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SPECIAL PUBLIC NOTICE - Reissuance of RGP for Exploration and Production Wells and Associated Facilities in the Corps of Engineers Albuquerque, Fort Worth, and Tulsa Districts within the states of Texas and Louisiana

Posted: 9/30/2013

Expiration date: 10/31/2013


JOINT PUBLIC NOTICE - U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, TEXAS COMMISION ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, RAILROAD COMMISSION OF TEXAS, AND LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

SUBJECT: Evaluation of the proposed re-issuance of a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Regional General Permit (RGP) under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United Sates and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 for work in, or affecting, navigable waters of the United States and application for water quality certification under Section 401 of the CWA for Section 404 discharges associated with the construction and maintenance of exploration and production wells for oil and gas and their supporting fills and structures. An RGP may not be used to authorize work subject to regulation under Section 404 of the CWA until water quality certification has been issued or waived.

This public notice is to inform you of a proposal for work in which you might be interested and to solicit your comments to better enable us to make a reasonable decision on factors affecting the public interest. We hope you will participate in the process.

Background:

Regulatory Program. Since its early history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has played an important role in the development of the nation's water resources. Originally, this involved construction of harbor fortifications and coastal defenses. Later duties included the improvement of waterways to provide avenues of commerce. An important part of our mission today is the protection of the nation's waterways through the administration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program.

Section 10. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is directed by Congress under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors of 1899 (33 USC 403) to regulate all work or structures in or affecting the course, condition or capacity of navigable waters of the United States. The intent of this law is to protect the navigable capacity of waters important to interstate commerce.

Section 404. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is directed by Congress under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1344) to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into all waters of the United States, including wetlands. The intent of the law is to protect the nation's waters from the indiscriminate discharge of material capable of causing pollution and to restore and maintain their chemical, physical and biological integrity.

Contacts:

U.S. Army Engineer District
Regulatory Branch
P.O. Box 17300
Fort Worth, TX 76102-0300
Phone: (817) 886-1736

U.S. Army Engineer District
Regulatory Branch
505 South Main St., Ste 142
Las Cruces, NM 88001
Phone: (575) 556-9939

U.S. Army Engineer District
Regulatory Branch
1645 South 101st East Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74128
Phone: (918) 669-7619

PERMIT NUMBER: The "Proposed Regional General Permit, Exploration and Production Wells and Associated Facilities" has been designated CESWF-13-RGP-11 in the Fort Worth District and CESPA-TX-13-01 RGP 11 in the Albuquerque District and would replace RGP SWF-08-RGP-11 in the Fort Worth District and RGP 11 SPA-2006-00527 in the Albuquerque District. It also replaces TXG30009 in the Tulsa District. The existing RGP expires November 5, 2013.

DATE ISSUED: September 26, 2013

LOCATION: The provisions of this regional general permit would be applicable to all waters of the United States, including all navigable waters of the United States, in the Albuquerque, Fort Worth, and Tulsa Districts of the USACE, within the states of Texas and Louisiana (see “Location of Work” and Appendixes B and C of the Proposed Regional General Permit). The Fort Worth District includes the Sabine River watershed in Sabine, De Soto, and Caddo Parishes in the State of Louisiana.

OTHER AGENCY AUTHORIZATIONS: State Water Quality Certification from the States of Texas and Louisiana.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This proposed RGP, if issued, would continue to provide Department of the Army authorization for recurring work that causes no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental impacts. An RGP serves to reduce administrative procedures and expedite decisions for routine permit actions. The attached information and appendices detail the proposed scope of activities to be covered, location, terms and conditions, and notification requirements associated with the proposed permit.

PUBLIC INTEREST REVIEW FACTORS: The proposed RGP will be reviewed in accordance with 33 CFR 320‑332, the Regulatory Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and other pertinent laws, regulations, and executive orders. Our evaluation will also follow the guidelines published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to Section 404(b)(1) of the CWA. The decision whether to authorize this RGP will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact, including cumulative impact, of the proposal on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concerns for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits that reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors that may be relevant to the proposal will be considered, including its cumulative effects. Among the factors addressed are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.

The USACE is soliciting comments from the public; federal, state, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposal. Any comments received will be considered by the USACE in determining whether to adopt the proposed RGP. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposal.

STATE WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: There are two Texas state agencies, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) and the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that are responsible for certification of work under Section 401 of CWA for activities to be approved under Section 404 of the CWA.

