Alluvial Valley Floor Evaluation
Coal Company, Montana, USA
Norwest’s environmental group was retained to coordinate a multi-year project to collect hydrology, geology, and other environmental resource data in the Powder River Basin of Montana. This was a 35,000-acre project involving the submission of an application to determine the presence of alluvial valley floors within the area of a proposed coal mine.
Norwest designed a program to collect data for the state of Montana to be able to determine if the study area met the state’s criteria for alluvial valley floors. The process began by conducting soils, vegetation, hydrology, hydrogeology, geomorphic, and geologic studies to assess the site characteristics. Additionally, color infra-red and LiDAR data were collected to assist in these evaluations. The data was analyzed to assess the study area characteristics for each of the criterion used by the state of Montana for alluvial valley floor determination.
Norwest met projected timelines and supported the project to produce a comprehensive application package that was well received by the client. Norwest was able to provide interdisciplinary support to compiling a comprehensive permit application that integrated large volumes of technical information.
Collect Environmental Resource Data
Piceance Basin, Colorado, USA
Norwest’s environmental group was hired to collect hydrology, geology, and other environmental resource data in the Piceance Basin of Colorado for a project involving the submission of an application to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to mine oil shale.
Norwest designed a project to help demonstrate the client’s ability to use their In-Situ Conversion Process (ICP) to economically recover commercial quantities of hydrocarbons from oil shale in an environmentally sensitive manner. The process began by creating a freeze wall containment area, heating the earth inside the freeze wall, removing the oil, and then reclaiming the production area.
Norwest met aggressive timelines and supported the project through NEPA to produce a comprehensive package that was well received by the client. Norwest was able to provide interdisciplinary support ranging from identifying promising resource areas to compiling a comprehensive permit application that integrated large volumes of technical information.
Environmental Assessment for the University of Utah
Central Utah, USA
In 2005, the University of Utah received a right-of-way grant covering roughly 300 square miles of public land to install and operate a cosmic ray observatory in central Utah. Norwest assisted in developing the Plan of Development and the Environmental Assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Norwest provided baseline studies and assisted in stakeholder engagement to support the NEPA evaluation. During project construction and deployment Norwest provided environmental inspectors to ensure compliance with the right-of-way grant and other regulations and approvals.
To date, Norwest has served as the liaison between the University of Utah and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ensure ongoing compliance with the right-of-way grant. Several amendments have been made to the Plan of Development including adding additional project components. Norwest proposed and was successful in allowing these additional components to be approved under a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) which allowed for quick implementation. In 2016 the University provided another revision to their Plan of Development expanding the project area by four, essentially covering over 800,000 acres of public and state land. Norwest is working with the BLM and the University of Utah to initiate NEPA and ultimately receive project approval.
Environmental Compliance Management
Utah and Idaho
Norwest assisted an engineering, procurement, and construction contractor in obtaining permits and approvals necessary for construction of the approximate 140-mile Populus-to-Terminal 345kV transmission line project. The project included, but was not limited to all transmission and distribution line segments, all communications with the client and regulatory agencies, all substation construction demolition work, and permanent internal and external temporary facilities and site access work. Norwest developed and implemented a full-time environmental compliance program during the construction phase of the project and served as the Environmental Compliance Manager.
To aid in adherence to the environmental compliance program, Norwest prepared an environmental compliance training that was presented to all employees and new-hires working on the project. Norwest ensured compliance with the environmental compliance plan throughout the two years of construction. Environmental Compliance Inspectors conducted on-site monitoring and inspections on all 140-miles of construction. Actual compliance issues or potential issues were relayed directly by Norwest to the Construction Manager to establish remedies and mitigation measures to prevent future occurrences.
Environmental Due Diligence - Various Companies
Norwest’s environmental group has worked with mining and financial groups on numerous due diligence evaluations for coal, oil shale, gravel, gold, silver, and copper mining operations. These are short-term evaluations to assess the status of environmental permitting and issues that an operation has or is likely to incur during the proposed or continuing operations.
