GOM Seismic Litigation Settlement Stay Extended Again

In NRDC v. Bernhardt, No. 2:18-cv-01882 (E.D. LA), environmental and conservation groups have sued the Department of Interior and NOAA/NMFS alleging that their regulation of oil and gas seismic in the Gulf of Mexico violates various federal laws.  The case has been stayed pending settlement negotiations. On August 6, 2020, the judge in this case granted the parties’ motion to extend the stay until December 1, 2020.  The parties’ stay motion made several arguments in support of this stay extension, including the fact that the rules being discussed in the potential settlement “must undergo interagency review pursuant to E.O. 12866.”

Court Continues Stay of GOM Seismic Litigation

Environmental groups have sued BOEM and NMFS in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. They allege legal violations in BOEM and NMFS’ regulation of oil and gas seismic in the Gulf of Mexico. The case has been stayed during settlement negotiations.

On July 15, 2002, the court granted the parties’ motion to extend the existing stay of all proceedings in the case until August 7, 2020.

NMFS Extends Navy LOA Regulations for Hawaii and Southern California Testing and Study Area for Two Years

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, upon request from the U.S. Navy, has published  regulations pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to govern the taking of marine mammals incidental to the training and testing activities conducted in the Hawaii Southern California Training and Testing Study Area over the course of seven years, effectively extending the time period from December 20, 2023, to December 20, 2025. In August 2018, the MMPA was amended by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 to allow for seven-year authorizations for military readiness activities, as compared to the previously allowed five years. The Navy’s activities qualify as military readiness activities pursuant to the MMPA as amended by the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2004. These regulations, which allow for the issuance of Letters of Authorization for the incidental take of marine mammals during the described activities and timeframes, prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, and establish requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.

OMB/OIRA Conclude Executive Order Review of GOM Take Rules for Oil and Gas Seismic

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OMB/OIRA) has been reviewing NOAA/NMFS’ draft  fnal Marine Mammal Act (MMPA) Take Rules for oil and gas geological surveys (oil and gas seismic) in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). OMB /OIRA’s review has been conducted under Presidential Executive Order 12866. OMB/OIRA concluded their review June 11, 2020, and issued a statement that states in part “Economically Significant: Yes” and  “COMPLETED ACTION: Withdrawn.”

These statements apply to the draft final GOM Take Rules, which cannot be published as Final Rules without OMB/OIRA approval under Executive Order  12866.

Louisiana Judge Grants latest GOM Take Rule Settlement Extension

The parties in the GOM Take Rule litigation in Louisiana Federal Court asked the judge to extend the case deadline extension for settlement discussions to June 10, 2020.  The judge has granted their request.

NMFS Seeks Comments on Proposed Navy LOAs for training and testing activities conducted in the Northwest Training and Testing Study Area

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has received a request from the U.S. Navy to take marine mammals incidental to training and testing activities conducted in the Northwest Training and Testing Study Area. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letters of Authorization to the Navy to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to issuing any final rule and making final decisions on the issuance of the requested LOAs. Agency responses to public comments will be provided in the notice of the final decision. Comments and information must be received no later than July 17, 2020.

Study Finds GOM Offshore Industry at Risk

by Matthew V. Veazey

Editor’s note:  Rigzone published the above titled article, which reads as follows

Potential leasing and drilling bans threaten the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil and natural gas industry’s contribution to U.S. energy production, employment, gross domestic product (GDP) and government revenues, according to a new National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) study.

Citing calls for no offshore drilling by former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and others, NOIA contends political efforts to curb offshore production would harm the Gulf Coast and national economies.

Association of Geophysical Contractors Webinar: Energy in the Time of COVID featuring Dr. Scott Tinker

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM CST

Zoom Meeting

The IAGC is hosting a Webinar: Energy in the Time of COVID, featuring Dr. Scott Tinker, Chairman of Switch Energy Alliance to facilitate a discussion about where the oil and gas industry will be post-COVID19.

IAGC has set up a Virtual Screening Room to stream the global energy documentary Switch On, the highly anticipated sequel to Switch! Watch Now!

Our streaming page will be available for 1-month to an unlimited number of viewers. Share this link with friends and colleagues and enjoy the film!

Click here for more information and relevant links.

NOLA Seismic Court Extends Settlement Stay to June 4, 2020

On April, 29, 2020, the United District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted the parties stipulated motion to extend the settlement deadline in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas seismic case. The court extended the settlement stay from May 5, 2020, to June 4, 2020. The parties’ stay motion stated in part:

“Federal Defendants have informed the parties that making the necessary revisions to the MMPA rule and securing the necessary reviews and coordination will require additional time and prevent NMFS from completing Final Action by May 5, 2020. NMFS and BOEM therefore have initiated discussions amongst the parties regarding an extension of the litigation stay beyond May 5, 2020. The Parties presently seek a 30-day extension of the litigation stay as an interim measure to allow them to continue their discussions.”

NMFS Files Atlantic IHA Litigation Record Supplement with the Court

On April 21, 2020, the Federal Defendants filed with the Atlantic MMPA IHA litigation Court a supplement to the administrative record pursuant to the Court’s January 6, 2020 Order (ECF 352). The Government’s record supplement is voluminous and comes with the following Government caveat:

“Consistent with the arguments advanced in the United States’ petition for certiorari in U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. v. Sierra Club, Federal Defendants believe that drafts of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s biological opinion that were exchanged with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are protected by the deliberative process privilege, see, No. 19-547, cert. granted (U.S. Mar. 2, 2020), but are including them in this supplement as directed by the Court pursuant to its January 6, 2020 Order.”