The Six County Coalition’s proposal to have an environmental analysis (EA) and not an environmental impact study (EIS) for the Book Cliffs road is an effort to avoid disclosing the combined effects of road construction and development of tar sands on public lands.
An EA on the road will probably result in a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) for the road. The EA will only look at the narrow corridor required for the construction of the road. The fact that the road will open hundreds of thousands of acres of public property for the extraction industry is outside the requirements of an EA.
The EA will be written by a private firm and paid for by the Six County Coalition. The primary benefit of the road presented in the EA will probably be the increase of tourism between the national parks.
An EIS or an EA is only a study of the effect a project will have on the land resource. Neither the EA nor the EIS studies has any power to protect the land resource. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can accept the damages to the land and still approve the project. However, the BLM cannot violate the provisions of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act, etc.
The Six County Coalition and their lobbies do not want an EIS that will look at the cumulative effects of the development of the tar sands caused by the construction of the Book Cliffs road. The road would be necessary for the development of hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands. An EA does not have the scope to adequately analyze the effect the Book Cliffs road will have on the Book Cliffs area. An EIS would require a broader and more detailed review of the changes the Book Cliffs Road will bring to the area.
The Grand County Council needs to tell the BLM that the Book Cliffs Road is part of a larger project that will significantly change hundreds of thousands of acres of public property and needs to be part of an EIS that looks at the development of the region by the extraction industry.
To further clarify this issue, the definitions below for an EA and an EIS are from the BLM website:
What is an EA?
An environmental assessment (EA) is a concise public document that provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining the significance of effects from a proposed Federal action. An EA is prepared when it is unclear whether an action will have a significant effect on the human environment. If it is determined that a federal action will not have a significant effect on the human environment, then a Finding of No Significant Impact is prepared (FONSI). If it is determined that a federal action will have a significant effect on the human environment (either through an EA or based on existing knowledge) then an EIS is prepared.
Generally, an EA includes brief discussions of the following: a statement of the purpose and need for the proposed action; a description of the affected environment; alternatives to the proposed action; and an analysis of environmental impacts and ways to mitigate such impacts.
What is an EIS?
An environmental impact statement (EIS) is a comprehensive public document that analyzes the impacts of a federal action that will have a significant effect on the human environment. Preparation of an EIS requires public scoping. [The] draft EIS must be made available for public review and comment; agencies must wait 30 days after publishing [a] final EIS before making decisions. Generally, an EIS includes detailed discussions of the following: a statement of the purpose and need for the proposed action; a description of the affected environment; alternatives to the proposed action; and an analysis of environmental impacts and ways to mitigate such impacts.
The BLM’s land use plans require preparation of an EIS; RMPs and EISs are developed concurrently as part of the BLM planning process …
What is the difference between an EA and an EIS?
The purpose of an EA is to determine if there will be significant effects resulting from a federal action. The purpose of an EIS is to analyze and disclose the significant effects resulting from a federal action. An EA is typically a shorter document than an EIS, and its preparation offers fewer opportunities for public comment or involvement than an EIS. EAs have fewer procedural requirements and therefore take less time to prepare on average than an EIS.
Bill Love has been working with Grand County for over 15 years commenting on issues that are of interest to Grand County residents. His goal is to have Moab residents work with both Grand County and Moab City Councils in finding solutions that are beneficial to the Moab area.
ByBy Bill Love