTED DEVELOPMENT - LOWER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

PROJECTED DEVELOPMENT - UPPER COAL PRODUCTION SCENARIO

Minor discrepancies in total acreages are the result of number rounding. Includes coal mine and coal-related disturbance.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b)

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences A total of approximately 220,688 acres of this land area had been disturbed by development activities as of 2003, which represents about 5.6% of the Task 3 study area. This is projected to increase to as much as 514,732 acres in 2020 under the upper coal production scenario which would represent approximately 13.1% of the Task 3 study area. This projected disturbance includes coal mining, coal-related development, and oil and gas and related development disturbance in the Task 3 study area. Areas reclaimed during each future period shown in table 4-10 reflect how much of the disturbed acreage is projected to be permanently reclaimed by that point in time. The acres of unreclaimed disturbance would be reclaimed incrementally or following a project’s completion, depending on the type of development activity and permit requirements. The acres currently not available for reclamation are occupied by long-term facilities that are needed to conduct mining operations or coal-related activities. These areas would be reclaimed near the end of each mine or facility’s life. Adjustments were made to the study area described above and shown on map 4-2 for several resources as described below: „ The potential air quality impacts were evaluated over a multi-state area (including most of Wyoming, southeastern Montana, southwestern North Dakota, western South Dakota, and northwestern Nebraska) because they would be expected to extend beyond the Wyoming and Montana PRB study area that was used to identify emissions sources for the air quality analysis. „ The groundwater drawdown was evaluated in the area surrounding and extending west of the surface coal mines shown on map 4-2, because that is the area where groundwater drawdown related to surface coal mining operations and CBNG production operations would overlap. „ The socioeconomic impact analysis focused on Campbell County, but also considered Converse, Crook, Johnson, Sheridan, and Weston counties as directly affected and Niobrara and Natrona counties as indirectly affected.

4.2.1

Topography and Physiography

The PRB is located within the Upper Missouri Basin Broken Lands physiographic subprovince that includes northeastern Wyoming and eastern Montana to the Canadian border. The topography generally is of low to moderate relief with occasional buttes and mesas. The general topographic gradient slopes down gently from southwest to northeast with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level on the southern and western portions of the basin to less than 4,000 feet above sea level on the north and northeast along the Montana state line. The major drainages in the basin are the Tongue, Powder, Belle Fourche, and Cheyenne rivers. Most of the drainages in the area are intermittent and have flows during high precipitation events or during periods of snowmelt. The drainages are part of the upper Missouri River Valley drainage basin. The disturbance associated with the majority of the past, present, and projected activities have resulted in or would result in the alteration of the surface topography. Surface coal mining,

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences which is projected to continue in the area of the existing coal mines shown on map 4-2, permanently alters the topography by removing the overburden and coal and then replacing the overburden. Recontouring during reclamation to match approximate original contours, as required by regulation, reduces the long-term impact on topography. After mined-out areas are reclaimed, the restored land surfaces are typically gentler, with more uniform slopes and restored basic drainage networks. Oil and gas exploration and development has occurred and is projected to continue throughout most of the Task 3 study area. It also results in the alteration of topography to accommodate facilities (e.g., well pads, power plants) and roads, but the disturbance tends to occur in smaller, more discrete areas than coal mining and the development is spread out over a larger area. The disturbance and reclamation acreages associated with all existing and projected development in the Task 3 study area for the years 2003, 2010, 2015, and 2020 are given in table 4-10.

4.2.2

Geology, Mineral Resources, and Paleontology

The PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area (map 4-2) was used to assess cumulative effects for geology, mineral resources, and paleontology. The PRB is one of a number of structural basins in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain area that were formed during the Laramide Orogeny. The basin is asymmetric with a structural axis that generally trends northwest to southeast along the western side of the basin (Flores et al. 1999). Natural earthquakes, landsides, and subsidence do not present a hazard in the PRB based on the lack of active faults in the study area (USGS 2004); the low risk of ground shaking in the region if a maximum credible earthquake were to occur (Frankel et al. 1997); and the absence of evidence of subsidence, landslides, or other geologic hazards in association with CBNG production. USGS monitors the magnitude of blasting activity in the PRB under the Routine Mining Seismicity Earthquake Hazards Program (USGS 2008). Coal mine blasting operations-induced seismic activity does occur throughout the PRB and has reached a USGS local magnitude rating of 3.6 (USGS 2004).

4.2.2.1

Coal

Most of the coal resources of the basin are found in the Fort Union and Wasatch formations. Although coals are present in the Wasatch, they are thinner and less continuous than the coals in the Fort Union. Therefore, they are not as economically important as the coals in the Fort Union for either coal mining or CBNG development. Projected levels of coal production and disturbance under the lower and upper coal production scenarios are listed in tables 4-2 and 4-3. In the coal mine areas, the overburden and coal would be removed and the overburden replaced, resulting in a permanent change in the geology of the area and a permanent reduction of coal resources.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.2.2.2

Oil and Gas

Drilling for conventional oil and gas in the Wyoming PRB has declined considerably in the last 15 years. However, as discussed above, increasing prices have led to increased interest in drilling, and there remains potential for finding and developing these resources in the deeper formations of the basin. Conversely, CBNG production increased rapidly from 1999 through 2002 but began to level off in 2003. Projected production rates for conventional oil and gas and CBNG in 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in tables 4-6 and 4-7. Oil and gas and related development accounts for most of the projected mineral disturbance outside of the coal mining areas. It generally would result in only shallow, discrete areas of surface disturbance. The acreages over which these impacts were occurring (as of 2003) and are projected to occur in the years 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-10.

4.2.2.3

Other Mineral Resources

As discussed in section 4.1.3.1, other mineral resources that are being mined in the Wyoming PRB include uranium, bentonite, clinker, and aggregate. Production of uranium and bentonite is not likely to be affected by development of coal or CBNG in the PRB. Aggregate and clinker production levels are more likely to be affected by other mineral development levels because these resources would be used in construction projects related to other mineral development.

4.2.2.4

Paleontology

Scientifically significant paleontological resources, including vertebrate, invertebrate, plant, and trace fossils, are known to occur in many of the geologic formations within the Wyoming PRB. These fossils are documented in the scientific literature, in museum records, and are known by paleontologists and land managers familiar with the area. The Wasatch Formation is the most geographically widespread unit exposed on the surface over most of the Task 3 study area. It is underlain by the Fort Union Formation. The fossiliferous Morrison and Lance formations crop out in the western portion of the basin but occur at depth in the vicinity of the coal mines and CBNG activity in the eastern portion of the basin. Within the Task 3 study area, the highly fossiliferous White River Formation occurs only on Pumpkin Buttes in southwestern Campbell County. Extremely few significant or unique paleontological localities have been recorded on federal lands in the PRB. However, the lack of recorded localities does not mean that scientifically significant fossils are not present, as much of the area within and surrounding the PRB has not been adequately explored. As a result, development activities in the Task 3 study area have the potential to adversely affect scientifically significant fossils, if they are present in or adjacent to disturbance areas. The potential for impacts on scientifically significant fossils would be greatest in areas where class 4 or 5 formations are present; with a moderate potential for class 3a (see section 3.3). The Wasatch Formation in the Powder River Basin is classified as a class 3 formation, which means

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences that fossil content varies in significance, abundance, and predictable occurrence. The Fort Union Formation is classified as a class 4 formation. The greatest potential impact on surface and subsurface fossils would result from disturbance of surface sediments and shallow bedrock during construction and/or operations, depending on the type of project. Potential subsurface disturbance of paleontological resources (during drilling operations) would not be visible or verifiable. The areas over which these impacts occurred as of 2003 and are projected to occur because of all projected development in the years 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-10. As only portions of the Task 3 study area have been evaluated for the occurrence of paleontological resources. Discrete locations for development activities cannot be determined at this time; thus, no accurate estimate can be made as to the number of paleontological localities that may be affected by cumulative development activities. Development activities which involve federally owned surface and/or minerals are subject to federal guidelines and regulations protecting paleontological resources. Protection measures, permit conditions of approval, and mitigation measures would be determined on a project-specific basis at the time of permitting to minimize potential impacts on paleontological resources as a result of these activities.

4.2.3

Air Quality

There is substantial scientific evidence that increased atmospheric concentrations of GHG and land use changes are contributing to an increase in average global temperature. However since these gases are not regulated pollutants, a discussion of this subject has been included in section 4.2.14. The Task 1A Report for the PRB Coal Review (BLM 2005d) documents the modeled air quality impacts of operations during a baseline year, 2002, using actual emissions and operations for that year. Emissions from permitted minor sources were estimated, because actual emissions data was unavailable. The baseline year analysis evaluated impacts both within the PRB itself and at selected sensitive areas surrounding the region. The analysis specifically looked at impacts of coal mines, power plants, CBNG development, and other development activities. Results were provided for both Wyoming and Montana at the individual receptor areas. The Task 2 Report for the PRB Coal Review (BLM 2005b) identifies reasonably foreseeable development activities for the years 2010, 2015, and 2020. The Task 3A Report for the PRB Coal Review (BLM 2006c) evaluates the impacts on air quality and air quality-related values for the year 2010 using the development levels projected for 2010. The same model and meteorological data that were used for the baseline year study in the Task 1A Report. The Update of Task 3A Report for the PRB Coal Review Cumulative Air Quality Effects for 2015 uses a revised base line year of 2004 with revised projected 2015 scenarios. Impacts for 2015 and 2020 were projected qualitatively based on evaluation of anticipated changes in emissions and on modeled impacts for the 2015 lower and upper coal production scenarios. BLM has updated the model and has conducted impact analysis for 2015 (BLM 2008a). A revised baseline year emissions inventory has been developed using 2004

