Offshore #Energy Production Amid a Regulatory Onslaught

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. If you have any questions about this report, please contact HBW Resources at 202-429-6081 or 713-337-8810.

Endangered Species Act Regulatory Revisions Proposed By USFWS/NMFS

The Interior Department’s Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have jointly announced a proposal to amend Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation-related regulations to address the use of (1) surrogates such as habitat, ecological conditions, or similar affected species to express the amount or extent of anticipated incidental take; and (2) incidental take statements for programmatic actions where implementation of the program requires later authorization, funding, or implementation of site-specific actions that will be subject to ESA consultation and incidental take statements, as applicable.

Specifically, USFWS and NMFS propose to clarify that surrogates may be used to express the amount or extent of anticipated take, provided the biological opinion or the incidental take statement; (1) describes the causal link between the surrogate and take of the listed species; (2) describes why it is not practical to express the amount or extent of anticipated take or to monitor take-related impacts in terms of individuals of the listed species; and (3) sets a clear standard for determining when the extent of taking has been exceeded.  In addition, they propose to clarify that monitoring project impacts to a surrogate satisfy the requirement to monitor impacts of take on listed species.

Concluding that determining a specific amount or extent of incidental take that is likely to be caused by a programmatic action “would in most cases be speculative and unlikely to provide an accurate and reliable trigger for reinitiation of [ESA Section 7] consultation,” USFWS and NMFS also propose to issue new regulatory definitions for “programmatic action” and “programmatic incidental take statement.”

Under the proposed revisions, a programmatic incidental take statement would be provided in a biological opinion for a programmatic action anticipated to cause incidental take, and would include specific provisions on “reasonable and prudent measures” to minimize impacts of take caused by the programmatic action and to trigger the reinitiation of ESA Section 7 consultation.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by Monday, November 4, 2013.

Northern Sea Otter Southwest AK DPS Recovery Plan Released To Public 

The Interior Department’s Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced the availability of aRecovery Plan for the southwest Alaska Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the northern sea otter, which has been listed as threatened since 2005.

The range of the southwest Alaska DPS extends across more than ~1500 miles of shoreline, from Attu Island at the western end of the Near Islands in the Aleutians, east to Kamishak Bay on the western side of the Cook Inlet, and includes waters adjacent to the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Barren Islands.  Within that range, sea otters generally occur in nearshore, shallow waters less than 328 ft. in depth.

While USFWS says that the cause of the overall decline of the southwest Alaska DPS is not known with certainty but is most likely due to increased predation by killer whales, other threats including oil spills among others are considered in the recovery plan.

The recovery plan’s objectives are to achieve and maintain a self-sustaining population of sea otters in each of the five management units identified in the plan, maintain enough sea otters to ensure they are playing a functional role in the nearshore ecosystem, and mitigate threats sufficiently to ensure the persistence of sea otters.

Regarding oil spills, the Final Recovery Plan finds that there is a high level of uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of an oil spill occurring and exposing North Pacific right whales to spilled oil, with the threat from contaminants and pollutants generally occurring at an unknown severity.

Comments Sought On Extension Of MMPA Incidental Take Information Collections

NOAA on Friday announced that it is seeking comments on its request to extend the following currently-approved information collection related to the issuance of a Marine Mammal Protection Act incidental take authorization regarding activities other than commercial fishing: (1) the complete application for the authorization; (2) information related to required monitoring; and (3) information related to required reporting.

NOAA estimates that the information collection will involve an estimated total annual burden of 14,109 hours and $360 in annual recordkeeping/reporting costs.

NOAA seeks comments on whether the proposed information collection is necessary, the accuracy of the burden estimates, ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected, and ways to minimize the burden on respondents.

Comments are due by Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

Coast Guard Seeks Comments On Revision To Nat’l. Response Resource Inventory Info. Collection

The U.S. Coast Guard has announced that it is seeking comments on its intention to seek Office of Management approval of a revision to the National Response Resource Inventory information collection.

According to the Coast Guard, the information collection is needed to “improve the effectiveness of deploying oil spill response equipment” and may be of use in the development of contingency plans.  The Coast Guard notes that the information will specifically help fulfill the Oil Pollution Act’s requirement for the Coast Guard to assemble and maintain a comprehensive list of spill removal equipment.

The Coast Guard estimates that the annual burden has increased from 1,296 hours to 1,752 hours due to an increase in the number of oil spill removal organization respondents.

Comments are due by Monday, November 4, 2013.

