HBW Resources: Greenfield Offshore Energy Report
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.
ENGO Files Petition To Protect 81 Marine Species and Subpopulations
WildEarth Guardians recently announced the filing of a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the protection of 81 “imperiled” marine species and species subpopulations under the Endangered Species Act. The announcement says that the petition is part of an effort to “jumpstart the protection of our oceans,” and notes that all 81 species are considered “critically endangered” or “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The announcement also notes “[r]ecognizing the decline of ocean health,” the National Ocean Policy Executive Order was issued in July 2010 “requiring agencies, including NMFS, to ‘protect, maintain, and restore the health and biological diversity of ocean…ecosystems,’ and to ‘use the best available science and knowledge to inform decisions affecting the ocean.’” The announcement states that the petition “seeks to compel NMFS to live up to this mandate.”
Of the 81 species proposed for protection, according to information contained in the petition, the following four are known to occur in waters under U.S. jurisdiction, among other places:
· Gulf Grouper (from southern La Jolla, California, to Mazatlan, Mexico);
· Sandtiger shark, Southwest Atlantic Subpopulation (includes U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico);
· Basking Shark, North Pacific Subpopulation (from California north to British Columbia); and
· Basking Shark, Northeast Atlantic Subpopulation (Gulf of Maine, occasionally as far south as Senegal and Florida)
BSEE Director To Step Down
Greenwire recently reported on an email sent by Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director James Watson to BSEE employees announcing his decision to resign. On September 2, Watson will assume a new position in Houston as President of the American Bureau of Shipping’s Americas division.
Following the announcement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued a statement noting that Watson “has served with distinction and…helped implement the most aggressive and comprehensive offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms in the nation’s history.” Sec. Jewell added that Watson’s “commitment to safety at all levels and at all times will have deep and meaningful benefits for the men and women of America’s offshore industry who continue to help fuel our domestic energy future.”
American Bureau of Shipping Chairman Christopher Wiernicki said in part that Watson’s background “makes him uniquely qualified for this position working alongside both the marine and offshore industries,” adding that his “understanding of the critical safety issues the offshore sector is facing today will enable ABS to enhance the level of service we are able to provide to government and industry.”
Energy Department Releases Ultra-Deepwater R&D Program 2013 Annual Plan
The Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy recently announced the release of the seventh Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program 2013 Annual Plan.
The announcement notes that the offshore component of the report focuses on Ultra-Deepwater research that emphasizes improved understanding of systems risk, reducing risk by acquiring real-time information, and decreasing risk by developing advanced technologies.
The 2013 Annual Plan notes that Ultra-Deepwater related research topics to be pursued focus on spill prevention, in part through improved characterization of the geologic environment, acquisition of real-time data downhole, and understanding of the human-machine interface.
Specific topics that may be the subject of solicitations for new Ultra-Deepwater-related R&D projects include:
· Reservoir characterization, including bounding strata to ensure hydrocarbon containment within the geologic and engineered system;
· Research sensors; instrumentation; command electronics; and advanced data interpretation technologies and alert systems to improve decision-making capabilities;
· Studies of human behavior as related to the high risk conditions of ultra-deepwater drilling and production operations with emphasis on the “human-machine” interface;
· Advanced well and vessel design to reduce risks of operations in areas of harsh storms; and
· Hardware and novel drilling and completion techniques that prevent loss of well control
Research activities will be conducted by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America.
U.S. House Of Representatives Passes Two Bills With National Ocean Policy Provisions
In a 227-198 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month passed H.R. 2609 (Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014), which would provide FY 2014 funding for federal entities including the Department of Energy (DOE) andArmy Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The legislation includes a provision that would prohibit funds appropriated under the bill from being used to implement the National Ocean Policy Executive Order. This provision was incorporated through an amendment offered on the House Floor by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) that was agreed to by voice vote shortly before the overall bill was passed.
The next day, in a 216-208 vote the U.S. House of Representatives also passed H.R. 2642(Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, also known as the “Farm Bill”). This legislation includes a provision in Section 11326 that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General to submit a report to Congress within 90 days detailing all USDA activities engaged in and resources expended in furtherance of the National Ocean Policy to date, as well as any FY 2014 budget requests that would be used to support National Ocean Policy implementation.