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences actual emissions data or emissions estimates and has incorporated the recent analyses of emissions in Wyoming and Montana, which were not available when the 2010 modeling study was done. Existing and projected emissions sources for the baseline year (2004) and 2015 analyses were identified within a study area comprised of the following counties in the PRB in Wyoming and Montana: „ Campbell County, all of Sheridan and Johnson counties except the Bighorn National Forest lands to the west of the PRB, and the northern portion of Converse County, Wyoming. „ Rosebud, Custer, Powder River, Big Horn, and Treasure counties, Montana. A state-of-the-art, guideline dispersion model was used to evaluate impacts of the existing and projected source emissions on several source groups, as follows: „ Near-field receptors in Wyoming and Montana covering the PRB Coal Review Task 1A and 3A study area in each state. Overall, the near-field receptor grid points were spaced at one kilometer intervals over the study area; „ Receptors in nearby federally designated pristine or class I areas; and, „ Receptors at other sensitive areas (class II sensitive areas). The EPA guideline CALPUFF model system version 5.8 (Scire et al. 1999) was used for this study, which differs from the version used in the Task 1A and original Task 3A studies. The impacts for the baseline year (2004) and for 2015 lower and upper coal production scenarios were directly modeled. As discussed above, the modeling domain extends over most of Wyoming, southeastern Montana, southwestern North Dakota, western South Dakota, and western Nebraska. An interagency group participated in developing the modeling protocol and related domain that were used for this analysis. The modeling approach for the updated Task 3A Report used actual emissions from existing sources representative of 2004 operations and projected those emissions for the expected level of development in 2015. Year 2004 emission inventory data were previously developed for the Montana Statewide Oil and Gas Supplemental EIS. No specific emissions data were available for the projected levels of development. The baseline year emissions data were gathered from a variety of sources but mainly relied on data collected by the WDEQ/AQD and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Only actual emission sources inside the study area described above were included in the modeling. Key major sources were included, such as the coal-fired power plants, gas-fired power plants, and sources that were included in the Title V (operating permit) program. The Dave Johnston power plant, which is located outside of but adjacent to the study area in Converse County, was included in the baseline year study and in the projected emissions. Some operational adjustments were made to accommodate small sources with air permits that were presumed to be operating at less than full capacity. Emissions from other sources, including estimated construction-related fugitive dust emissions, were computed based on EPA emission factors and on input data from the WDEQ/AQD.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The existing regional air quality conditions generally are very good in the PRB Coal Review Task 1A and Task 3A study area. There are limited air pollution emissions sources (few industrial facilities, including the surface coal mines, and few residential emissions in relatively small communities and isolated ranches) and good atmospheric dispersion conditions. The available data show that the region complies with the ambient air quality standards for NO2 and SO2. There have been no monitored exceedances of the annual PM10 standard in the Wyoming PRB. Air quality modeling indicates the projected mine activities at the Buckskin Mine will comply with the PM10 and PM2.5 near-field and short-term NO2 air standards for the 2015 modeled air quality impacts at the currently permitted mining rate. The applicant has indicated that they propose to mine either action alternative at a rate below the permit level. Visibility data collected around the region indicate that, although there are some days with notable impacts at class I areas, the general trend in the region shows little change in visibility impacts at Badlands National Park and at the Jim Bridger Wilderness Area from 1989 to 2003 (figure 3.4-2). Predicted impacts from baseline year (2004) and projected 2015 emissions were modeled for four air quality criteria pollutants (NO2, SO2, PM2.5, and PM10), along with changes in air quality-related values at class I and identified sensitive areas. For regulatory purposes, the class I PSD evaluations are not directly comparable to the air quality permitting requirements, because the modeling effort does not identify or separately evaluate increment-consuming sources that would need to be evaluated under the PSD program. The cumulative impact analysis focuses on changes in cumulative impacts, but not on a comparison to PSD-related evaluations, which would apply to specific sources. Table 4-11 presents the modeled impacts on ambient air quality at the near-field receptors in Montana and Wyoming. Results shown represent the maximum impact at any point in each receptor group; data are provided for the baseline year (2004) analysis and for both coal production scenarios for 2015. Based on the modeling results, the baseline year (2004) maximum impacts on ambient air quality were well below the ambient air quality standards for NO2, and SO2. The annual PM10 and PM2.5 in Wyoming is predicted to be over the WAAQS for the 2015 lower and upper development scenarios. The 2004 maximum modeled 24-hour PM10 levels are greater than the 150 µg/m3 ambient air standard for some near-field receptors near PRB sources in Wyoming. The modeling also indicated that visibility impacts in the surrounding class I and class II areas for the modeled year 2015 showed some increase in visibility impacts. For the Montana near-field projected impacts, the modeling for the 24-hour PM10 and 24-hour PM2.5 levels projects a maximum impact below the NAAQS for both coal production scenarios for 2015. The upper coal production scenario shows an increase in the impact of more than 40% above the baseline year for these parameters. Projected impacts for annual NO2, SO2, and annual PM2.5 and PM10 show compliance with the NAAQS and the Montana State Ambient Air Quality Standards. The 1-hour NO2 projected levels for the lower and upper development scenarios are

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences above the Montana standards. Small percentage increases in SO2 impacts are projected, and the impacts themselves are well below the NAAQS. For the Wyoming near-field receptors, the modeling projects maximum 24-hour PM10 levels greater than the 150 µg/m3 ambient air standard for the 2015 lower and upper coal production scenarios at some receptors. For the 2015 upper development scenario, the modeled levels are above150 µg/m3 for several relatively small areas surrounding coal mines and CBNG operations in the Wyoming PRB. As shown in table 4-11, the maximum modeled PM10 impacts from all sources for the 2015 upper coal production scenario are nearly three times the 24-hour WAAQS standard. The maximum modeled PM2.5 impacts from all sources for the 2015 upper coal production scenario are nearly five times the 24-hour WAAQS standard. As discussed in section 3.4.2.2, modeling tends to over-predict the 24-hour impacts of surface coal mining and, as a result, the WDEQ/AQD does not consider short-term PM10 modeling to be an accurate representation of short-term impacts. In view of this, a memorandum of agreement between the WDEQ/AQD and EPA Region VIII, dated January 24, 1994, allows the WDEQ/AQD to conduct monitoring in lieu of short-term modeling for assessing coal mining-related impacts in the PRB. This agreement also requires the WDEQ to include “best available work practice” mitigation measures in each PRB mining permit. The monitored exceedances at surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB and the measures that the WDEQ/AQD has implemented or is proposing to implement to prevent future exceedances of the PM10 NAAQS are discussed in chapter 3, sections 3.4.2.1 and 3.4.2.3. The maximum modeled impacts on the annual PM10 and annual PM2.5 levels are projected to be above the standard (15 and 50 µg/m3, respectively) at near-field receptors in Wyoming for the 2015 upper coal production scenario. EPA has revoked the annual PM10 standard of 50 µg/m3, but until Wyoming enters into rulemaking to revise the WAAQS, that standard is still effective. It should be noted that the WDEQ/LQD issues permits to mine coal, with input from the AQD division. The agency cannot issue any permit that violates ambient air quality standards. Impacts of NO2 and SO2 emissions are predicted to be below the NAAQS and WAAQS at all Wyoming near-field receptors. A large portion of the impacts for all scenarios would be associated with coal-related sources, although non-coal sources would contribute a notable portion of the impact. Table 4-12 lists the three class I areas and two class II areas where the modeled impacts are the greatest. Table 4-12 includes a comparison to ambient air quality standards and PSD increments; however, it must be noted that this modeling analysis did not separate PSD increment-consuming sources from those that do not consume increment. The PSD-increment comparison is provided for informational purposes only and cannot be directly related to a regulatory interpretation of PSD increment consumption. For the class I Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, modeled impacts for the baseline year (2004) and the two coal production scenarios for 2015 are less than the annual SO2 PSD class I and class II increment and below the PSD class I and class II increment levels for annual PM10, 24-hour SO2, and 3-hour SO2. The levels for 24-hour PM10 are above the class I and class II PSD increment levels in the base line year of 2004 and show potential exceedances in both the lower and upper development scenarios. For annual NO2, the

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences modeled impacts for the Northern Cheyenne Reservations are less than the annual increment for the baseline year and lower and upper coal production scenarios. In the other two class I areas, only the 24-hour PM10 impacts are higher than the comparison to the PSD increment levels for the baseline year and both coal production scenarios. In the sensitive class II areas, all modeled impacts are well below the class II PSD increment for the lower coal production scenario. The modeled 24-hour PM10 in both of the class II areas indicates potential exceedances in the upper coal production scenario. The projected modeled visibility impacts for the baseline year (2004) and for the lower and upper coal production scenarios for 2015 for all analyzed class I and sensitive class II areas are listed in table 4-13. For the baseline year, the maximum visibility impacts at class I areas were determined to be at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana and at Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks in South Dakota. For these locations, modeling showed more than 200 days of impacts with a change of 10% or more in extinction. A 10% change in extinction corresponds to 1.0 dv. To provide a basis for discussing the modeled visibility impacts resulting from the projected increased production under the lower and upper coal production scenarios for 2015, the modeled visibility impacts for 2004 were subtracted from the model results for 2015. Table 4-13 shows the number of additional days that the projected impacts were greater than 1.0 dv (10% in extinction) for each site for the upper and lower coal production scenarios. Using Badlands Park as an example, the modeling analysis showed 218 days with impacts greater than 1.0 dv in 2004. Under the 2015 lower coal production scenario, the modeling analysis projects an additional 26 days with impacts greater than 1.0 dv, or a total of 244 days with impacts greater than 1.0 dv. For acid deposition, all predicted impacts are below the deposition threshold values for both nitrogen and sulfur compounds. There are substantial percentage increases in deposition under the lower and upper coal production scenarios for 2010; however, impacts remain well below the threshold values. The acid neutralizing capacity of sensitive lakes was analyzed, and results are summarized in table 4-14. No significant impacts were projected at any of the lakes for the baseline year study; however, the lower and upper coal production scenarios for 2010 show an increased impact at Florence Lake, leading to an impact that is above the 10% acid-neutralizing capacity. Impacts also are predicted to be above the 1 microequivalent per liter (µeq/L) threshold for Upper Frozen Lake. The study also modeled impacts of selected hazardous air pollutant emissions (benzene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, n-hexane, toluene, and xylene) on the near-field receptors in Montana and Wyoming. Model results for the 2010 upper coal production scenario show that impacts were predicted to be above the acute reference exposure level for formaldehyde (94 µg/m3) at two receptors in Wyoming but are below all reference exposure and reference concentrations for chronic inhalation levels in Montana and for other compounds in Wyoming. Essentially, the modeled impacts for 2010 showed a continuation of the patterns exhibited for the baseline year analysis.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-11.
Pollutant

Projected Maximum Potential Near-field Impacts (µg/m3)
Averaging Time Base Year (2004) Impacts 2015 Lower Coal Development 2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Impacts Scenario Impacts NAAQS Wyoming AAQS Montana AAQS PSD Class II Increments

WYOMING NEAR-FIELD NO2 SO2 Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour PM2.5 Annual 24-hour PM10 Annual 24-hour MONTANA NEAR-FIELD NO2 Annual 1-hour SO2 Annual 3.3 409.0 1.6 16.1 65.0 1-hour PM2.5 24-hour PM10 3-hour
3

31.3 15.3 112.3 462.0 13.4 87.6 38.4 250.4

46.7 16.2 119.6 814.1 18.7 179.5 53.5 512.8

47.4 16.2 119.6 814.1 21.4 179.5 61.0 512.9

100 80 365 1,300 15 35 --150

100 60 260 1,300 15 35 50 150

--1 ---------------

25 20 91 512 ----17 30

6.5 826.3 1.7 16.5 66.5 166.6 1.8 15.4 5.2 44.0

6.5 826.4 1.7 16.6 66.5 166.6 1.9 20.6 5.3 58.5

100 --80 365 1,300 --15 35 --150

---------------------

100 564 80 365 1,300 1,300 15 35 50 150

25 --20 91 512 ------17 30

162.9 1.0 10.2

Annual

Annual

2.8 29.1

µg/m = microgram per cubic meter; NAAQS = National Ambient Air Quality Standards; AAQS = Ambient Air Quality Standards; PSD = prevention of significant deterioration; NO = nitrogen oxide; SO2 = sulfur dioxide; PM10 = particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less in diameter; PM2.5 = particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter 1 No standard or increment 24-hour Bold values indicate projected exceedance of ambient air quality standards Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3A Report update (BLM 2008a)

24-hour

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-12.
Location
CLASS I AREAS

Maximum Predicted PSD Class I and Sensitive Class II Area Impacts (µg/m3)
Pollutant
NO2 SO2

Averaging Period
Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour

Base Year (2004) Impacts
0.4 0.5 3.1 9.4 0.3 3.4 0.9 9.6 0.0 0.2 3.0 6.3 0.1 1.6 0.2 4.5 0.2 0.7 3.7 7.0 0.4 3.8 1.0 10.9

2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario
0.6 0.6 3.4 9.6 0.5 5.1 1.5 14.4 0.0 0.2 3.1 6.3 0.1 1.6 0.2 4.6 0.3 0.8 4.1 7.4 0.5 4.6 1.3 13.3

2015 Upper Coal Development Production Scenario
0.9 0.7 3.4 9.6 0.5 5.1 1.5 14.6 0.0 0.2 3.1 6.3 0.1 1.6 0.2 4.7 0.3 0.8 4.1 7.4 0.5 4.7 1.4 13.6

PSD Class I/II Increments
2.5 2 5 25 ---1 --4 8 2.5 2 5 25 ----4 8 2.5 2 5 25 ----4 8

Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation

PM2.5 PM10 Washakie Wilderness Area NO2 SO2

Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour

PM2.5 PM10 Wind Cave National Park NO2 SO2

Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour

PM2.5 PM10

Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences
Averaging Period
Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour PM2.5 PM10 Crow Indian Reservation NO2 SO2 Annual 24-hour Annual 24-hour Annual Annual 24-hour 3-hour PM2.5 PM10
3

Location
SENSITIVE CLASS II AREAS Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area

Pollutant
NO2 SO2

Base Year (2004) Impacts
0.6 0.5 3.6 14.3 0.5 5.9 1.4 0.9 2.3

2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario
0.6 0.6 3.7 14.3 0.5 7.8 1.6 22.3 1.4 2.3 14.6 77.0

2015 Upper Coal Development Production Scenario
0.7 0.6 4.0 14.3 0.7 11.9 2.1 34.1 1.7 2.3 14.6 77.0 1.4 14.3 4.1 40.7

PSD Class I/II Increments
25 20 91 512 ----17 30 25 20 91 512 ----17 30

16.9 0.8 7.2 2.2 20.5

Annual 24-hour 14.4 Annual 76.8 24-hour

1.0 9.4 2.9 26.9

PSD = prevention of significant deterioration; µg/m = microgram per cubic meter; NO2 = nitrogen dioxide; SO2 = sulfur dioxide; PM10 = particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less in diameter; PM2.5 = particulate 
 matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter 

1

No standard or increment.


