MMS reveals content of eastern Gulf of Mexico lease sale EAs

The US Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service has revealed the measures that will be studied in the environmental assessment (EA) analyses of the two upcoming eastern Gulf of Mexico Lease Sales.

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Aug. 20 -- The US Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service has revealed the "proposals, alternatives, and mitigating measures" that will be studied in the environmental assessment (EA) analyses of the two upcoming eastern Gulf of Mexico Lease Sales 189 and 197, which are tentatively slated to occur December 2003 and March 2005, respectively. Both of these sales are included in the recently approved 2002-07 oil and natural gas leasing program (OGJ Online, July 2, 2002).

In February, the MMS published in the Federal Register a Call for Information and Nominations and a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Subsequently, "scoping" meetings have been held on the sales' EISs.

"This MMS area identification decision will be incorporated in the two-sale EIS as well as in a planned subsequent (EA) for Eastern GOM Sale 197, the second sale," MMS said, adding, "The EA will focus primarily on new issues, to determine whether MMS should prepare either a 'Finding of No New Significant Impact' or a supplemental EIS."

Being studied will be unleased blocks within the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area that lies 100-196 miles south of Alabama and from 70-148 miles off Louisiana. "This area is the same area that was offered for lease in Eastern GOM Sale 181 held in December 2001," MMS said (OGJ Online, Dec. 6, 2001). The area covers about 1.5 million acres, of which 800,000 acres are available for bid during both upcoming sales.

Included where applicable in the planned EAs, MMS noted, "will be three stipulations designed to reduce potential conflicts between oil and natural gas operations and military activities, and one stipulation designed to mitigate potential adverse effects on protected marine species."

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