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.
NOAA/NMFS says the rules will be proposed for comment in December 2017, but this date is not binding and may not be met.
“the proposed rule would alleviate other current regulatory requirements that would otherwise be expected to cost 37.8 to 230 million dollars per year, it is estimated to result in a net annualized savings of 8 to 123 million dollars (the range of values reflects ranges of projected future activity levels). The proposed rule would result in additional indirect (non-monetized) costs as a result of the imposition of time-area restrictions on survey effort. However, these costs are expected to be minimal, as two of three proposed restrictions are in areas with low to no levels of activity and a third, which has been in place under current baseline conditions, is seasonal and therefore may be planned around.”
NOAA/NMFS indicates that it will be sued by NGOs if it does not publish GOM Take rules.