Bold values indicate exceedance of PSD class I or II standards.
 Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3A Report update (BLM 2008a) 


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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-13.

Modeled Change in Visibility Impacts at Class I and Sensitive Class II Areas
Base Year (2004) 2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
26 0 2 2 10 0 2 3 32 2 1 4 5 8 5 18 2 2 20 1 34 18 4 25 6 10 1 19 2 1 36 4 18 10 2

Location
CLASS I AREAS Badlands National Park Bob Marshall Wilderness Area Bridger Wilderness Area Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area Fort Peck Indian Reservation Gates of the Mountain WA Grand Teton National Park North Absaroka Wilderness Area North Cheyenne Indian Reservation Red Rock Lakes Scapegoat Wilderness Area Teton Wilderness Area Theodore Roosevelt National Park UL Bend Wilderness Area Washakie Wilderness Area Wind Cave National Park Yellowstone National Park SENSITIVE CLASS II AREAS Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Big Horn Canyon National Rec. Area Black Elk Wilderness Area Cloud Peak Wilderness Area Crow Indian Reservation Devils Tower National Monument Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Fort Laramie National Historic Site Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area Jewel Cave National Monument Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area Mount Naomi Wilderness Area Mount Rushmore National Monument Popo Agie Wilderness Area Soldier Creek Wilderness Area Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area Wind River Indian Reservation

No. of Days >10%
218 8 144 91 105 55 70 61 243 42 27 57 178 77 83 262 84 101 251 331 236 126 360 274 66 260 79 261 97 51 222 139 268 130 217

2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Change in No. of Days >10%
26 0 2 2 10 0 2 3 47 2 1 4 9 10 5 19 2 3 20 3 36 18 4 25 7 10 1 21 2 1 36 4 18 10 5

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3A Report update (BLM 2008a)

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-14.

Predicted Total Cumulative Change in Acid Neutralizing Capacity of Sensitive Lakes
Background AcidNeutralizing Capacity (µeq/L)
67.0 60.0 70.0 5.0 55.3 32.7 53.5 55.5

Location
Bridger Wilderness Area

Lake
Black Joe Deep Hobbs Upper Frozen

Area (hectares)
890.0 205.0 293.0 64.8 293.0 417.0 4,455.0 155.0

Base Year 2004 Change (percent)
4.00 4.70 3.95 2.42 5.24 9.09 2.72 6.28

2015 Lower Coal Development Scenario Change (percent)
4.11 4.82 4.03 2.47 5.97 10.41 2.79 6.42

2015 Upper Coal Development Scenario Change (percent)
4.11 4.82 4.03 2.48 6.02 10.48 2.79 6.43

Thresholds (percent)
10 10 10 11 10 10 10 10

Cloud Peak Wilderness Area Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area Popo Agie Wilderness Area
µeq/L = microequivalents per liter
1

Emerald Florence Ross Lower Saddlebag

Data for Upper Frozen Lake presented in changes in µeq/L rather than percent change. (For lakes with less than 25 µeq/L background acid-neutralizing capacity)

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3A Report update (BLM 2008a)

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences For 2020, the PRB Coal Review Task 3A Report includes a qualitative analysis of potential air quality impacts and the impacts from individual source groups, based on the projected changes from 2002 to 2010 for the respective coal production scenarios. The production from conventional oil and gas and CBNG activities is projected to peak at 2010, with slight declines predicted over the following decade. The production from CBNG activities is projected to peak at 2015, with slight declines predicted over the following decade. Therefore, from these sources, expected impacts would decrease slightly from 2015 to 2020. The coal mining sources would be the major contributors to PM10 impacts in the near-field between 2015 and 2020, and these impacts would result from the proximity of the receptors to the coal mining operations. If coal mines expand or relocate, those impacts likely would follow that development; however, the specific impacts would need to be addressed with a more refined modeling effort. Power plants are the major contributors to all SO2 impacts in the near-field in both states. However, the projected impacts are well below any ambient standard or PSD increment. According to the PRB Coal Review Air Quality modeling analysis, predicted future expansion modeled to the year 2020 should not jeopardize the attainment of those standards. Impacts on NO2 concentrations are the result of emissions from all the source groups. No one source group dominates the NO2 impacts in the near-field. A pattern that is similar to the near-field receptors holds true for the class I and sensitive class II receptor groups. Essentially, the mine operations would continue to dominate the PM10 impacts, the power plants would continue to dominate the SO2 impacts (although they would continue to be below the standards), and the overall source groups would continue to contribute to NO2 impacts, but impacts should remain below the NO2 standard for 2015 and 2020. Based on modeling results, none of the acid deposition thresholds were exceeded at class I areas for either the baseline year or for the lower or upper coal production scenarios for 2010. In general, the projected increases in coal development (and power plants) are not expected to raise the deposition levels above the threshold extended into 2020. The only concern relates to the acid deposition into sensitive lakes. The model results showed that the increased deposition, largely from SO2 emissions from power plants, exceeded the thresholds of significance for the acid-neutralizing capacity at two sensitive (high alpine) lakes. The results indicate that with increased growth in power plant operations, the reduced acid-neutralizing capacity of the sensitive lakes would become significant and would need to be addressed carefully for each proposed major development project. The WDEQ/AQD and WDEQ/LQD mitigation and monitoring requirements for coal mine emissions are discussed in sections 3.4.2.3 and 3.4.3.3. The discussion in these sections includes the operational control measures that are currently in place and would be required for mining operations on LBAs that are issued in the future, as well as measures that may be required to avoid future exceedances of the WAAQS and NAAQS and/or future mine-related impacts on the public.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.2.4

Water Resources

Surface and groundwater are used extensively throughout the PRB for agricultural, municipal, domestic, and industrial water suppies. Surface water use is limited to major perennial drainages, and agricultural areas within the basin are found mainly along these drainages. Municipal water supply comes from a combination of surface and groundwater. Domestic and industrial water supply primarily is from groundwater. The PRB Coal Review Task 1B Report (BLM 2006d) describes the existing water resource conditions in the PRB Task 1 study area (map 4-1). The Task 3B Report update (BLM 2008a) provides an assessment of the cumulative impact on surface and groundwater resources associated with future projected levels of coal mining, coal mine dewatering, CBNG groundwater withdrawal and surface disposal, and coal mine and conventional oil and gas surface disposal of groundwater in the Task 3 study area (map 4-2). The groundwater portion of the impact analysis has not yet been completed. The surface water analysis addresses the cumulative impacts on surface water quality and channel stability as a result of surface discharge of groundwater by CBNG development and coal mine dewatering. The surface water quality portion of this analysis has been completed, but the channel stability portion is not yet complete. The following discussion includes a summary of the results of the Task 1B Report and the Task 3B surface water quality impact analysis, including a recent channel stability study. The Task 3B groundwater impact analysis will be incorporated into future EIS analyses when completed.

4.2.4.1

Groundwater

Five main aquifers are present in the PRB Coal Review Task 1 study area (map 4-1) that can be used for water supply: „ Madison Aquifer System; „ Dakota Aquifer System; „ Fox Hills/Lance Aquifer System; „ Fort Union/Wasatch Aquifer System; and, „ Quaternary Alluvial Aquifer System. The Fort Union/Wasatch Aquifer System includes the coal and overburden aquifers that are directly affected by surface coal mining and CBNG development. It is also a major source of local water supply for domestic and stock water use. Table 4-15 shows the recoverable groundwater in the components of the Fort Union/Wasatch Aquifer System. The volumes of recoverable groundwater from the sandstones within the Wasatch/Tongue River Aquifer, the Lebo confining layer, and the Tullock Aquifer were determined from the volume of sandstone in each of these units multiplied by the 13% specific yield value for sandstone. Similarly, the volume of recoverable groundwater from the coals within the Wasatch/Tongue River was calculated from the volume of coal multiplied by the 0.4% specific yield value for coal.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-15.

Recoverable Groundwater in the Fort Union/Wasatch Aquifer System
Surface Area (acres)
5,615,609 4,988,873 6,992,929 7,999,682

Hydrogeologic Unit
Wasatch-Tongue River Aquifer Sandstones Wasatch-Tongue River Aquifer Coals Lebo Confining Layer Sandstones Tullock Aquifer Sandstones
ft = feet
1

Average Formation Thickness (ft)
2,035 2,035 1,009 1,110

Percentage of Sand/Coal
50.0 6.2 33.0 52.0

Average Sand/Coal Thickness (ft)
1,018 126 250 430

Specific Yield (percent)
13.0 0.4 13.0 13.0

Recoverable Groundwater (acre-ft)1
743,169,695 2,514,392 227,270,193 447,182,224

Calculated by multiplying Surface Area � Average Sand/Coal Thickness � Specific Yield. These numbers vary slightly from the numbers presented in table 3-5 of the final EIS and proposed plan amendment for the PRB Oil and Gas Project (BLM 2003).

Source: BLM 2003

Because of statutory requirements and concerns, several studies and a number of modeling analyses have been conducted to help predict the impacts of surface coal mining on groundwater resources in the Wyoming portion of the PRB. Some of these studies and modeling analyses are discussed below. In 1987, the USGS, in cooperation with the WDEQ and OSM conducted a study of the hydrology of the eastern PRB. The resulting description of the cumulative hydrologic effects of all current and anticipated surface coal mining (as of 1987) was published in 1988 in the USGS Water-Resources Investigation Report, Cumulative Potential Hydrologic Impacts of Surface Coal Mining in the Eastern Powder River Structural Basin, Northeastern Wyoming, referred to herein as the USGS CHIA (Martin et al. 1988). This report evaluates the potential cumulative groundwater impacts of surface coal mining in the area and is incorporated by reference into this EIS. The USGS CHIA analysis considered the proposed mining at the Antelope Mine. It did not evaluate potential groundwater impacts related to additional coal leasing in this area, and it did not consider the potential for overlapping groundwater impacts from coal mining and CBNG development. Each mine must assess the probable hydrologic consequences of mining as part of the mine permitting process. The WDEQ/LQD must evaluate the cumulative hydrologic impacts associated with each proposed mining operation before approving the mining and reclamation plan for each mine, and they must find that the cumulative hydrologic impacts of all anticipated mining would not cause material damage to the hydrologic balance outside of the permit area for each mine. Because of these requirements, each existing approved mining permit includes an analysis of the hydrologic impacts of the surface coal mining proposed at that mine. If major amendments to mining and reclamation permits are proposed, then the potential cumulative impacts of the revisions must also be evaluated. If the proposed tract or an alternative tract configuration is leased to the respective applicant, the existing mining and reclamation permit for the mine must be revised and approved to include the new lease before it can be mined.
4-48 Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The PRB Oil and Gas Project final EIS (BLM 2003) includes a modeling analysis of the groundwater impacts if an additional 39,000 new CBNG wells are drilled in the PRB by the end of 2011. The project area for this EIS, which covers all of Campbell, Sheridan, and Johnson counties, as well as the northern portion of Converse County, is similar to the study area for the PRB Coal Review Task 1 and Task 2 study area (map 4-1). Another source of data on the impacts of surface coal mining on groundwater is the monitoring that is required by the WDEQ/LQD and administered by the mining operators. Each mine is required to monitor groundwater levels and quality in the coal and in the shallower aquifers in the area surrounding their operations. Monitoring wells are also required to record water levels and water quality in reclaimed areas. The coal mine groundwater monitoring data are published each year by Gillette Area Groundwater Monitoring Organization (GAGMO), a voluntary group formed in 1980. Members of GAGMO include most of the companies with operating or proposed mines in the Wyoming PRB, WDEQ, the Wyoming SEO, BLM, USGS, and OSM. GAGMO contracts with an independent firm each year to publish the annual monitoring results. That group also periodically publishes reports summarizing the water monitoring data collected since 1980 in the Wyoming PRB (Hydro-Engineering 1991, 1996, and 2001a). The major groundwater issues related to surface coal mining that have been identified are: „ the effect of the removal of the coal aquifer and any overburden aquifers within the mine area and replacement of these aquifers with backfill material; „ the extent of the temporary lowering of static water levels in the aquifers around the mine due to dewatering associated with removal of these aquifers within the mine boundaries; „ the effects of the use of water from the subcoal Fort Union Formation by the mines; „ changes in water quality as a result of mining; and, „ potential overlapping drawdown due to proximity of coal mining and CBNG development. The impacts of large scale surface coal mining on a cumulative basis for each of these issues are discussed in the following paragraphs. The effect of replacing the coal and overburden with backfill is the first major groundwater concern. The following discussion of recharge, movement, and discharge of water in the backfill aquifer is quoted from the USGS CHIA (Martin et al. 1988):
Postmining recharge, movement, and discharge of groundwater in the Wasatch aquifer and Wyodak coal aquifer will probably not be substantially different from premining conditions. Recharge rates and mechanisms will not change substantially. Hydraulic conductivity of the spoil aquifer will be approximately the same as in the Wyodak coal aquifer allowing groundwater to move from recharge areas where clinker is present east of mine areas through the spoil aquifer to the undisturbed Wasatch aquifer and Wyodak coal aquifer to the west.

Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4-49

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences Monitoring data verify that recharge has occurred and is continuing in the backfill (HydroEngineering 1991, 1996, 2001a, and 2005). The water monitoring summary reports prepared each year by GAGMO list current water levels in the monitoring wells completed in the backfill and compare them with the 1980 water levels, as estimated from the 1980 coal water-level contour maps. In the 1991 GAGMO 10-year report, some recharge had occurred in 88% of the 51 backfill wells reported at that time (Hydro-Engineering 1991). In the GAGMO 20-year report, 79% of the 82 backfill wells measured contained water (Hydro-Engineering 2001a). Coal companies are required by state and federal law to mitigate any water rights that are interrupted, discontinued, or diminished by mining. The cumulative size of the backfill area in the PRB and the duration of mining activity would be increased by mining the currently pending LBA tracts, including the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration. Because the mined-out areas are being backfilled and the monitoring data demonstrate that recharge of the backfill is occurring, substantial additional impacts are not anticipated as a result of the pending leasing actions. Scoria or clinker, the baked and fused rock formed by prehistoric burning of the Wyodak-Anderson coal seam, occurs all along the coal outcrop area (map 3.5-2) and is believed to be the major recharge source for the backfill aquifer, just as it is for the coal. However, not all clinker is saturated. Some scoria is mined for road-surfacing material, but saturated clinker is not generally mined since abundant clinker exists above the water table and does not present the mining problems that would result from mining saturated clinker. Therefore, current mining is not disturbing the major recharge source for the backfill aquifer. No scoria is present in the proposed tract, but it does occur elsewhere in the BLM study area. The second major groundwater issue is the extent of water level drawdown in the coal and shallower aquifers in the area surrounding the mine. In general, the saturated sand aquifers in the Wasatch Formation overburden have limited extent and, as a result, the drawdowns in that formation are much smaller and cover much less area than the coal drawdowns. In this EIS, assessment of cumulative impacts on groundwater related to surface coal mining is based on impact predictions made by the Buckskin Mine. Those drawdowns are extrapolated to evaluate the potential impacts of mining under the action alternatives. Map 3.5-2 depicts the extrapolated extent of the 5-foot cumulative drawdown contour within the Anderson and Canyon coal aquifers at the Buckskin Mine. The WDEQ/LQD uses the extent of the 5-foot drawdown contour to assess the cumulative extent of the impact on the groundwater system caused by mining operations. The GAGMO 20-year report provides actual groundwater drawdown information after 20 years of mining (Hydro-Engineering 2001a). Most of the monitoring wells included in the GAGMO 20-year report (488 wells out of 570) are completed in the coal beds, in the overlying sediments, or in sand channels or interburden between the coal beds at 16 active and proposed mine sites. Since 1996, some BLM monitor wells have been included in the GAGMO reports.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The USGS CHIA predicted the approximate area of five feet or more water level decline in the Wyodak coal aquifer which would result from “all anticipated coal mining.” “All anticipated coal mining” included 16 surface coal mines operating at the time the report was prepared and six additional mines proposed at that time. All of the currently producing mines, including the Buckskin Mine, were considered in the USGS CHIA analysis (Martin et al. 1988). The study predicted that water supply wells completed in the coal may be affected as far away as 8 miles from mine pits, although the effects at that distance were predicted to be minimal. As drawdown propagates to the west, available drawdown in the coal aquifer increases. Available drawdown is defined as the elevation difference between the potentiometric surface (elevation to which water will rise in a well bore) and the bottom of the aquifer. The coal depth increases faster to the west than the potentiometric surface declines, so available drawdown in the coal increases. Since the depth to coal increases, most stock and domestic wells are completed in units above the coal. Consequently, with the exception of CBNG wells, few wells are completed in the coal in the areas west of the mines. Those wells completed in the coal have considerable available drawdown, so it is unlikely that surface coal mining would cause adverse impacts on wells outside the immediate mine area. Wells in the Wasatch Formation were predicted to be impacted by drawdown only if they were within 2,000 feet of a mine pit (Martin et al. 1988). Drawdown occurs farther from the mine pits in the coal than in the shallower aquifers because the coal is a confined aquifer that is already extensive. The area in which the shallower aquifers (Wasatch Formation, alluvium, and clinker) experience a 5-foot drawdown would be much smaller than the area of drawdown in the coal because the shallower aquifers are generally discontinuous, of limited areal extent, and often unconfined. When the USGS CHIA was prepared, there were about 1,200 water supply wells within the maximum impact area defined in that study. Of those wells, about 580 were completed in Wasatch aquifers, about 100 in the Wyodak coal aquifer, and about 280 in strata below the coal. There were no completion data available for the remainder of the wells (about 240) at the time the USGS CHIA was prepared. If a tract is leased and mined under one of the action alternatives, the groundwater drawdown would be extended into the area surrounding the proposed new leases. When a lease is issued to an existing mine for a maintenance tract, the mine must revise its existing mining permit to include the new tract in its mine and reclamation plans. In order to do that, the lessee would be required to conduct a detailed groundwater analysis to predict the extent of drawdown in the coal and overburden aquifers caused by mining the new lease. The WDEQ/LQD would use the revised drawdown predictions to update their cumulative hydrologic impact analysis for this portion of the PRB. The applicant has installed monitoring wells that would be used to confirm or refute drawdown predicted by analysis. This analysis would be required as part of the WDEQ mine permitting procedure discussed in sections 1.2 and 1.3. Potential water-level decline in the subcoal Fort Union Formation is the third major groundwater issue. Water level declines in the Tullock Aquifer have been documented in the Gillette area.
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 4-51

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences According to Crist (1991), these declines are most likely attributable to pumpage for municipal use by Gillette and for use at subdivisions and trailer parks in and near Gillette. Most of the water-level declines in the subcoal Fort Union wells occur within 1 mile of the pumped wells (Crist 1991, Martin et al. 1988). Many of the mines have water supply wells completed in zones below the coal, but the mine facilities in the PRB are separated by a distance of 1 mile or more, so little interference between mine supply wells would be expected. In response to concerns voiced by regulatory personnel, several mines have conducted impact studies of the subcoal Fort Union Formation. The OSM also commissioned a cumulative impact study of the subcoal Fort Union Formation to address the effects of mine facility wells on this aquifer (OSM 1984). Conclusions from these studies are similar and are summarized below. „ Because of the discontinuous nature of the sands in this formation and because most large-yield wells are completed in several different sands, it is difficult to correlate completion intervals between wells. „ In the Gillette area, water levels in this aquifer have probably declined because the city of Gillette and several subdivisions have used water from the formation (Crist 1991). (Note: Gillette is mixing Fort Union Formation water with water from wells completed in the Madison Formation. Also, because drawdown has occurred, some operators are able to dispose of CBNG water by injecting it into the subcoal Fort Union Formation near the city of Gillette.) „ Because large saturated thicknesses are available (locally) in this aquifer unit, generally 500 feet or more, a drawdown of 100 to 200 feet in the vicinity of a pumped well would not dewater the aquifer. Most of the existing coal mines in the PRB have permits from the Wyoming SEO for subcoal Fort Union Formation water supply wells. Two industrial water supply wells within Bucksin Mine’s existing permit area are completed in the Fort Union Formation. Extending the life of the Buckskin Mine by issuing a new lease would result in additional water being withdrawn from the subcoal Fort Union Formation, but no new subcoal water supply wells would be required. The additional water withdrawal would not be expected to extend the area of water level drawdown over a substantially larger area because of the discontinuous nature of the sands in the Tullock Member and the fact that drawdown and yield reach equilibrium in a well due to recharge effects. Due to the distances separating subcoal Fort Union Formation wells used for mine water supply, these wells have not experienced interference and are not likely to in the future. Water requirements and sources for proposed power plants are not currently known; however, there are no proposed power plants in the immediate vicinity of the Buckskin Mine. The Wyoming SEO is discouraging further development of the lower Fort Union Formation aquifers, so the most likely groundwater source for future power plants is the Lance-Fox Hills Aquifer System. This would reduce the chances that the power plants would add to cumulative hydrologic impacts of mining and CBNG production.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The fourth issue of concern with respect to groundwater is the effect of mining on water quality. Specifically, what effect does mining have on the water quality in the surrounding area, and what are the potential water quality problems in the backfill aquifer following mining? In a regional study of the cumulative impacts of coal mining, the median concentrations of dissolved solids and sulfates were found to be higher in water from backfill aquifers than in water from either the Wasatch Formation overburden or the Wyodak coal aquifer (Martin et al. 1988). This is expected because blasting and movement of the overburden materials exposes more surface area to water, increasing dissolution of soluble materials, particularly from the overburden materials that were situated above the saturated zone in the premining environment. One pore volume of water is the volume of water that would be required to saturate the backfill following reclamation. The time required for one pore volume of water to pass through the backfill aquifer is greater than the time required for the postmining groundwater system to reestablish equilibrium. According to the USGS CHIA, estimates of the time required to reestablish equilibrium range from tens to hundreds of years (Martin et al. 1988). The major current use of water from the aquifers being replaced by the backfill (the Wasatch Formation overburden and Wyodak coal aquifers) is for livestock because these aquifers are typically too high in dissolved solids for domestic use and well yields are typically too low for irrigation (Martin et al. 1988). Chemical analyses of 336 samples collected between 1981 and 1986 from 45 wells completed in backfill aquifers at 10 mines indicated that the quality of water in the backfill will, in general, meet the state standard for livestock use of 5,000 mg/L for TDS when recharge occurs (Martin et al. 1988). The 2000 annual GAGMO report (Hydro-Engineering 2001b) evaluated samples from 48 backfill wells in 1999 and found that the TDS in 75% were less than 5,000 mg/L, TDS in 23% were between 5,000 and 10,000 mg/L, and TDS in one well was above 10,000 mg/L. An analysis of about 2,000 samples collected from 95 backfill monitoring wells between 1986 and 2002 found that the water quality in 75% of the wells were within the acceptable range for the Wyoming livestock standard, with 25% exceeding that standard (Ogle 2004). The WDEQ/LQD calculated a median TDS concentration of 3,293 mg/L for the backfill aquifer in the east-central area of the PRB, which includes the four mines located immediately south of Gillette, based on 1,384 samples (Ogle et al. 2005). These results suggest that the TDS in the backfill aquifer in the middle group of mines meets the requirements for livestock use and is similar to TDS found in the undisturbed Wasatch Formation overburden but typically larger than TDS found in the Wyodak coal aquifer. Results from the Buckskin Mine indicated that overburden groundwater quality meets suitability criteria for livestock, but exceeds TDS and sulfate limits for domestic and irrigation uses (section 3.5.1.1). The GAGMO 25-Year Report (Hydro-Engineering 2007) reported samples collected from 57 backfill monitoring wells, and of the last samples that were collected from those wells in 2005, the TDS concentrations ranged from a low of 656 mg/L at well RW2804 (at the Belle Ayr Mine) to and high of 12,409 mg/L at well SP-4-NA (at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine), with an average of 3,800 mg/L and a median of 3,670 mg/L. The incremental effect on groundwater quality due to leasing and mining
Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application 4-53