New Report Discusses Wildlife Tourism, Gulf Of Mexico Economy, and Ecosystem Restoration
A new study on “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy” conducted by Datu Research LLCfor Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation examines the economic role of wildlife tourism in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and discusses “the urgency of restoring ecosystems to avoid losing a key part of the economy.”
The study defines “wildlife tourism” as guide and outfitter businesses that directly serve wildlife watchers, recreational fishers, and boaters, as well as relevant lodging and dining establishments where those customers eat and sleep.
Among other things, the report notes that dredging and construction of “a vast network” of canals and piplelines for the oil and gas industry “have caused considerable damage to the wetlands and wildlife”
The report concludes in part that “[w]ithout bold action, the Gulf Coast economy risks losing billions of dollars in revenue,” and says that funds from the RESTORE Act and other Deepwater Horizon-related legal settlements “provide an unprecedented opportunity to protect not only the coastal environment but also one of the region’s most important economic drivers.”
The report cites examples of restoration projects including wetlands creation; shoreline, barrier island, and bank stabilization; sediment diversions; hydrologic restoration; habitat and fisheries monitoring; oyster reef restoration; sea grass restoration; sea turtle conservation; and land acquisition and protection.
NRC Report Urges Establishment Of National Sustainability Policy
The National Research Council recently released a study on “Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connection and Governance Linkages” that is intended to provide a framework for policymakers and regulators to assess the “consequences, tradeoffs, and synergies of policy issues involving a systems approach to long-term sustainability and decisions on sustainability-oriented programs.”
The framework, which is comprised of four phases (preparation and planning, design and implementation, evaluation and adaptation, and long-term outcomes), is also designed to be used to address “place-based sustainability challenges as well as…policy formulation and rulemaking.”
The report finds that as federal agencies seek to “ensure sufficient fresh water, food, energy, housing, health, and education while maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity for future generations…for a variety of reasons, they are not well organized to address the crosscutting nature of sustainability challenges.”
Recommendations included in the report include the establishment of a National Sustainability Policy that provides clear guidance to executive agencies on addressing governance linkages on complex sustainability problems and informs national policy on sustainability.
The report cites several “models” for the development of a National Sustainability Policy, including the National Ocean Policy. According to the report, the National Ocean Policy “speaks to the need for connections similar to those required for sustainability in that it establishes a national framework to address a cross-governance challenge, and then engages stakeholders in regular meetings and other interactions designed to stimulate cooperative action.” It concludes that the National Ocean Policy is a “good model for addressing sustainability linkages.”
Noting that “the fate of the President’s budget is subject to the organizational and natural inclinations of the congressional appropriations committees,” the report observes that “[a]bsent a national sustainability policy or a legal entity charged with developing or implementing such a policy, there are limited mechanisms to fund projects and programs designed to address sustainability issues.”
NRC Report Examines Ecosystem Services Approach To Damage Assessments & Restoration
The National Research Council has released a study on “An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico” that addresses the benefits and challenges associated with the use of an ecosystem services approach to damage assessment and restoration.
The report states that the adoption of an ecosystem services approach to natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities would supplement traditional approaches that focus on the natural resources themselves by also taking into account the goods and services that the natural resources supply to people.
The report says in part that “past decisions…designed to enhance a particular ecosystem service in order to maximize a particular benefit-energy development, fisheries, or tourism, just to mention a few-have resulted in tradeoffs that diminished the capacity of other ecosystem services to deliver benefits.” It further states that policymakers and the public “should consider potential tradeoffs as they set priorities and goals for restoring and strengthening their communities and the natural resources of the [Gulf of Mexico].”
The report also notes that, fearing a new regulatory regime that could adversely impact income and capacity to influence management decisions, “private interest groups that would likely oppose significant changes to the current system of resource management.” The report concludes that implementation of resilience management may be impeded by political, legislative, and institutional barriers.
The report further notes that “hundreds of dolphins…have been stranded” in the Gulf of Mexico before, during, and after the Deepwater Horizon incident, stating that “[i]f a determination is made that the recent mortality event is linked to the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill, an opportunity may exist to establish a plan that includes the protection and restoration of dolphin habitat as well as the reduction of dolphin mortality from human activities.”
NMFS Decides Not To List Ribbon Seal Under Endangered Species Act
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced its finding that a listing of the ribbon seal as threatened or endangered is not warranted at this time. The ribbon seal is found primarily in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
The decision, which responds to a December 2007 petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, is based on “the best scientific and commercial data available,” including the Biological Review Team’s ribbon seal status review report. While the ribbon seal will not be listed at this time, NMFS notes that it will continue to monitor its status and undertake a new status review if warranted.