RRC certification is required for activities that are specifically associated with the exploration, development, or production of oil, gas, or geothermal resources, as described in Tex. Nat. Res. Ann. 91.101. Concurrent with the processing of this Department of the Army Permit application, the RRC is reviewing this application under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and Title 16, Texas Administrative Code, Section 3.93, to determine if the proposed work would comply with applicable water quality laws and regulations. By virtue of an agreement between the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the RRC, this public notice is issued for the purpose of advising all known interested persons that there is pending before the RRC a decision on water quality certification under the above authorities. Written comments concerning the request for certification may be submitted to the Assistant Director, Environmental Services, Railroad Commission of Texas, P. O. Box 12967, Austin, Texas 78711-2967.  The public comment period extends 30 days from the date of publication of this notice. The RRC may also hold a public meeting on the request for certification if the RRC determines that a public meeting is in the public interest. If the RRC holds a meeting to receive public comment on a request for certification, the RRC will give notice of the meeting to the applicant, the USACE, and persons identified under 16 TAC 3.93(d)(2) at least ten days prior to the meeting.

Actions not covered by the RRC require certification from TCEQ for work within the state of Texas that is subject to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Concurrently with the processing of this Department of the Army proposal, the TCEQ is reviewing this proposal under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, and Title 31, Texas Administrative Code Section 279.1‑.13 to determine if the work authorized by this RGP would comply with State water quality standards. By virtue of an agreement between the USACE and the TCEQ, this public notice is also issued for the purpose of advising all known interested persons that there is pending before the TCEQ a decision on water quality certification under such act. Any comments concerning the application may be submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 401 Coordinator, MSC-150, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087. The public comment period extends 30 days from the date of publication of this notice. A copy of the public notice with the proposed RGP is made available for review in the TCEQ's Austin Office. The complete application must be reviewed in the USACE's office. The TCEQ may conduct a public hearing to consider all comments concerning water quality if requested in writing. A request for a public hearing must contain the following information: the name, mailing address, application number, or other recognizable reference to the application; a brief description of the interest of the requestor, or of persons represented by the requestor; and a brief description of how the application, if granted, would adversely affect such interest.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) water quality certification is required for work within the state of Louisiana that is subject to Section 404 of the CWA. Concurrent with processing of this application, the LDEQ is reviewing this proposal under Section 401 of the CWA and in accordance with Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, Title 30, Chapter 11, Part IV, Section 2074 A(3) to determine if the work would comply with State water quality standards and other applicable provisions of the CWA. By virtue of an agreement between the USACE and the LDEQ, this public notice is also issued for the purpose of advising all known interested persons that there is pending before the LDEQ a decision on water quality certification under such act.  Any comments concerning the application for water quality certification in Louisiana must be submitted, using the applicant’s name and the above LDEQ water quality certification application number as reference, to the Certifications Coordinator, Water Pollution Control Division, Office of Water Resources, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, P. O. Box 82215, Baton Rouge, LA 70884. The public comment period extends 30 days from the publication date of this notice. A copy of the public notice with a description of work is available for review between 8:00 a. m. and 4:30 p. m. weekdays at the LDEQ office at 7290 Bluebonnet, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70810. Copies may be obtained upon payment of cost of printing. A final decision on state of Louisiana water quality certification will be made within 60 days after the date of this notice.

THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES: No authorization would be granted under this RGP for an activity that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of an endangered or threatened species or a species proposed for such designation, as identified under the Endangered Species Act, or for an activity that is likely to destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat of such species. Any activity that may affect an endangered or threatened species would require review by the USACE and consultation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES: The USACE will take into account the impact of activities authorized by this RGP on cultural resources listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). If known or previously unknown cultural resources are encountered during work authorized by this permit, the permittee shall notify the appropriate USACE district and the resources shall be avoided until the USACE can assess their eligibility for listing in the NRHP. Sites determined to be eligible for listing in the NRHP shall be mitigated in consultation with the USACE. Cultural resources include prehistoric and historic archeological sites, and areas or structures of cultural interest that occur in the permit area.

SOLICITATION OF COMMENTS: This public notice is being distributed to all known interested persons in order to assist in developing fact upon which a decision by the USACE may be based. For accuracy and completeness of the record, all data in support of or in opposition to the proposed work should be submitted in writing setting forth sufficient detail to furnish a clear understanding of the reasons for support or opposition.

PUBLIC HEARING: Prior to the close of the comment period any person may make a written request for a public hearing setting forth the particular reasons for the request. The District Engineer will determine whether the issues raised are substantial and should be considered in his decision. If a public hearing is warranted, all known interested persons will be notified of the time, date, and location of the hearing.

CLOSE OF COMMENT PERIOD: All comments pertaining to this Public Notice must reach this office on or before October 26, 2013, the closing date of the comment period. Extensions of the comment period may be granted for valid reasons provided a written request is received by the closing date. If no comments are received by that date, it will be considered that there are no objections. Comments and requests for additional information should be submitted to Mr. Chandler Peter, Regulatory Branch, CESWF‑PER‑R, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, P.O. Box 17300, Fort Worth, Texas 76102. You may visit the Regulatory Branch in Room 3A37 of the Federal Building at 819 Taylor Street in Fort Worth during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Telephone inquiries may be directed to Mr. Peter at (817) 886-1736.