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences the proposed tract or alternative tract configuration would be to increase the total volume of backfill and, thus, the time for equilibrium to reestablish. The fifth area of concern is the potential for cumulative impacts on groundwater resources due to the proximity of coal mining and CBNG development. The Wyodak coal is being developed by mining and CBNG production in the same general area. Dewatering activities associated with CBNG development have overlapped with and expanded the area of groundwater drawdown in the coal aquifer in the PRB over what would occur due to coal mining development alone, and this would be expected to continue. Numerical groundwater flow modeling was used to predict the impacts of the cumulative stresses imposed by mining and CBNG development on the Fort Union Formation coal aquifer in the PRB Oil and Gas Project EIS (BLM 2003). Modeling was necessary because of the large areal extent, variability, and cumulative stresses imposed by mining and CBNG development on the Fort Union coal aquifers. Information from earlier studies was incorporated into the modeling effort for this analysis. As expected, the modeling indicated that the groundwater impacts from CBNG development and surface coal mining would be additive in nature. The addition of CBNG development would extend the area experiencing a loss in hydraulic head to the west of the mining area. The 20-year GAGMO report stated that drawdowns in all areas have greatly increased due to the water production from the Wyodak coal aquifer by CBNG producers (Hydro-Engineering 2001a). Drawdowns in the coal caused by CBNG development would be expected to reduce the need for dewatering in advance of mining, which would be beneficial for mining operations. Wells completed in the coal may also experience increased methane emissions in areas of significant aquifer depressurization. There is a potential for conflicts to occur over who (coal mining or CBNG operators) is responsible for replacing or repairing private wells that are adversely affected by the drawdowns; however, the number of potentially affected wells completed in the coal is not large. As discussed previously, state and federal law requires coal companies to mitigate any water rights that are interrupted, discontinued, or diminished by coal mining. In response to concerns about the potential impacts of CBNG development on water rights, a group of CBNG operators and local landowners developed a standard water well monitoring and mitigation agreement that can be used on a case-by-case basis as development proceeds. All CBNG operators on federal oil and gas leases are required to offer this water well agreement to the surface landowners (BLM 2003). After CBNG development and coal mining projects are completed, it will take longer for groundwater levels to recover due to the overlapping drawdown impacts caused by the dewatering and de-pressuring of the coal aquifer by both operations.

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Draft EIS, Hay Creek II Coal Lease Application

4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

4.2.4.2

Surface Water

For the PRB Coal Review Task 1B Report, which describes the baseline year (2003) water resource conditions including surface water use and surface water availability, the Wyoming PRB is divided into two major water planning areas: the Powder/Tongue River Basin and the Northeast Wyoming River Basins. The main rivers in the Powder/Tongue River Basin are the Tongue River and the Powder River. The basin receives substantial surface water runoff from the Big Horn Mountains, leading to major agricultural development along drainages in the Tongue River and Powder River basins. Reservoirs are used throughout the basin for agricultural water supply and for municipal water supply in the Powder/Tongue River Basin. Water use in the Powder/Tongue River Basin as of 2002 is summarized in table 4-16. The Little Bighorn River, Tongue River, Powder River, Crazy Woman Creek, and Piney Creek carry the largest natural flows in the Powder/Tongue River Basin. Many of the other major drainages are affected by irrigation practices to the extent that their flows are not natural (HKM Engineering et al. 2002a). Water availability in the major sub-basins of the Powder/Tongue River Basin is summarized in table 4-17. This table presents the amount of surface water in acre-feet that is physically available above and beyond allocated surface water in these drainages. As a result of the Yellowstone River Compact, Wyoming must share some of the physically available surface water in the Powder/Tongue River Basin with Montana.

Table 4-16.
Water Use Categories
Agricultural Municipal Domestic Industrial1 Recreation Environmental Evaporation Total
1

Water Use as of 2002 in the Powder/Tongue River Basin
Dry Year Surface Water
178,000 2,700 -----

Normal Year (acre-feet per year) Surface Water
184,000 2,700 -----

Wet Year Surface Water
194,000 2,700 -----

Ground-water
200 500 4,400 68,000

Ground-water
200 500 4,400 68,000

Ground-water
300 500 4,400 68,000

Non-consumptive Non-consumptive 11,300 192,000 -73,100 11,300 198,000 -73,100 11,300 208,000 -73,200

Includes conventional oil and gas production water and CBNG production water.

Source: HKM Engineering et al. 2002a

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-17.

Surface Water Availability in the Powder/Tongue River Basin
Surface Water Availability (acre-feet per year)

Sub-basin
Little Bighorn River Tongue River Clear Creek Crazy Woman Creek Powder River Little Powder River Total
Source: HKM Engineering et al. 2002a

Wet Years
152,000 473,000 213,000 69,000 547,000 48,000 1,502,000

Normal Years
113,000 326,000 124,000 32,000 324,000 12,000 931,000

Dry Years
81,000 218,000 80,000 16,000 16,000 3,000 414,000

The main rivers in the northeast Wyoming river basins are the Belle Fourche in Campbell and Crook counties and the Cheyenne River in Converse, Weston, and Niobrara counties. Water in these rivers and their tributaries comes from groundwater baseline flow and from precipitation, especially from heavy storms during the summer months. Water use in the northeast Wyoming river basins as of 2002 is summarized in table 4-18.

Table 4-18.
Water Use Categories
Agricultural Municipal Domestic Industrial (Oil and Industrial (Other) 2 Recreation Environmental Evaporation (Key Reservoirs) Evaporation (Stockponds) Total
1 2

Water Use as of 2002 in the Northeast Wyoming River Basins
Dry Year Normal Year (acre-feet per year) Surface Water Ground-water Surface Water Ground-water Surface Water Ground-water
65,000 ----Gas)1 ----11,000 9,100 3,600 46,000 4,700 69,000 --------17,000 9,100 3,600 46,000 4,700 71,000 --------17,000 9,100 3,600 46,000 4,700

Wet Year

Non-consumptive Non-consumptive 14,000 6,300 85,300 ----74,400 14,000 6,300 89,300 ----80,400 14,000 6,300 91,300 ----80,400

Includes conventional oil and gas production water and CBNG production water. 
 Includes electricity generation, coal mining, and oil refining. 


Source: HKM Engineering et al. 2002b


Stream flow in major drainages of the Northeast Wyoming River Basins is much less than in the 
 Powder/Tongue River basin due to the absence of a major mountain range to provide snow melt 


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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences runoff. Water availability in the major sub-basins of the northeast Wyoming river basin is summarized in table 4-19.

Table 4-19.

Surface Water Availability in the Northeast Wyoming River Basins
Surface Water Availability (acre-feet per year)

Sub-basin
Redwater Creek Beaver Creek Cheyenne River Belle Fourche River Total
Source: HKM Engineering et al. 2002b

Wet Years
34,000 30,000 103,000 151,000 318,000

Normal Years
26,000 20,000 31,000 71,000 148,000

Dry Years
17,000 14,000 5,000 13,000 49,000

The portions of the PRB Coal Review Task 3B Report (BLM 2008g) that have been completed evaluate cumulative impacts on surface water quality as a result of CBNG, conventional oil and gas, and surface coal mining development in 2003, and projected development in 2010, 2015, and 2020 in that report’s study area (map 4-2). The surface water resources in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area consist primarily of intermittent and ephemeral streams and scattered ponds and reservoirs. The projected development activities would have a direct impact on these surface water features. Table 4-10 summarizes the cumulative baseline (2003) and projected (in 2010, 2015, and 2020) acres of surface disturbance and reclamation. The projected activities would result in surface disturbance in each of the six Task 3 study area subwatersheds (map 4-2). Discrete locations for development disturbance and reclamation areas cannot be determined based on existing information. However, the projected disturbance would primarily involve the construction of additional linear facilities, product gathering lines, and road systems associated with conventional oil and gas and CBNG activities, plus additional disturbance associated with extending coal mining operations onto lands adjacent to the existing mines. Surface-disturbing activities can increase sediment levels in local water bodies. This affects water quality parameters such as turbidity and bottom substrate composition. Contaminants also can be introduced into water bodies through chemical characteristics of the sediment. Studies have shown that TDS levels in streams near reclaimed coal mine areas have increased from 1% to 7% (Martin et al. 1988-- TDS levels in streams near reclaimed coal mine areas). Typically, sedimentation effects are short-term in duration and localized in terms of the affected area. Suspended sediment concentrations would stabilize and return to typical background concentrations after construction or development activities have been completed. It is anticipated that sediment input associated with development disturbance areas would be minimized by implementing appropriate erosion control measures, as would be determined during future permitting. Future coal mining could remove intermittent or ephemeral streams and stockponds in the Little Powder River, Upper Belle Fourche River, Upper Cheyenne River, and Antelope Creek
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences subwatersheds. As discussed in section 3.5.2, the Buckskin Mine is in the Little Powder River subwatershed. Coal mine permits provide for removal of first- through fourth-order drainages. During reclamation, third- and fourth-order drainages must be restored; first- and second-order drainages often are not replaced (Martin et al. 1988). Coal mining-related surface water would be discharged into intermittent and ephemeral streams in four subwatersheds (Antelope Creek, Little Powder River, Upper Belle Fourche River, and Upper Cheyenne River). Based on current trends, it is assumed that most, if not all, of the coal mine-produced water would be consumed during operation. As discussed in section 3.5.2.2, changes in surface runoff would occur because of the destruction and reconstruction of drainage channels as mining progresses. Sediment control structures would be used to manage discharges of surface water from the mine permit areas. State and federal regulations require treatment of surface runoff from mined lands to meet effluent standards. The PRB Coal Review assumes that future permitting would allow a portion of CBNG-produced water to be discharged to intermittent and ephemeral drainages as is currently allowed in the six subwatersheds in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area (map 4-2). It is estimated that up to 39,108, 41,899, and 37,390 million gallons per year of water would be produced in 2010, 2015, and 2020, respectively. The PRB Coal Review Task 3B surface water quality impact analysis uses the surface water model described in the Surface Water Quality Analysis Technical Report (Greystone 2003), which was prepared in support of the PRB Oil and Gas Project EIS (BLM 2003), to evaluate the cumulative impacts on surface water resources from surface discharge of CBNG development. Based on past monitoring in receiving streams, most CBNG discharge water either infiltrates or evaporates within a few miles of the discharge points and generally is not recorded at USGS stream gauging stations. Impacts on surface water flow and quality are generally limited to within a few miles of the discharge point. In view of this, the PRB Coal Review Task 3B water quality impact analysis assumes a conveyance loss of 70% for the water quality assessment and modeling analysis. Key water quality parameters for predicting the potential effects of CBNG development in the surface water quality impact analysis focused on the suitability of surface water for irrigated agriculture. Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), and salinity, measured by electrical conductivity (EC), were used for this prediction. Most restrictive proposed limit (MRPL) and least restrictive proposed limit (LRPL) regulatory standards for EC and SAR applicable to the subwatersheds were developed and used in the analysis. The limits presented in table 4-20 were used during the comparison of EC and SAR valued for resulting mixtures of existing streamflows and discharges from CBNG wells under various flow conditions and the CBNG water discharge projections for 2010, 2015, and 2020.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-20.
Subwatershed
Little Powder Powder Belle Fourche

