MMS moves ahead on two fronts to launch Obama OCS strategy

The US Minerals Management Service launched the Obama administration’s US Outer Continental Shelf strategy with a notice that it would begin to prepare an environmental impact statement for the 2012-17 OCS program.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 6 -- The US Minerals Management Service launched the Obama administration’s US Outer Continental Shelf strategy with a notice that it would begin to prepare an environmental impact statement for the 2012-17 OCS program. MMS also announced the holding of 13 public meetings to discuss future geological and geophysical exploration of the south and mid-Atlantic OCS.

The Apr. 2 actions came the day after US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reiterated his commitment during a visit to New Orleans to open to leasing more OCS acreage in the eastern gulf.

“The plan we are proposing calls for four more lease sales in the eastern gulf while protecting Florida’s coast and critical military training areas,” Salazar said during a tour of Superior Energy Services. “Our efforts to strategically open new areas in the eastern gulf would represent the largest expansion of our nation’s available offshore oil and gas supplies in 3 decades.”

The 5-year OCS program’s EIS preparation notice also opened a public comment on the EIS’s scope. It started a formal scoping process and solicited information regarding issues and alternatives to be considered. Comments will be accepted through June 30.

It also will evaluate impacts of adopting the proposed 5-year program which includes eight planning areas for OCS leasing, according to MMS. The areas include the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet off Alaska’s coast; the western, central, and a portion of the eastern gulf, and the south and mid-Atlantic OCS.

Public meetings
MMS said public meetings on the OCS program initially have been planned in Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Barrow, and Anchorage in Alaska; New Orleans; Mobile, Ala.; Tallahassee and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Savannah, Ga. and/or Wilmington, NC; Norfolk, Va.; Trenton, NJ and/or Wilmington, Del.; and Washington, DC. Written comments can be submitted to JF Bennett, Chief, Branch of Environmental Assessment, US Minerals Management Service, 381 Elden Street, Mail Stop 4042, Herndon, Va. 20170.

MMS also scheduled 13 public meetings in 7 locations to obtain comments on developing a programmatic EIS for future geological and geophysical studies of the south and mid-Atlantic OCS, an area that has not been evaluated for more than 25 years. New data will enhance, update, and supplement information to support the agency’s decisions regarding possible development of conventional and renewable energy development, MMS said.

It said that the meetings have been scheduled for Apr. 20 in Houston; Apr. 21 in Jacksonville, Fla.; Apr. 23 in Savannah; Apr. 27 in Charleston, SC; Apr. 29 in Wilmington; Apr. 29 in Norfolk; and Apr. 27 and Newark, NJ. Times and locations will be posted online at the agency’s web site at www.mms.gov.

The proposed EIS will evaluate potential environmental impacts of multiple G&G activities on the south and mid-Atlantic OCS, including seismic surveys, side-scan sonar surveys, electromagnetic surveys, geological and geochemical sampling, and remote sensing. MMS said that the proposed EIS also will review advances in G&G technology and improved knowledge of acoustic impacts on marine life.

Findings from the proposed EIS will assist in determining what significant impacts to Atlantic resources could occur because of G&G activities along that portion of the OCS, and will aid in outlining any necessary mitigation and monitoring measures that will reduce of eliminate potential environmental impacts, MMS said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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