Proposed Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund Regs Released For Comment

The U.S. Treasury Department has announced that it is seeking comments on its proposed regulations addressing the investment and use of amounts deposited into the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund) established by the RESTORE Act of 2012.  Pursuant to the RESTORE Act, 80% of Deepwater Horizon-related administrative and civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012 under Clean Water Act will be deposited into the Trust Fund and invested.

Among other things, the RESTORE Act requires the Treasury Department to establish procedures governing Trust Fund deposits and expenditures, including compliance measures for RESTORE Act programs and activities and auditing requirements to ensure that amounts are spent as intended.

The Treasury Department is also tasked with administering direct grants to the Gulf Coast states (35% of penalties paid into Trust Fund are to be used for eligible activities proposed by those states, including local governments within Florida and Louisiana) and administering grants for the Centers of Excellence Research Grants Program (funded by 2.5% of the Clean Water Act penalties and 1/4 of all interest earned on Trust Fund investments).

Treasury estimates that the information collection associated with the proposed regulations for the direct grant administration is 6,204 hours, and 660 hours for the Centers of Excellence Research Grants Program.

Comments are due by Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

Final Rule Expands List Of Approved Bulk Packaging For Offshore Vessel HazMat Transfers

The U.S. Coast Guard has announced its decision to issue a final rule amending regulations to
expand the list of bulk packaging approved for hazardous material transfers on vessels to include IMO Type 1 and Type 2 portable tanks, UN portable tanks, and Intermediate Bulk Containers (they will no longer require special permits or Competent Authority Approvals).  It is also expanding the list of allowed hazardous materials “to provide greater flexibility in the selection and use of packaging in the transportation of hazardous materials.”

The Coast Guard notes that the transfer of hazardous materials to and from bulk packaging on vessels involve packagings that are primarily portable tanks used by offshore supply vessels to transport hazardous materials to and from offshore platforms involved in oil and natural gas exploration and production.

The final rule is effective Thursday, December 5, 2013.

Coast Guard Renews Cook Inlet Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council Charter 

The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday announced the renewal of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council (Council) as an alternate voluntary advisory group for Cook Inlet, AK.  The recertification is valid from September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014.

The Council, which was established pursuant to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is tasked with, among other things, providing advice and recommendations on policies, permits and site-specific regulations for terminal and tanker operations and maintenance, monitoring environmental impacts of the operation of terminals and tankers, monitoring terminals and tanker operations and maintenance that may affect the environment near terminals, reviewing the adequacy of oil-spill prevention and contingency plans for terminals and tankers, providing advice and recommendations on port operations, policies and practices, and reviewing standards for tankers bound for, loading at, or exiting from oil terminals.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee To Hold Public Meeting

The Interior Department on Thursday announced that the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee (Committee) will hold a public meeting in Anchorage, AK on Thursday, October 3.

Established in 1992 following a court-approved settlement between the United States government and the State of Alaska, the Committee advises the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council on decisions relating to the allocation of funds and the conduct of restoration and monitoring activities related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

According to the announcement, the meeting agenda will include a discussion about the Committee’s Annual Work Plan and a public comment opportunity.

BOEM Holds Offshore Wind Lease Sale

The Interior Department recently announced the completion of the second federal competitive offshore wind lease sale in the U.S.  Virginia Electric and Power Company is the provisional winner of the lease that was auctioned; the total lease sale area is comprised of 112,799 acres covering 19 whole Outer Continental Shelf lease blocks and 13 sub-blocks.  The western edge of the area is located roughly 23.5 nautical miles from the Virginia Beach coastline, and extends an additional ~13 nautical miles eastward.  The 1-day, 6-round lease sale garnered $1.6 million in high bids.

Under the lease, the lessee will have 6 months to submit for approval a Site Assessment Plan describing the activities planned to be performed to assess the wind resources and ocean conditions.  Subsequent to approval of the Site Assessment Plan, the lessee has up to 4.5 years to submit for approval a Construction and Operations Plan that provides a detailed plan for the construction and operation of a wind energy project.  Following approval of a Construction and Operation Plan, the lessee will have an operations term of 33 years.

According to the announcement, BOEM is expected to announce additional auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts later in 2013 and in 2014.

Additional Information

For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.

Brent Greenfield
HBW Resources
2211 Norfolk Street, #410
Houston, TX 77098
Tel: 713-337-8810
E-mail: bgreenfield@hbwresources.com
Web: http://www.hbwresources.com

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:https://hbwresources.com/intelligence/.   Hope you have a great day.

Thanks,

Michael Zehr
HBW Resources
1666 K Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006
Direct: 202-429-6081
Cell: 202-277-3927
E-mail: mzehr@hbwresources.com
Twitter: @mzehrhbw