Summary of Proposed Limits for SAR and EC
Most Restrictive Proposed Limit SAR
5 2 6 10

Least Restrictive Proposed Limit SAR
9.75 9.75 10 10

EC (µS/cm)
2,000 2,000 2,000 2,000

EC (µS/cm)
2,500 2,500 2,500 2,500

Cheyenne, Antelope Creek

SAR = sodium adsorption ratio; EC = electrical conductivity; µS/cm = micro siemens/centimeter Source: Wyoming DEQ, Montana DEQ, and South Dakota Legislative Council

The impacts on water quality on the receiving drainages assumed two hydrologic conditions: dry year conditions and normal year conditions. The impact analysis, conducted using monthly flows, comparatively evaluated the water quality parameters (SAR and EC) of the receiving drainage before and after mixing with discharge water generated by the CBNG wells within that drainage. In general, the water discharged from the CBNG wells reflected increased levels of SAR and reduced levels of EC compared to the water quality of the receiving drainages. Impacts on water quality are likely to be maximized during the low flow months; consequently, the comparative evaluation of water quality also focused on the minimum monthly flow associated with the dry year and normal year conditions. The water quality impact analysis made several observations regarding the overall effects of mixing CBNG well production water with surface water in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. These general observations are summarized below. Before mixing, the surface water in the Upper Powder River exceeds the MRPL for both EC and SAR throughout the majority of the year. Levels of SAR are less than the LRPL while EC values generally exceed the LRPL from July through December. After mixing, a minimal reduction in EC and a minor increase in SAR are projected, which reflects the relatively small contribution of CBNG well production water to the much larger flows in the Upper Powder River. Projected SAR values exceed the MRPL throughout the year while meeting the LRPL. Projected EC values exceed the MRPL throughout the majority of the year and the LRPL from July through December. For Antelope Creek and the Dry Fork Cheyenne River under the before mixing scenario, the SAR values are relatively low and do not exceed the MRPL. The EC values exceed the MRPL during the low-flow months but are typically less than the LRPL all year. After mixing, SAR levels increase but are projected to continue to meet the MRPL and a reduction in EC is projected that meets the MRPL throughout the year. This is a reflection of the lack of surface water in these streams combined with the relatively low values for EC and SAR in the CBNG well production water. Before mixing, the surface water in the Little Powder River exceeds the MRPL for EC and SAR throughout the majority of the year. SAR levels remain below the LRPL throughout the year, but EC levels exceed the LRPL during the low flow months. After mixing, the projected SAR
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences values exceed the MRPL throughout the year and exceed the LRPL from one month (in 2003) to five months (in 2010 and 2015) of the year. The projected EC exceeds the MRPL for four months of the year but meets the LRPL throughout the year. For the Upper Cheyenne River before mixing, the SAR levels do not exceed the MRPL and the EC levels exceed the MRPL for eleven months of the year and the LRPL for nine months of the year. After mixing, the projected SAR levels continue to meet the MRPL throughout the year and the projected EC levels exceed the MRPL for 10 or more months of the year and the LRPL for six or more months of the year. Before mixing, the surface water in the Upper Belle Fourche River exceeds the MRPL for SAR from November through January while meeting the LRPL throughout the year. The EC levels exceed the MRPL from September through January and exceed the LRPL from November through January. After mixing, the projected SAR values exceed the MRPL six or more months of the year while continuing to meet the LRPL throughout the year. The projected EC values meet the MRPL throughout the year. The suitability of the mixed water for irrigation purposes is related to EC and SAR. In general, the water most suitable for irrigation has a relatively low SAR and a relatively high EC. Elevated SAR values may reduce permeability in clayey soils, which reduces the rate of water infiltration. As discussed above, the water discharged from the CBNG wells is generally characterized by higher levels of SAR and reduced levels of EC compared to the water quality of the receiving drainages. In those cases where mixing results in a significant increase in SAR and the EC is moderately low, the water was considered unsuitable. For Antelope Creek, the Dry Fork Cheyenne River, the Little Powder River, and the Upper Belle Fourche River, the projected water quality after mixing demonstrated adequate suitability for irrigation during normal year conditions and unsuitability for irrigation during some to all of the irrigation season during dry year conditions. In general, for periods where CBNG well production water represents the majority of the flow available for irrigation purposes, there is a reduction in the suitability of the water for irrigation purposes.

4.2.5

Channel Stability

A qualitative assessment of the impacts on receiving drainages resulting from the introduction of CBNG well production water was made. The channel of the Belle Fourche River below Moorcroft would change by less than 0.2%, while the channel of the Little Powder River near Weston would change by less than 0.3% (table 4-21). Given the low increase in mean annual discharge from introduced CBNG water, changes in channel geomorphology (width, depth, gradient, bed material transport and meander wavelength) are considered unnoticeable.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-21.

Impact of CBNG Production Water on Perennial Streams
Channel Forming Discharge1 (cfs)
270 to 420

CBNG Discharge (cfs)
2.2

Estimated Width Existing Conditions (ft)
47.3 to 56.3

Potential Impact [Increased Width] (ft)
0.15 to 0.12

Location
Little Powder River above Dry Creek near Weston, Wyoming (USGS Gage 06324970) Belle Fourche River below Moorcroft, Wyoming (USGS Gage 06426500)
1

(%)
0.5% to 0.8%

Combined Discharge (ft)
47.4 to 56.4

(%)
0.3%

652 to 789

3.9

0.5% to 0.6%

66.9 to 72.1

67.0 to 72.2

0.16 to 0.14

0.2%

CBNG = coal bed natural gas; cfs = cubic feet per second; ft = feet; USGS = U.S. Geological Survey Discharge associated with the 1.5 to 2 year recurrence interval. Source: The PRB Coal Review Task 3B (BLM 2008h) surface water quality impact analysis uses the surface water model described in the Surface Water Quality Analysis Technical Report (Greystone Environmental Consultants, Inc. 2003)

Discharge of CBNG well production water into ephemeral drainages may start or exacerbate erosion in the channel. Given the potentially greater increase in the occurrence of ephemeral drainages due to a lower natural flow, channel geomorphology is more likely to be evident. Monitoring and mitigation for erosion are included in water management planning for oil and gas drilling approvals. Included in the BLM Task 3B Report (BLM 2008h), a special study was done of the Caballo Creek drainage in the Belle Ayr Mine permit area, to see how reclaimed drainages were impacted by increased CBNG discharges. It was determined that CBNG discharge represented less than 1% of the two-year peak discharge. No active erosion was noted in the natural or diverted portions of the Caballo Creek channel, while an increase in vegetative diversity and density was noted. The minor amount of flow increase would not likely result in increased erosion in streams similar to Caballo Creek. While it is more likely that creeks with smaller drainage areas, like Duck Nest or Bone Pile creeks may experience more erosion due to relatively larger flow increases from CBNG discharge, such effects were not observed in the field.

4.2.6

Alluvial Valley Floors

The identified AVFs for all coal mines in the PRB Coal Review study area are described in the PRB Coal Review Task 1D Report (BLM 2005e), and are based on individual mine state decision documents. Regulatory determinations of AVF occurrence and location are completed as part of the permitting process for coal mining operations, because their presence can restrict mining activities under SMCRA and Wyoming laws. The WDEQ/LQD administers the AVF regulations for coal mining activities in Wyoming. Coal mine related impacts on designated AVFs generally are not permitted if the AVF is determined to be significant to agriculture. If an AVF is determined not to be significant to agriculture or if the permit to affect the AVF was approved prior to the effective date of SMCRA, the AVF can be disturbed during mining but must be restored to essential hydrologic function during reclamation.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences The formal AVF designation and related regulatory programs described above are specific to coal mining operations; however, other development-related activities in the study area would potentially impact AVF resources. The portions of the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area that lie outside of the mine permit areas have generally not been surveyed for the presence of AVFs; therefore, the locations and extent of the AVFs outside of the mine permit areas have not been determined. No AVFs are present in the general analysis area.

4.2.7

Soils

The PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f) discusses potential cumulative impacts on soils from projected development activities in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. The area of surface coal mining disturbance and reclamation for the baseline year (2003) and the projected cumulative areas of disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-2 and table 4-3. The area of disturbance and reclamation for all development for the baseline year and the projected cumulative total areas of disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-10. Development activities such as increased vehicle traffic, vegetation removal, soil salvage and redistribution, discharge of CBNG produced groundwater, and construction and maintenance of project-specific components (e.g., roads, ROWs, well pads, industrial sites, and associated ancillary facilities) would result in cumulative impacts on soils in the study area. In general, soil disturbance and handling from these activities would generate both long-term and short-term impacts on soil resources through accelerated wind or water erosion, declining soil quality factors, compaction, and the temporary and, in some instances, the essentially permanent removal of soil resources at industrial sites. Of the types of development projects in the study area, coal mining activities would create the most concentrated cumulative impacts on soils. This is due to the large acreages involved and the tendency of mining operations to occur in contiguous blocks. These factors would encourage widespread accelerated wind and water erosion. Extensive soil handling would cause compaction and a corresponding loss of permeability to water and air; a decline in microbial populations, fertility, and organic matter; and potential mixing of saline and alkaline soil zones into seedbeds, which would reduce soil quality. There would be a limited availability of suitable soil resources for reclamation uses in some areas. However, for surface coal mining operations, there are measures that are either routinely required or can be specifically required as necessary to reduce impacts on soil resources and to identify overburden material that may be unsuitable for use in reestablishing vegetation, as discussed in sections 3.3.1.3, 3.4.2.3, and 3.8.3. As described in appendix E of the PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report (BLM 2005b), a variety of CBNG water disposal methods may be employed in the Task 3 study area. The potential impacts on soils would depend on the water treatment method, if any, and the nature of the disposal method. As discussed in the PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f), due to elevated SAR levels in water produced from the Wyodak-Anderson coal zone in the Upper Powder River
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences and Little Powder River subwatersheds, land applications of CBNG-produced water in those areas could increase soil alkalinity. As discussed above in section 4.2.4.2, the SAR values are generally low for the Little Powder River subwatershed and tend to exceed the MRPL after mixing with discharged CBNG water throughout the year and exceed the LRPL from one to five months of the year. Land application of CBNG-produced water is not anticipated in this area. The specific approaches to CBNG water discharges, the resource conditions and locations in which they occur, the timing of discharges, and the discharge permit stipulations from regulatory and land management agencies would determine the extent and degree of potential impacts on soils.

4.2.8

Vegetation, Wetlands and Riparian Areas

The PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f) discusses potential cumulative impacts on vegetation, wetlands, and riparian areas from projected development activities in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. The area of surface coal mining disturbance and reclamation for the baseline year (2003) and the projected cumulative areas of disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 related to surface coal mining are shown in table 4-2 and table 4-3. For all projected development, the baseline year area of disturbance and reclamation and the projected cumulative total areas of disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-10.

4.2.8.1

Vegetation

The PRB is characterized as a mosaic of general vegetation types, including prairie grasslands, shrublands, forested areas, and riparian areas. These broad categories often represent several vegetation types that are similar in terms of dominant species and ecological importance. Fourteen vegetation types were identified within the PRB Coal Review Task 1 study area, of which 10 primarily consist of native vegetation and are collectively classified as rangeland. These vegetation types include short-grass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, sagebrush shrubland, other shrubland, coniferous forest, aspen, forested riparian, shrubby riparian, herbaceous riparian, and wet meadow. The remaining vegetation types support limited or non native vegetation and include cropland, urban/disturbed, barren, and open water. The vegetation types are described in more detail in the Task 1D Report for the PRB Coal Review (BLM 2005e). Impacts on vegetation can be short-term and long-term. Potential short-term impacts arise from removing and disturbing herbaceous species during a project’s development and operation (e.g., coal mining, CBNG drilling and production, etc.), which would cease upon project completion and successful reclamation in a given area. Reclaimed mine land is defined by the WDEQ/LQD as affected land that has been backfilled, graded, topsoiled, and permanently seeded in accordance with the approved practices specified in the reclamation plan (Christensen pers. comm.). Species composition on the reclaimed lands may be different than on the surrounding undisturbed lands. The removal of woody species would be considered a long-term impact since these species take approximately 25 years or longer to attain a size comparable to woody species present within proposed disturbance areas. Potential long-term impacts would

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences also include permanent loss of vegetation and vegetative productivity in areas that would not be reclaimed in the near term (e.g., power plant sites, etc.).

