HBW Offshore Energy Report: Summary of Key News, Events, and Regulations Affecting Offshore Oil and Gas Development

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HBW Resources Offshore Energy Report
By Brent Greenfield, Director of Ocean Policy and Regulatory Affairs

National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee to Hold Public Meeting

The Coast Guard has announced that the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee (NOSAC) will hold a public teleconference Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 to receive Task Statements and form Subcommittees on Marine Casualty Reporting on the Outer Continental Shelf and Recommendations for Offshore Supply Vessel Purpose and Offshore Workers. The teleconference will include a public comment period.

NOSAC provides advice and recommendations to the Homeland Security Department on matters and actions concerning activities directly involved with or in support of the exploration of offshore mineral and energy resources as they relate to matters within Coast Guard jurisdiction.

Marine Mammal Permit Issued for Energy-Related Research

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service on Tuesday announced the issuance of a permit authorizing Oregon State University’s Dr. Bruce Mate to conduct research on 78 species of marine mammals for scientific research (66 cetaceans and 12 pinnipeds) in U.S. and international waters. The permit expires on Dec. 31, 2018.

Among other things, the permit application notes that “knowledge of whale movements and distribution is far from complete, particularly outside U.S. waters,” adding that the identification of feeding and breeding areas, migratory routes, unknown habitats and greater understanding of the distribution and three-dimensional movements of cetaceans in the world’s oceans “allows for improved understanding of critical habitat requirements and amount of whales’ exposure to anthropogenic activities (shipping, fishing, seismic activity, renewable energy development and operation).”

The application notes that “[a]n appreciation of the areas of the ocean that are critical to whales and what oceanographic features are associated with these areas can help in the identification of regions and conditions warranting special protection.”

Final Revised Stock Assessment Reports Issued for 2 Stocks of Manatees

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced the availability of final revised stock assessment reports for the Florida manatee stock and the Puerto Rico stock of Antillean manatees. Stock assessment reports for the two stocks were last revised in 2009.

NMFS says that a new revision was necessary for both stocks due to “recent elevated Florida manatee mortality levels that could affect the status of the stock” and the development of new methods that can “more accurately” determine the number of Antillean manatees in Puerto Rico. The “strategic” status of the stocks remains unchanged.

Coastal Wetland Grants Awarded for Projects in AK, NC, VA

Interior Sec. Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe recently announced$16.5 million in National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program grants to support 21 coastal wetland projects in 12 states and Puerto Rico. State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups, and other partners will contribute an additional $18.2 million to the projects.

Sec. Jewell noted that coastal wetlands “provide key habitat for fish and wildlife” and “improve water quality, support local economies through jobs and improve community resilience through flood and storm protection.” Director Ashe added that wetlands are “invaluable resources we must protect.”

Alaska, North Carolina, and Virginia are among the states receiving grants:

Alaska Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Great Land Trust, is awarded a $1 million grant to permanently protect approximately 2,585 acres of coastal wetlands and near shore habitat on northeastern Afognak Island within the Kodiak Archipelago

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, partnering with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, is awarded a $1 million grant to acquire 1,500 acres of land located in Turnagain Bay andLong Bay in Carteret County, North Carolina

Virginia Outdoors Foundation is awarded a $770,000 grant to permanently protect the 170 acre Mount Airy Farm on Cat Point Creek in Richmond County, through the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement

Nat’l. Climate Assessment & Development Advisory Cmte. To Hold Public Meeting

NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research has announced that the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) will hold a public meeting via conference call in Washington, DC on Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The meeting will include a 25-minute public comment period.

Formed in December 2010, NCADAC’s mission is to gather and summarize the science and information regarding existing and future impacts of climate change on the U.S., and its specific objective is to produce a National Climate Assessment scheduled to be completed in 2013.

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) will include chapters addressing Climate Change Science, Energy Supply and Use, Water/Energy/Land Use, Alaska and Arctic, and Oceans and Marine Resources. The NCA is intended in part to serve as a status report on climate change science and impacts, and “aims to incorporate advances in the understanding of climate science into larger social, ecological, and policy systems, and with this provide integrated analyses of impacts and vulnerability.”

The most recent NCA was completed in 2009, and an initial draft of the new National Climate Assessment was released in January 2013.

Shipping Coordinating Committee To Hold Public Meeting

The U.S. State Department has announced that the Shipping Coordinating Committee will hold an open meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 in Arlington, VA to prepare for the first Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Subcommittee on Ship Systems and Equipment to be held in London onMarch 10-14, 2014.

According to the announcement, agenda items for the Jan. 20-24 meeting include the development of amendments to the 2009 Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Code concerning lifeboat drills, development of amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/40.2 concerning general requirements for electrical installations, smoke control and ventilation, development of life safety performance criteria for alternative design and arrangements for fire safety, and the development of a new framework of requirements for safetyobjectives and functional requirements for the approval of alternative design and arrangements for SOLAS chapters II-1 (parts C, D, and E) and III.

For more information, please contact Brent Greenfield at 713-337-8821 or by E-mail at bgreenfield@hbwresources.com.
Michael Zehr
Tel: 202-277-3927
E-mail: mzehr@hbwresources.com
Twitter: @mzehrhbw