Below is a summary of publicly available activities currently underway that could affect the development of offshore oil and gas resources. With numerous legislative bodies now in session, HBW Resources is monitoring these activities to ensure that responsible policies based on sound science are advanced.
Comments Sought On Criteria To Establish National Marine Sanctuaries
NOAA has announced the re-establishment of the national marine sanctuary nomination process to nominate areas in the marine and Great Lakes environments, and is seeking comments on its proposal to amend existing regulations to replace the currently inactive Site Evaluation List with a new process whereby local communities and other interested parties can provide the agency with “robust, criteria-driven proposals” for new sanctuaries.
While the Site Evaluation List has been deactivated since 1995 and only one national marine sanctuary has been designated since, NOAA says that “public interest in the designation of new national marine sanctuaries has…remained strong,” adding that “a variety of individuals, local, state, and tribal governments, academic institutions, citizen groups, and non-government organizations from coastal communities around the country” have requested the designation of additional sanctuaries.
NOAA says that the new nomination process “intends to focus on proposals generated and driven by local and regional community groups and coalitions” and would replace the “old [Site Evaluation List] process which tended towards an agency-driven, “top down” approach with a more grassroots, “bottom up” approach to sanctuary nominations.”
NOAA specifically seeks comments on the proposed changes to the sanctuary nomination and designation procedures and 12 criteria by which the agency proposes to analyze nominations for potential new sanctuaries.
Comments on the proposed rule are due by Tuesday, August 27, 2013.
Regional Planning Body To Hold Public Webinar
In an email announcement, the federal, state, and tribal co-leads for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body(RPB) disclosed that the Mid-Atlantic RPB will hold a webinar from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, August 1 to “provide an update about our progress and plans going forward, as well as future opportunities for public input.” Under the National Ocean Policy, the Mid-Atlantic RPB is tasked with developing a Coastal and Marine Spatial Plan for Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Additional information about the webinar, including the agenda and log-in details, will be available here in the coming weeks.
Investigation Of Offshore O&G-Funded Grant Program Finds “Widespread Conflicts Of Interest”
The U.S. Interior Department’s Inspector General recently announced the results of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)-requested audit of Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) grants awarded to the State of Mississippi that was conducted (1)to determine whether grant recipients complied with CIAP’s authorizing legislation, federal regulations, DOI policies, and grant terms and conditions; and (2) to identify grant management challenges that USFWS should address in its management of CIAP.
The Inspector General’s Final Audit Report found “significant deficiencies” in the management of CIAP grants by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), including grants that were approved but did not meet CIAP criteria, widespread conflicts of interest at MDMR, improper land appraisals, circumvention of sole-source procurement programs, improper charges to CIAP grants, improper use of equipment, and various accounting, payroll, and financial issues.
The audit provides 37 recommendations that DOI says will “assist [USFWS] in resolving systemic deficiencies and personnel issues that have affected the policies, implementation, administration, management, and oversight of CIAP.”
The Inspector General considers 7 of the recommendations unresolved, 17 resolved but not implemented, and 13 closed. According to the audit, failure to act on the recommendations “could further undermine CIAP and open the door to fraud, waste, and mismanagement of millions of dollars in Federal funds meant to conserve, protect, and restore American coastal areas, wildlife, and natural resources.”
CIAP was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) to provide funds generated from offshore lease revenues to oil-producing states for the conservation, protection, or restoration of coastal areas, wildlife, and natural resources. EPAct 2005 authorized DOI to distribute $250 million annually in FY’s 2007-2010 to eligible recipients in Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the program since October 2011, and in December 2011, DOI’s Office of the Solicitor determined that EPAct 2005 established a permanent appropriation that allows distribution of CIAP funds until they are fully exhausted.
NMFS Issues Permit For Whale Research In Alaska
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced that a permit has been issued to Dr. Yoko Mitani to conduct research on gray and killer whales in Alaskan waters, including the Chukchi Sea, Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, and Arctic ocean. The permit is valid through June 30, 2018.
The overarching aim of the research is to clarify and predict the influences of sea ice reduction in the Arctic Ocean on marine ecosystem and fisheries resources. The objectives of the research are to examine the distribution and movement patters of the two species in these areas.
According to the announcement, up to 1,000 killer whales and up to 1,000 gray whales may be approached for non-invasive research activities or incidentally harassed on an annual basis.
NOAA Proposes Rules Regarding Regional Ocean & Coastal Observing Entities
NOAA’s U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office has announced that it is seeking comments on its proposal to issue rules implementing the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 by doing the following:
· Developing certification criteria and procedures for integrating regional information coordination entities (RICEs) into the National Coastal and Ocean Observation System (System); and
· Establish certified RICEs integrated into the System as part of NOAA, for the purposes of determining liability arising from the dissemination and use of observation data (thus employees of such RICEs that are engaged in the collection, management, and dissemination of observation data in the System would receive the same tort protections as federal employees)
There are eleven existing regional associations that would be eligible for potential certification and integration into the national System.
Comments on the proposed rule are due by Thursday, August 1, 2013.
For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.
2211 Norfolk Street, #410
Houston, TX 77098
If you have any general questions, please give me a call anytime. Previous reports and other updates can be found at the new HBW Resources Intelligence Tab at: http://hbwresources.com/intelligence/. Hope you have a great day.
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