4.2.8.2

Special Status Plant Species

Special status plant species are those species for which state or federal agencies afford an additional level of protection by law, regulation, or policy. Included in this category are federally listed and federally proposed species (species that are protected under the ESA), BLM sensitive species, USDA-Forest Service sensitive species, and WGFD species of special concern in Wyoming. No USDA-Forest Service administered lands are located in the general analysis area. Species protected under the ESA, as well as BLM sensitive species, are discussed further in appendices I and J of this EIS. Two federally listed plant species (Ute ladies’-tresses orchid and blowout penstemon) and three USDA Forest Service sensitive species (Barr’s milkvetch, rosy palafox, and lemonscent) are known to occur in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. Three BLM sensitive speciesmay occur in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area: Nelson’s milkvetch, Laramie columbine (Casper Field Office), and William’s wafer-parsnip (Buffalo Field Office). Potential direct impacts on special status plant species in the study area could include the incremental loss or alteration of potential or known habitat associated with past and projected activities. Direct impacts also could include the direct loss of individual plants within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area, depending on their location in relation to development activities. Indirect impacts could occur due to increased dispersal and establishment of noxious weeds, which may result in the displacement of special status plant species in the long term.

4.2.8.3

Noxious and Invasive Weed Species

Once established, invasive and non-native plant species can out-compete and eventually replace native species, thereby reducing forage productivity and the overall vigor and diversity of existing native plant communities. The State of Wyoming has designated the following 25 plant species as noxious weeds: „ Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) „ Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) „ Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) „ Perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis) „ Quackgrass (Agropyron repens) „ Hoary cress (Cardaria draba) „ Perennial pepperweed (giant whitetop) (Lepidium latifolium) „ Ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) „ Skeletonleaf bursage (Franseria discolor Nutt.)

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences „ Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens L.) „ Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) „ Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) „ Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) „ Musk thistle (Carduus nutans) „ Common burdock (Arctium minus) „ Plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthoides) „ Dyers woad (Isatis tinctoria) „ Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) „ Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa Lam.) „ Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa Lam.) „ Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.) „ Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) „ Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) „ Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) „ Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) Campbell County does not have a declared list of noxious weeds. Development-related construction and operation activities would potentially result in the dispersal of noxious and invasive weed species within and beyond the surface disturbance boundaries, resulting in displacement of native species and changes in species composition in the long term. The potential for these impacts would be higher in relation to the development of linear facilities (e.g., pipeline right-of-ways, oil- and gas-related road systems, etc.) than for site facilities (e.g., mines, power plants, etc.) due to the potential for dispersal of noxious weeds over a larger area. Chapter 4, section 2(d)(xiv) of the WDEQ/LQD rules and regulations requires that surface coal mines address weed control on reclaimed areas as follows:
The operator must control and minimize the introduction of noxious weeds in accordance with Federal and State requirements until bond release.

Accordingly, the reclamation plans for all surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB include steps to control invasion by weedy (invasive nonnative) plant species. As discussed in section 3.9.4, the Buckskin Mine works with the Campbell County Weed and Pest Department and conducts an active noxious weed control program on their existing coal leases. Similar measures to identify and control noxious weeds are used at all of the surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB as a result of the WDEQ/LQD regulatory requirements.
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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences Mitigation to control invasion by noxious weeds for CBNG developers is determined on a site-specific basis and may include spraying herbicides before entering areas and washing vehicles before leaving infested areas. BLM reviews weed educational material during preconstruction on-site meetings with CBNG operators, subcontractors, and landowners. BLM also attaches this educational information to approved applications for permit to drill or plans of development (BLM 2003). BLM also participates in a collaborative effort with the South Goshen Cooperative Extension Conservation District, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, private surface owners, WGFD, and the Campbell County Weed and Pest District in a prevention program that includes a long-term integrated weed management plan, public awareness and prevention programs, and a common inventory (BLM 2003).

4.2.8.4

Wetland and Riparian Species

Operations associated with development activities in the study area would result in the use of groundwater. Annually, during 2010-2020, from 30,000-35,000 million gallons per year of CBNG-produced water would be discharged to impoundments or intermittent and ephemeral streams or reinjected. The discharge of produced water could result in the creation of wetlands in containment ponds, landscape depressions, and riparian areas along segments of drainages that previously supported upland vegetation. In addition, existing wetlands and riparian areas that would receive additional water would become more extensive and potentially support a greater diversity of wetland species in the long term. Alternately, the discharge of abnormally high flows or water with SAR values of 13 or more could impact existing vegetation as discussed in the Task 1D Report for the PRB Coal Review (BLM 2005e). For agricultural uses, the current Wyoming water quality standard for SAR is 8.0 (WDEQ/WQD 2005). SAR values of 5 to 10 were observed in discharge waters in the study area (BLM 2003). Once water discharges have peaked and subsequently decrease in the long term, the extent of wetlands and riparian areas and species diversity would decrease accordingly. After the complete cessation of water discharges, artificially-created wetland and riparian areas once again would support upland species, and previously existing wetland and riparian areas would decrease in areal extent.

4.2.9

Wildlife and Fisheries

The PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f) discusses potential cumulative impacts on wildlife from projected development activities in the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. The area of habitat disturbance and reclamation related to surface coal mining for the baseline year (2003) and the projected cumulative areas of habitat disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in tables 4-2 and 4-3. The baseline year area of total habitat disturbance and reclamation and the projected cumulative total areas of habitat disturbance and reclamation for 2010, 2015, and 2020 are shown in table 4-10. Impacts on wildlife can be short-term and long-term. Potential short-term impacts arise from habitat disturbance associated with a project’s development and operation (coal mines, CBNG wells, etc.) and would cease upon project completion and successful reclamation in a given area. Potential long-term impacts consist of long-term or permanent changes to habitats and the

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences wildlife populations that depend on those habitats, irrespective of reclamation success, and habitat disturbance related to longer term projects (power plant facilities, rail lines, etc.). Direct impacts on wildlife populations from development activities in the study area could include direct mortalities, habitat loss or alteration, habitat fragmentation, or animal displacement. Indirect impacts could include increased noise, additional human presence, and the potential for increased vehicle-related mortalities. Habitat fragmentation from activities such as roads, well pads, mines, pipelines, and electrical power lines also can result in the direct loss of potential wildlife habitat. Other habitat fragmentation effects such as increased noise, elevated human presence, dispersal of noxious and invasive weed species, and dust deposition from unpaved road traffic can extend beyond the surface disturbance boundaries. These effects result in overall changes in habitat quality, habitat loss, increased animal displacement, reductions in local wildlife populations, and changes in species composition. However, the severity of these effects on terrestrial wildlife would depend on factors such as sensitivity of the species, seasonal use, type and timing of project activities, and physical parameters (topography, cover, forage, and climate).

4.2.9.1

Game Species

Big game species that are present within the Task 3 study area include pronghorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and elk. Potential direct impacts on these species would include the incremental loss or alteration of forage and ground cover associated with construction and operation of the past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future development discussed in section 4.1. Development associated with coal mining, drilling for CBNG, ancillary facilities, agricultural operations, urban areas, and transportation and utility corridors result in vegetation removal. Assuming that adjacent habitats would be at or near carrying capacity and considering the variabilities associated with drought conditions and human activities in the study area, the PRB Coal Review Task 3D study concluded that displacement of big game as a result of development activities would create some unquantifiable reduction in wildlife populations. A number of big game habitat ranges have been defined within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area. In Wyoming, the WGFD and the BLM have established habitat classifications based on seasonal use. Classification types include crucial winter, severe winter, winter yearlong, and yearlong. Crucial winter range areas are essential in determining a game population’s ability to maintain itself at a certain level over the long term. As discussed in the PRB Coal Review Task 2 Report, discrete locations for most of the disturbance related to the projected development could not be determined based on the available information. However, identified future coal reserves were used for the Task 3D Report to provide some level of quantification of potential future impacts on big game ranges. Tables 4-22 through 4-25 summarize the effects on pronghorn, deer, and elk game ranges from the predicted lower and upper levels of coal production through 2020.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-22.	

Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Pronghorn Ranges from Development Activities—Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected)
Pronghorn Ranges1 Crucial Winter
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Time Period/Scenario
2010/Lower 2010/Upper 2015/Lower 2015 Upper 2020/Lower 2020/Upper
1

Severe Winter
1,472 / 3% 1,472 / 3% 1,460 / 3% 1,460 / 3% 1,422 / 3% 1,422 / 3%

Winter Yearlong
33,196 / 2% 34,760 / 2% 32,649 / 2% 34,177 / 2% 33,637 / 2% 33,580 / 2%

Yearlong
32,099 / 1% 33,172 / 1% 34,828 / 1% 36,999 / 1% 35,714 / 1% 37,437 / 2%

Potential coal mine related impacts on big game ranges were determined based on GIS information as follows: the total acres of a big game range (e.g., crucial winter, severe winter, winter yearlong, and yearlong) within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area was divided by the sum of the potential disturbance acreage for the period (based on GIS mapping of coal reserves for the lower coal production scenario) and existing (2003) disturbance from coal mine development.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f)

Table 4-23.	

Potential Cumulative Disturbance to White-tailed Deer Ranges from Development Activities—Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected)
White-tailed Deer Ranges1 Crucial Winter
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Time Period/Scenario
2010/Lower 2010/Upper 2015/Lower 2015 Upper 2020/Lower 2020/Upper
1

Severe Winter
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Winter Yearlong
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Yearlong
1,411 / 0.6% 1,411 / 0.6% 1,497 / 0.7% 1,495 / 0.7% 1,704 / 0.7% 1,707 / 0.8%

Potential coal mine-related impacts on big game ranges were determined based on GIS information as follows: the total acres of a big game range (e.g., crucial winter, severe winter, winter yearlong, and yearlong) within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area was divided by the sum of the potential disturbance acreage for the period (based on GIS mapping of coal reserves for the lower coal production scenario) and existing (2003) disturbance from coal mine development.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f)

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences

Table 4-24.	

Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Mule Deer Ranges from Development Activities—Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected)
Mule Deer Ranges1 Crucial Winter
NA NA NA NA NA NA

Time Period/Scenario
2010/Lower 2010/Upper 2015/Lower 2015 Upper 2020/Lower 2020/Upper
1

Severe Winter
NA NA NA NA NA NA

Winter Yearlong
6,808 / 0.4% 6,924 / 0.4% 6,956 / 0.4% 7,285 / 0.5% 6,958 / 0.4% 7,413 / 0.5%

Yearlong
25,390 / 1% 26,641 / 1% 26,420 / 1% 27,205 / 1% 27,004 / 1% 27,990 / 1%

Potential coal mine-related impacts on big game ranges were determined based on GIS information as follows: the total acres of a big game range (e.g., crucial winter, severe winter, winter yearlong, and yearlong) within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area was divided by the sum of the potential disturbance acreage for the period (based on GIS mapping of coal reserves for the lower coal production scenario) and existing (2003) disturbance from coal mine development.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f)

Table 4-25.	