Norwest has designed a program to collect data for due diligence evaluations to meet the concerns of the clients and investors. These due diligence evaluations also include completing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in accordance with ASTM E1527 requirements. The process begins by conducting an assessment of the site and mining operation to evaluate site characteristics. This includes an overall assessment of regulatory compliance especially in regards to fueling practices and compliance with 43 CFR 112 and the operation’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan, and hazardous material and waste storage and record keeping with compliance to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) requirements. This information is coupled with conference calls and site meetings to assess the issues and concerns for each area. These data are analyzed and compared with the current or proposed permit documents to assess whether the issues are adequately addressed and if the operation is in compliance with the terms of the permit. In addition, long-term mine plans are assessed to evaluate permitting requirements in the future as well as reserve control in regards to federal and state mineral rights.
Norwest’s environmental group provides a detailed report of findings on the results of the evaluation for the due diligence study. The report section details the environmental issues that are a concern for the operation and the steps necessary to mitigate those issues. If a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is completed, these data are presented in a separate report in accordance with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) requirements.
Environmental, Geological and Technical Support for the Alunite Blawn Mountain Project
Southern Utah, USA
Norwest provided environmental, as well as geological and technical support for development of an alunite deposit containing sulphate of potash and aluminum resources for the Blawn Mountain Project in southern Utah. Norwest environmental personnel were involved during the project’s initial stages that included identifying critical issues and potential hurdles through desktop studies and field reconnaissance, and providing strategic input required to permit the project. Based on these findings, and the mining plan developed by Norwest mining engineers, Norwest developed a list of permits required to implement the project. A right-of-way across federal land was required to access the project. Norwest prepared the application and the associated NEPA evaluation and obtained the right-of-way. Norwest also prepared the state mining application and the groundwater discharge permit application which were both approved by state departments. To support these applications, environmental baseline data was gathered including soils, vegetation, cultural, wetlands, wildlife, and hydrologic including surface water, groundwater and springs and seeps data. A water of the U.S. inventory was completed in compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. A jurisdictional determination was received from the Army Corps of Engineers. Norwest provided assistance in obtaining the required water rights for the project and in filing appropriation applications to the State Engineer’s Office.
Expert Witness Services
Oil Shale Company, Utah, USA
Norwest assisted an oil shale mining company with hydrologic and hydrogeologic services in describing the surface and groundwater system in the area of the proposed mine. The data and site information was used in developing a groundwater discharge permit application that was subsequently approved by the state. Following the permit approval, NGOs challenged the permit issuance.
Norwest was asked to assist in defending the permit. This included: assisting the company and attorneys in understanding the complexities of the groundwater system; preparing exhibits and support materials for the various presentations; preparing expert witness reports and statements; aided in reviewing opposition expert witness reports and statements; giving depositions; and participating in various hearings and presentations.
Following extensive hearings, the permit issuance was upheld and the judge found that the information submitted for the groundwater discharge permit addressed all of the points required by the state. Thus, the company was successful in maintaining the groundwater discharge permit.
Gravel Company Permit Preparation
Norwest’s environmental group worked with the water resources and mining groups to coordinate two greenfield gravel mining properties along the front range of Colorado. These were multi-year projects to collect hydrology, geology, and other environmental resource data to be used in the submission of a mining application to the local county in the state of Colorado.
Norwest designed a program to collect various data for various permits for the state of Colorado. This effort was complicated by the differing requirements between the various agencies. The process began by conducting cultural, soils, vegetation, hydrology, hydrogeology, geomorphic, and geologic studies to assess the site characteristics. These data were analyzed to assess the study area characteristics and develop a long-term mining and reclamation plan to address both the county and state requirements.
Norwest met projected timelines and supported the project to produce comprehensive application packages that were well received by the client and agencies. Norwest was able to provide interdisciplinary support to compiling a comprehensive permit application that integrated large volumes of technical information. One permit is already approved and the second one is under review and consideration.
Permitting Services for Shell Oil and Gas
Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, USA
Norwest provided permitting services to Shell Oil and Gas with four separate oil and gas exploration and production projects located in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. Norwest prepared state and federal drilling permit applications including various sundry notices and drill completion reports. Norwest also worked directly with county officials and other stakeholders to receive associated permits and approvals necessary for drilling and production. In total, Norwest prepared drilling permits on over 100 wells each with their own set of complex issues which included split estate, sensitive environmental resources, setback variances, etc. Norwest assessed these specific issues at each site, developed a path forward, and prepared the necessary permits and approval applications.