Using an Interactive Public Docket to Transmit Views to CEQ on a 24/7 Basis on its Initiative to Amend the NEPA Guidelines
Editors Note: The paragraphs below describe CRE’s program to utilize an Interactive Public Docket to keep CEQ apprised of pertinent events affecting its review of NEPA guidelines. Issues presented by select organizations are presented below and the public is encouraged to offer their comments by clicking on the “comments” link in the upper left hand corner of this post or the comparable link in the Discussion Forum which contains the article.
CRE CRE Announces 24/7 IPD Review of CEQ NEPA Recommendations
NRDC Seismic Exploration
CRE Adverse Impact of CEQ’s Regulations on the Fishing Industry
Anadarko CEQ’s Rush to Review MMS Compliance with NEPA
CEQ CEQ Issues Report on MMS NEPA Compliance
NMFS NMFS Issues Another IHA for Alaskan Seismic
NRDC Seismic Exploration 2
CRE Interactive Public Docket (IPD) on Marine Spatial Planning
CEQ, as a result of the 40th anniversary of NEPA, has undertaken a plan to “reinvigorate” NEPA. To this end NEPA has issued four draft documents for public comment.
Recently, CEQ has expanded its NEPA evaluation to include a review of the MMS OCS program. The ongoing CEQ review might well be the most significant review of the statute since its passage.
Since the NEPA guidelines are binding upon all federal agencies, the CEQ review affords the public and the regulated community the opportunity to recommend generic improvements in the EIS process.
Fortunately CRE has developed the concept of an Interactive Public Docket (IPD), the purpose of which is, among other things, to allow the public to participate in agency regulatory reviews after the close of the public comment period. To this end, CRE has developed an IPD for Ocean Zoning. and will be using the IPD to present its the views of the public to CEQ on this important matter. The public is invited to participate by expressing its views on topics discussed on the IPD.
The CRE IPD has been reviewed on National Public Radio.
In that the NEPA guidelines issued by CEQ are legally binding on every federal agency, unless exempted by statute, the forthcoming guidance trumps all other guidance—NEPA Sovereignty.
CEQ issued a Federal Register notice “ 30-Day Review of MMS Compliance with NEPA” in which it asked for public comments. A number of influential groups responded to the Federal Register notice. CRE will also draw from comments sent to CEQ on its review of NEPA.
CRE will be analyzing the comments submitted to CEQ and posting them on the Ocean Zoning IPD. The public is encouraged to comment on the CRE analyses. CRE wlll also be analyzing comments submitted to CEQ to amend the existing NEPA guidelines.
Data [Information] Quality Act
All guidance issued by CEQ must comply with the Data Quality Act. In addition all data developed by federal agencies pursuant to CEQ guidance must met DQA standards, CEQ is on top of this requirement; when CEQ issued its final recommendations on marine spatial planning, it stated:
“CMSP information that is collected, produced, or disseminated by Federal agencies, including information obtained from non-Federal sources, would meet government-wide information quality standards, and any other additional minimum standards adopted by the NOC.”
CEQ Review of Public Comments on “ 30-Day Review of MMS Compliance with NEPA”
Presently CEQ is reviewing the comments it received in response to its request for comments on its 30 day review of MMS compliance with NEPA. Presently the comment period is closed. However it might take months, if not years, for CEQ to address all the comments received during the public comment period.
While CEQ is performing its analysis new information is being developed by a number of affected parties. Why should this data be excluded from the CEQ review? At the same time CEQ must continue its review free from constant meetings with the public.
In a wired society, participants in the rulemaking process should have the capability to communicate with regulators on a 24/7 basis. It was for these reasons CRE developed and implemented the concept of an Interactive Public Docket (IPD) .
CRE will be presenting its views on comments submitted to CEQ on the Ocean Zoning IPD . To this end we will identify influential comments in the CEQ docket and offer informed analysis on them.
Natural Resource Defense Council
Although we differ with NRDC on some of the conclusions it has reached, the organization did an excellent job in identifying and addressing the key issues. In our opinion, the NRDC submission was the most encyclopedic of submissions; consequently in the ensuing month we will be addressing a number of the issues it has identified.
Since NRDC offered very extensive comments; CRE’s initial analysis on the IPD will begin with an analysis of the NRDC comments. The IPD is equipped with a user friendly capability which allows members of the public to comment on NRD and CRE comments.
CRE will be posting herein a number of articles dealing with issues raised by the NRDC submission to CEQ and encourages the public to express their views by clicking on the “comments” link in the upper left hand corner of this post or in the alternative, in the “comments” link on the Discussion Forum which contains the CRE comments.
1 responses to “Using an Interactive Public Docket to Transmit Views to CEQ on a 24/7 Basis on its Initiative to Amend the NEPA Guidelines”
The interactive public docket (IPD) provides a mechanism for the public to continually participate in the rulemaking process for federal agencies. Public participation ensures a important backstop to highlight areas that agency officials may overlook or misinterpret. The IPD proves particularly useful in the proper Federal agency administration of NEPA.
The Deepwater Horizon spill underscores the importance of Federal agency adherence to NEPA. CEQ should be applauded for its 30 day review of MMS’s NEPA procedures for OCS oil and gas exploration. CEQ has requested public comment during the 30 day review process and has received a substantial number of comments. The comments voice various shortcomings of MMS’s NEPA procedures, providing a vast resource of input on how to improve CEQ’s review of agencies’ NEPA implementing regulations and procedures.
In particular, the NRDC provides very detailed recommendations to improve MMS’s NEPA procedures, and outlines the substantive issues that CEQ should require MMS to include in their Environmental Impact Statements. One such recommendation in NRDC’s comment supports the Administration’s request to change the 30 day deadline for MMS to complete its environmental review and application decision to permit drilling to a 90 day minimum. Furthermore, NRDC criticizes MMS’s use of Environmental Assessments and Categorical Exclusions to circumvent public participation in environmental review. To prevent these abuses NRDC recommends CEQ to require independent review of environmental assessments. In addition, NRDC emphasizes the importance of public participation, by recommending the administration provide immediate funding to increase public participation in NEPA review of OCS activities.
However, despite the value of public participation during the comment period, CEQ has closed the comment period. To prevent further disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and other OCS regions, it is vital that CEQ continues to draw upon the wealth of information provided by the collective insight of the public, leaders in the industry, local governments, and academia.
CRE’s IPD provides the tool for continued input from the public regarding CEQ’s review of MMS’s NEPA procedures, and more generally CEQ’s effectiveness in overseeing NEPA. While finalizing its 30 day review, CEQ should continue to receive valuable input from the public, and should incorporate the comments from the IPD. The IPD provides an invaluable resource of analysis and comment for the CEQ to continue to draw from as it finalizes its review.
I look forward to reading the public’s comments on the IPD regarding CEQ’s review of MMS compliance and also the forthcoming analysis of NRDC’s comments.
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