Potential Cumulative Disturbance to Elk Ranges from Development Activities—Lower and Upper Coal Production Scenarios (acres/percent affected)
Elk Ranges1 Crucial Winter
24 / 0.4% 24 / 0.4% 24 / 0.4% 24 / 0.4% 24 / 0.4% 24 / 0.4%

Time Period/Scenario
2010/Lower 2010/Upper 2015/Lower 2015 Upper 2020/Lower 2020/Upper
1

Severe Winter
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Winter Yearlong
375 / 1% 375 / 1% 351 / 1% 351 / 1% 351 / 1% 351 / 1%

Yearlong
1,444 / 0.9% 1,444 / 0.9% 1,161 / 0.7% 1,162 / 0.7% 1,121 / 0.7% 1,168 / 0.7%

Potential coal mine-related impacts on big game ranges were determined based on GIS information as follows: the total acres of a big game range (e.g., crucial winter, severe winter, winter yearlong, and yearlong) within the PRB Coal Review Task 3 study area was divided by the sum of the potential disturbance acreage for the period (based on GIS mapping of coal reserves for the lower coal production scenario) and existing (2003) disturbance from coal mine development.

Source: PRB Coal Review Task 3D Report (BLM 2005f)

Direct and indirect effects to small game species (i.e., upland game birds, waterfowl, small game mammals) within the Task 3 study area as a result of development activities would be the same as discussed above for big game species. Impacts would result from the incremental surface disturbance of potential wildlife habitat, increased noise levels and human presence, dispersal of noxious and invasive weed species, and dust effects from unpaved road traffic. Operations associated with development activities in the Task 3 study area would result in the use of groundwater. The PRB Coal Review assumes that most, if not all, of the coal mine-produced water would be consumed during operation and anticipates that up to

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences approximately 39,108, 41,484, and 37,350 million gallons per year of water would be produced in association with oil and gas production in 2010, 2015, and 2020, respectively. The portion of the water that is produced in association with the CBNG and discharged to impoundments or intermittent and ephemeral streams would be available for area wildlife (e.g., waterfowl). Although much of the water would evaporate or infiltrate into the ground, it is anticipated that substantial quantities of water would remain on the surface and would result in the expansion of wetlands, stockponds, and reservoirs, potentially increasing waterfowl breeding and foraging habitats. The median sodium concentration of CBNG-produced water from the Fort Union Formation is 270 mg/L. If sodium concentrations are maintained below 17,000 mg/L in the evaporation ponds, the potential adverse effects to waterfowl would be minimal.

4.2.9.2

Non-game Species

Potential direct impacts on non-game species (e.g., small mammals, raptors, passerines, amphibians, and reptiles) would include the incremental loss or alteration of existing or potential foraging and breeding habitats from construction and operation of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future development activities (e.g., vegetation removal for coal mines and CBNG wells, ancillary facilities, and transportation and utility corridors). Impacts also could result in mortalities of less mobile species (e.g., small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates), nest or burrow abandonment, and loss of eggs or young in the path of vehicles and heavy equipment. Indirect impacts would include increased noise levels and human presence, dispersal and invasion of noxious weeds, and dust effects from unpaved road traffic. Assuming that adjacent habitats would be at or near carrying capacity, and considering variable factors such as drought conditions and human activities in the study area, the PRB Coal Review concluded that displacement of wildlife species from the Task 3 study area would result in an unquantifiable reduction in wildlife populations. Numerous migratory bird species have been documented within the PRB over the last two to three decades of wildlife monitoring. Development activities that occur during the migratory bird breeding season (April 1 through July 31) could cause the abandonment of a nest site or territory or the loss of eggs or young, resulting in the loss of productivity for the breeding season. Loss of an active nest site, incubating adults, eggs, or young would not comply with the intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and could potentially affect populations of important migratory bird species that may occur in the PRB. All surface coal mines in the Wyoming PRB are required to conduct annual surveys for migratory bird species of management concern in Wyoming; all mines also must have USFWS-approved monitoring and mitigation plans in place for these species. Raptor species that regularly nest within the Task 3 study area include the golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, red-tailed hawk, Swainson’s hawk, American kestrel, northern harrier, great horned owl, short-eared owl, and burrowing owl. Bald eagles, prairie falcons, merlins, and long-eared owls (Asio otus) are rare nesters in the area. Rough-legged hawks are common winter residents, but breed in the arctic regions.

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences One potential direct impact on raptors is habitat (active nest site and foraging) loss due to additional surface disturbance within the Task 3 study area. In the event that development activities were to occur during the breeding season (February 1 through July 31), these activities could result in nest or territory abandonment, or loss of eggs or young. Such losses would reduce productivity for the affected species during that breeding season. As discussed above, loss of an active nest site, incubating adults, eggs, or young would not comply with the intent of several laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Efforts to minimize impacts on nesting raptors are addressed in each mine’s USFWS-approved avian monitoring and mitigation plan. Additional direct impacts could result from construction of new overhead power lines in the region. New power line segments in the study area would incrementally increase the collision and/or electrocution potential for migrating and foraging bird species (e.g., raptors and waterfowl) (Avian Power Line Interaction Committee 2006). However, the potential for avian collisions with overhead power lines depends on variables such as the location of the structures relative to high-use areas (e.g., nesting, foraging, staging, and roosting habitats), the orientation of the power line to flight patterns and movement corridors, species composition, line visibility, and structure design. Few collisions have been reported in the Task 3 study area due to the limited presence of perennial water bodies and other features that would attract large numbers of migrating waterfowl or other vulnerable species. In addition, new power lines could pose an electrocution hazard for raptor species attempting to perch on the structure. Configurations greater than 69 kilovolts typically do not present an electrocution potential, based on conductor placement and orientation (Avian Power Line Interaction Committee 2006). Most, if not all, surface coal mines in the Task 3 study area use raptor-safe designs for all new overhead construction; many mines have retrofitted existing lines to make them safer for perching birds. In addition, the primary rural utility service cooperative in the region has voluntarily adopted an Avian Protection Plan that requires all new construction to be built to meet or exceed current recommendations by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee. Future permitting for power lines may require the use of appropriate raptor-deterring designs for areas where they are not already in use, thereby minimizing potential impacts. For example, SMCRA requires that surface coal mine operators use the best technology available to ensure that electric power lines are designed and constructed to minimize electrocution hazards to raptors. Power line impacts on raptors can be reduced with the increased use of underground power lines wherever possible. Many of the power lines for CBNG development currently are being constructed underground; that option is not technically feasible for many projects due, in part, to the distance between the power source and the end user.

4.2.9.3

Fisheries

Potential cumulative effects on fisheries from of development activities in the Task 3 study area would be closely related to impacts on ground and surface water resources. In general, development activities could affect fish species in the following ways: 1) alteration or loss of habitat as a result of surface disturbance; 2) changes in water quality as a result of surface

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences disturbance or introduction of contaminants into drainages; and 3) changes in available habitat as a result of water withdrawals or discharge. The potential effects of development activities on aquatic communities are discussed below for each of these impact topics. The predominant aquatic habitat type in the Task 3 study area consists of intermittent and ephemeral streams and scattered ponds and reservoirs. In general, perennial streams within the study area are limited to the Little Powder River and Belle Fourche River. Warm water game fish and non-game species are present in some perennial stream segments and numerous scattered reservoirs and ponds. However, the latter features are typically stocked artificially either following construction or annually, depending on the depth of the water body. Due to the lack of constant water in most of the potentially affected streams and static water bodies, existing aquatic communities are mainly limited to invertebrates and algae that can persist in these types of habitats. The removal of stockponds would eliminate habitat for invertebrates and possibly fish species. This loss would be temporary if the stockponds were replaced during reclamation. Development activities could result in the loss of aquatic habitat as a result of direct surface disturbance. Table 4-10 summarizes the cumulative acres of surface disturbance and reclamation as of 2003 and projects cumulative acres of surface disturbance and reclamation in 2010, 2015, and 2020. Discrete locations for development disturbance and reclamation areas cannot be determined based on existing information. However, projected development that could result in the loss of aquatic habitat would involve construction of additional linear facilities, product gathering lines and road systems associated with conventional oil and gas and CBNG activities, as well as any additional disturbance associated with extending coal mine operations onto lands adjacent to the existing mines. The removal of aquatic habitat eliminates existing and potential habitat for invertebrates and some fish species. This loss would be temporary if such ponds are reconstructed and recharged as part of the reclamation process. Projected activities would result in surface disturbance in each of the six Task 3 study area subwatersheds. Information relative to the stream crossing locations for the majority of the linear facilities is not available at this time. The initial phases of the proposed Bison Pipeline project commenced in April 2008 and is projected to be completed by November 2010. If the project is constructed as planned, it would cross Cottonwood Creek, a tributary of the Little Powder River. Typically, the associated disturbance corridor would consist of a 100-foot-wide construction ROW; however, site-specific stream crossing methods and reclamation would be determined at the time of project permitting. Future coal mining also could remove intermittent or ephemeral streams and stockponds in the Antelope Creek, Upper Cheyenne River, Upper Belle Fourche River, and Little Powder River subwatersheds, though not necessarily the streams themselves. Coal mine permits provide for removal of first- through fourth-order drainages. During reclamation, third- and fourth-order drainages must be restored; first- and second-order drainages often are not replaced (Martin et al. 1988). As discussed in section 3.5.2, the Little Powder River and its tributaries drain the existing Buckskin Mine permit area and the general analysis area. All streams in and adjacent to the general analysis area are typical for the region, in that flow events are ephemeral. Under natural

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences conditions, aquatic habitat is limited by that ephemeral nature of surface waters in the general analysis area. The PRB Coal Review assumes that surface-disturbing activities would not be allowed in perennial stream segments or reservoirs on public lands that contain game fish species. It also assumes that other types of development operations would not occur within stream channels nor would they remove ponds or reservoirs as part of construction or operation and, therefore, would not result in the direct loss of habitat for these species. Water quality parameters such as turbidity and bottom substrate composition can be impacted by surface disturbing activities through erosion of sediment into water bodies. Contaminants can also be introduced into those systems through the chemical characteristics of the eroded sediment. Potential related effects on aquatic biota could include physiological stress, movement to avoid affected areas, or alterations of spawning or rearing areas (Waters 1995). Studies have shown that TDS levels in streams near reclamation at surface coal mines have increased from 1% to 7% (Martin et al. 1988). Typically, sedimentation effects are short-term and localized in terms of the affected area. TDS concentrations would stabilize and return to more typical concentrations after construction or development activities have been completed. The PRB Coal Review anticipated that the use of appropriate erosion and spill control measures during both development and reclamation activities, as determined during the permitting process, would minimize the introduction of additional sediments into the subwatershed. The removal of streamside vegetation would impact both riparian vegetation and stream parameters in those locations. Loss of vegetation along stream channels would reduce the shade and increase bank erosion, both of which would degrade aquatic habitats. Effects on aquatic habitats from linear projects, such as ROWs, would be limited to a relatively small portion of the stream (generally no more than 100 feet in width), whereas mine-related disturbance could affect considerably larger stretches. Because perennial streams are protected from development by a buffer zone on either side of center, these types of impacts would presumably be limited to intermittent and ephemeral creeks. It is anticipated that reclamation practices to restore riparian vegetation would be required during future project permitting, thereby minimizing such impacts. CBNG and coal mining are the primary types of development activities that use or manage water as part of their operations. Based on current trends, the PRB Coal Review assumes that most, if not all, of the water produced during coal mining would be consumed during operation. As discussed in section 3.5.2.2, changes in surface runoff characteristics and sediment discharges would occur during surface coal mining from the destruction and reconstruction of drainage channels as mining progresses, and the use of sediment control structures to manage discharges of surface water from the mine permit area. State and federal regulations require treatment of surface runoff from mined lands to meet effluent standards. After treatment, coal mine-related surface water in the region would ultimately be discharged into intermittent and ephemeral streams in four subwatersheds (Antelope Creek, Upper Cheyenne River, Upper Belle Fourche River, and Little Powder River). The PRB Coal Review projects that up to approximately 39,108, 41,484, and 37,350 million gallons per year of water would be produced in association

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4.0 Cumulative Environmental Consequences with oil and gas production in 2010, 2015, and 2020, respectively. The review also assumes that a portion of the water that is produced in association with the CBNG would be discharged to intermittent and ephemeral drainages in the general analysis area as is currently allowed in the six subwatersheds in the study area. Based on past monitoring in receiving streams, no change in surface flows would be expected beyond approximately 2 miles from the discharge