Florida Exempted from Offshore Oil and Gas Expansion

After announcing an expansion of offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the Trump administration will grant an exception for the state of Florida. Sec. Zinke stated:

“I have witnessed [Florida] Governor Scott’s leadership through hurricane season and am working closely with him on Everglades restoration. He is a straightforward leader that can be trusted. President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice. I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of discussion with Governor Scott’s [sic] and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Public Meetings on Draft Proposed Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program

 

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has released a Draft Proposed Program for the 2019–2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. Comments on the draft are due March 19. BOEM will also host a series of 23 public meetings on the National OCS Program in cities around the nation, January 16 – February 28.

GAO Report on Offshore Oil Seismic Surveys

The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report entitled Offshore Seismic Surveys:  Additional Guidance Needed to Help Ensure Timely Reviews.  This report recommended that the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop guidance clarifying how and when staff should record review dates of incidental take authorization applications and analyze how long the reviews take.

Click here to read the report.

 

 

CRE Requests that UN Act to Ensure that CMS Marine Noise Guidelines Comply with Fundamental Principles of Science

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness sent a letter to the UN’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.  CRE’s letter concerned

CMS’ Family Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment for Marine Noise-generating Activities Guidelines (“EIA Guidelines”).  CRE’s letter requests that CMS take certain activities necessary to ensure that the EIA Guidelines are transparent and comply with other fundamental principles of the scientific process. These steps include CMS’ establishing and publicizing an easily accessible Internet website dedicated to and containing the following:

A) All comments on the EIA Guidelines and all responses to those comments (including all responses to CRE’s letter);

NMFS Proposes MMPA Take Regulations for USAF Operations in GOM

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from the United States Air Force USAF, 96th Civil Engineer Group/ Environmental Planning Office 96 CEG/ CEIEA at Eglin Air Force Base for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting testing and training activities in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of five years, from February 4, 2018 to February 3, 2023. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is proposing regulations to govern that take, and requests comments on the proposed regulations. These regulations include some discussion seismic operations and effects.

OMB/OIRA Reviewing Draft Revisions to the Offshore oil and Gas Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule

In December 2017, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs began reviewing draft proposed Revisions to the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule.  The original Rule and its draft Revisions were developed by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. BSEE explains that this

“rulemaking would revise specific provisions of the final well control rule, 81 FR 25888 (April 29, 2016), for drilling, workover, completion and decommissioning activities based on stakeholder input from the final rule implementation and in accordance with section 4 of Secretary’s Order 3350, America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, Executive Order (E.O.) 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, and section 7 of E.O. 13795, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.”

Migrating Humpbacks ‘Unfazed’ by Seismic Oil and Gas Exploration

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors published the following article on its website:

“Migrating humpback whales are unfazed by seismic air guns which scan the seafloor as part of oil, and gas exploration, according to Australian research. The research found that the noise created by surveying equipment didn’t cause extra stress to migrating animals. However they did observe whales slowing their migration speed – by 1km per hour, and indicated that the long-term effect requires further study. The air guns use pressurised air to create sound waves which map undersea rock formations for seafloor, oil, and gas exploration, often within range of humpback whales.

NOAA/NMFS Discusses GOM Take Rules in its Latest Regulatory Agenda

With regard to Marine Mammal Protection Act Take rules for offshore oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA/NMFS latest Regulatory Agenda update states that they are proposing the “least stringent alternative” considered. The details of this alternative are not provided by NOAA/NMFS, as the proposed rules have not yet been published.

Companies would have the alternative of applying for different individual IHAs instead of applying for an LOA under the not yet proposed Take rules. NOAA/NMFS warns that applying for an individual IHA may consume more time than just applying for an LOA under the rules.

BOEM Publishes GOM 2018 Lease Sale SEIS

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has published its Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement 2018 (2018 GOM Final Supplemental EIS). The 2018 GOM Final Supplemental EIS provides an analysis of the potential significant impacts of a proposed action (a regionwide lease sale), provides an analysis of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, and identifies BOEM’s preferred alternative.

This Supplemental EIS is expected to be used to inform decisions on each of the two lease sales scheduled in 2018 (i.e., proposed Lease Sales 250 and 251) and to be supplemented as necessary for future Gulf of Mexico regionwide lease sales.

Committee Forwards Energy Policy Reform Bill to US House

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors published the following article on its website:

“The US House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill by a 19-14 vote on Nov. 8 that would reform federal onshore and offshore energy resource management policies. H.R. 4239, which Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three cosponsors introduced on Nov. 3, now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

The latest action largely followed party lines. Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.) broke ranks and voted against the bill, which raises the federal offshore revenue-sharing cap with affected coastal states to $750 million. It does not, however, address a disparity between what coastal and inland states as shares from federal energy production, Graves said.