On March 15, 2017, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness filed comments on a Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Information Collection Request (ICR) affecting offshore oil and gas seismic. This ICR asks The U.S. Office of Management and Budget to approve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Application and Reporting Requirements for Incidental Take Authorizations for offshore oil and gas exploration. For reasons discussed in detail in our comments, CRE requested that if OMB approves this ICR, then they include the following Terms of Clearance:
i) This ICR approval does not authorize any use of NOAA’s new “Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing” (Acoustic Guidance).
ii) This ICR approval does not authorize any Long Term Monitoring Plan requirements.
iii) This ICR approval does not authorize Gulf of Mexico Take Rules or any rulemaking to authorize a taking under the MMPA or any other statute. The public will be given the opportunity during any rulemaking to comment on substantive modifications made to any information collections as a result of the rules.
CRE’s comments also requested that OMB exercise its authority by taking whatever actions are necessary and appropriate to ensure that the Department of Commerce and all its units, including without limitation NOAA, comply with the OMB Guidance Document Bulletin and with OMB’s implementing memoranda for the Bulletin, which they apparently never have as of this date.
CRE’s comments also requested that OMB exercise its authority to ensure that NOAA complies with the PRA’s ICR requirements and the Information Quality Act (“IQA”). NOAA is now incorrectly representing to MMPA permit applicants that the Acoustic Guidance is already OMB-approved under ICR 0648–0151. This is incorrect because OMB could never have reviewed and approved the Acoustic Guidance in this or any other ICR. The Acoustic Guidance was not published as final until August, 2016. ICR 0648-0151 was last approved by OMB over two years earlier in March 2014.
NOAA’s incorrect representations about ICR approval of the Acoustic Guidance violate IQA Guidelines Objectivity requirements because they are inaccurate, unreliable and misleading.
NOAA has not responded to CRE’s many, detailed and repeated IQA criticisms of the Acoustic Guidance. Given this non-responsiveness on the part of NOAA, CRE’s comments request that OMB deem CRE’s IQA claims to be accepted by NOAA.
Use of the Acoustic Guidance is a required part of this information collection, and NOAA has not responded to CRE’s detailed and repeated comments that NOAA’s development of the Acoustic Guidance violates OMB’s Peer Review Bulletin.
NOAA is asking OMB to approve an ICR authorizing the collection and dissemination of inaccurate, unreliable and misleading information about marine mammal takes, in violation of the IQA.