Fidelity Comments on CE by B8V9r47


									April 8, 2010

Ted Boling
The Council on Environmental Quality
722 Jackson Place, NW
Washington DC, 20503
Via Email:

Re:    Council on Environmental Quality Draft Guidance on the Establishment and
use of Categorical Exclusions

Dear Mr. Boling:

Fidelity Exploration & Production Company (Fidelity) as a federal oil and gas lessee and
operator appreciates the opportunity to comment on the council on Environmental
Quality’s (CEQ) Draft Guidance on the Establishment and use of Categorical Exclusions.
Fidelity supports and endorses the comments from Public Lands Advocacy (PLA) and
requests that CEQ consider the comments below.


Fidelity supports CEQ’s objective to provide guidance to land management agencies for
their use in determining actions that warrant categorical exclusion (CX) from the more
rigorous requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The CEQ’s
guidance recognizes CXs are a legitimate part of the NEPA process. We are pleased that
CEQ is supporting their use because it will allow agencies to avoid the redundant NEPA
processes imposed on oil and gas producers across the country. CXs will also permit
land management agencies to decrease the amount of time personnel spends on project
approvals which will allow them to spend more time on other important parts of the
process, such as inspection and enforcement of rules and regulations associated with land

Fidelity believes that this guidance should not apply to the CX’s established under
Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The application of extraordinary
circumstances to the Section 390 CX’s is beyond the CEQ guidance because they were
established by statute.

Substantiating a New Categorical Exclusion:

(There are several sources of information an agency can draw upon to substantiate a
categorical exclusion. These include: (1) previously implemented actions; (2) impact
demonstration projects; (3) information from professional staff, expert opinion, or

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Scoping Comments on the Bighorn Basin Resource Management Plan Revision
November 17, 2008                                                                Page 2 of 2

scientific analyses; and (4) other agencies’ experiences. These sources of information, or
any combination of them, are appropriate to support a proposed categorical exclusion.)


Although Fidelity agrees these are important and valuable sources of information, they
are limited to internal sources, other governmental agencies or academia. Fidelity
suggests adding another category to these to include project proponents, such as the oil
and gas industry, who have collected a wide variety of resource data that would be
extremely useful in developing a new CX or revising an existing CX. Industry could also
provide valuable information for purposes of benchmarking, if benchmarking is
necessary. fidelity also agrees there is no need to seek unscientific public views which
would not provide any further insight and may make the process less clear and efficient.

Public Engagement and Disclosure:

(CEQ encourages Federal agencies in appropriate circumstances to engage the public in
some way (e.g., through notification or disclosure) before using the categorical
exclusion. For example, an agency may use scoping or other means to engage or notify
the public in circumstances where the public can assist the agency in determining
whether a proposal involves extraordinary circumstances or cumulative impacts.)


The guidance as written provides for extensive public involvement, notification and
disclosure throughout the formulation of a new or revised CX. As part of the process,
extraordinary circumstances are addressed as well as potential cumulative effects.
Fidelity strongly object to involving the public in the actual use of a CX once the decision
has been made that it is a useful and appropriate tool. Fidelity understands that CEQ is
seeking transparency, but once the decision is made public involvement would create
delays which would defeat the purpose of using a CX.

Fidelity greatly appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Draft Guidance on the
Establishment and Use of Categorical Exclusions. Should CEQ need any additional
information or material related to Fidelity’s comments, please feel free to contact me at


Joseph C. Icenogle
Director of Environmental Affairs

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