Among other things, NMFS finds that any negative effects of noise and disturbance related to oil and gas development are likely to be minor and localized.
Obama Orders Development Of “Aggressive” Management Agenda
President Obama earlier this month announced his direction to members of his Cabinet to “develop an aggressive management agenda” that “delivers a smarter, more innovative, and more accountable government for its citizens.” Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell will lead the effort.
In making the announcement, President Obama referenced his request last year for Congress to provide him with the authority to reorganize and consolidate federal entities. If that authority were granted by Congress, President Obama would use the authority (subject to an up-or-down vote by Congress) to consolidate the following six departments and agencies that primarily focus on business and trade issues into one entity: U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
An Office of Management and Budget official noted at the time that the proposed reorganization would move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is currently housed within the Commerce Department, to the Department of the Interior.
Noting that Congress has not yet acted on the request for reorganization authority, President Obama said that “I’m going to keep on doing what we can administratively, but we sure could use Congress’s help, particularly at a time when Congress is saying they want more efficient government – they give a lot of lip service to it – and we’re operating under severe fiscal constraints.”
Comments Sought On BSEE Renewal Of Paperwork Requirements
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has announced that it is seeking comments on its request for the Office of Management and Budget to renew paperwork collection requirements related to oil and gas production measurement, surface commingling, and security.
Information obtained from the paperwork requirements is used to ensure that the volumes of hydrocarbons produced are measured accurately and that royalties are paid on the proper volumes.
Comments on the paperwork requirement renewal request are due by Friday, August 9, 2013.
Justice Department Seeks Comments On Aleutian Islands Spill-Related Proposed Consent Decree
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the release for public comment on a proposed Consent Decree that has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in the case of United States and State of Alaska v. Adak Petroleum, LLC.
The proposed Consent Decree stems from a complaint brought by the United States and the State of Alaska against Adak Petroleum surrounding natural resource damages resulting from the company’s accidental release of up to 142,000 gallons of diesel fuel following an attempt in 2010 to refill a tank in its tank farm located in the Aleutian Islands.
Comments on the proposed Consent Decree are due by Friday, August 9, 2013.
New York State Study Examines Offshore Wind Potential
The New York State Department of State has announced the release of the “Offshore Atlantic Ocean Study,” which examines the physical, wildlife, and geographic characteristics of the Atlantic Ocean that impact New Yorkers.
The state says that the study will “lay the groundwork for selecting offshore areas where wind development could be most suitable and appropriate and will serve to help protect habitats important to the environmental health and recreational and tourism priorities of the coastal communities as well as sustain New York’s ocean-based industries.”
The announcement further notes that the study will “provide guidance” to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “to show New York impacts for any proposed leasing of federal waters for siting of offshore wind projects” and will inform the current federal review of the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project lease application.
USCG Announces Rulemaking Regarding Transit Of Certain Vessels Through Buzzards Bay
The U.S. Coast Guard recently announced that it is seeking comments on “how best to enhance environmental protections and navigation safety” outlined in the Special Buzzards Bay regulations. Adjacent to Massachusetts, Buzzards Bay is roughly 28 miles long and 8 miles wide.
The Coast Guard specifically seeks comments on potential modifications of the current mandatory pilotage, escort tug, and Vessel Movement Reporting System Buzzards Bay requirements.
The Coast Guard intends to use input it receives to propose new requirements for barges transiting Buzzards Bay that are carrying at least 5,000 barrels of oil or other hazardous material, including a requirement that: (1) such barges be under the direction and control of an independent pilot regardless of whether the barge is single or double hull; and (2) under certain conditions, such barges that are double hull be required to have a tug escort.
Comments are due by Monday, October 7, 2013, and public hearing requests are due byMonday, July 29, 2013.
DOI Seeks Nominations For National Geospatial Advisory Committee
The U.S. Interior Department earlier this month announced that it is seeking nominations to fill roughly half of the positions on the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), which includes up to 30 members.
Through the Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, NGAC–which includes public, private, non-profit, and academic sector representatives–provides advice to the Secretary of the Interior on policy and management issues related to the effective operation of federal geospatial programs, development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and implementation of the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16 and Executive Order 12906.
Nominations are due by Monday, August 12, 2013.
For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.
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