Rules & Regs Mount As Offshore Energy Development Advances

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.

Additionally, we have compiled a summary of all the legislation proposed in the 113th Congress addressing offshore energy development.  The summary can be viewed here.

Final Rule For Nontank Vessel Response Plan Released by Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard has announced a nontank vessel response plan final rule effective October 30, 2013 that requires the owners or operators of nontank vessels to prepare and submit oil spill response plans.  “Nontank vessels” self-propelled vessels of 400 gross tons or greater that operate on the navigable waters of the United States, carry oil of any kind as fuel for main propulsion, and are not tank vessels.

The rule specifies the contents of the response plan, addresses requirements to plan for responding to a worst case discharge and a substantial threat of such a discharge, updates the international Shipboard Oil  Pollution Emergency Plan requirements that apply to certain nontank vessels and tank vessels, and requires vessel owners or operators to submit their vessel response plan control number as part of already required notice of arrival information.

Under the rule, response services that a nontank vessel owner or operator must plan for are scaled to the risk (i.e., oil capacity) of the vessel.  The functional planning requirements for a nontank vessel with a large oil capacity (i.e., over 2,500 barrels or 100,000+ gallons) align with tank vessel response plan requirements.

Final Rule Amends Certain BSEE Fees 

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recently announced a final rule effective October 1, 2013 updating certain fees related to the agency’s processing and filing certain documents for its oil and gas resources program.

The announcement states that BSEE found good cause to issue a final rule without prior public notice and comment because under existing regulations, the adjustment of fees for inflation according to changes in the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ Implicit Price Deflator for Gross Domestic Product is not discretionary, and the public was provided with an opportunity to comment on this regulation before it was promulgated.

In addition, BSEE says that proceeding in this manner allows the agency to align implementation of the final rule with the beginning of the fiscal year, and that the final rule will not affect the operations of the parties to which it applies.

The cost recovery fees that are being adjusted for inflation over a 5-year period (2007-2012) were last revised in August 2008.  According to the rate of inflation since 2007, the cost recovery fees are being increased by 7.87%.

USFWS Proposal To List Shorebird References Threat Of Oil Spills/Leaks

The Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is seeking comments on its proposal to list the rufa red knot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The announcement notes that USFWS will publish a proposal to designate critical habitat for the rufa red knot “in the near future.”  Comments on the listing proposal are due by Friday, November 29, 2013, and public hearing requests are due by Thursday, November 14, 2013.

The red knot, which is a candidate species, migrates annually between its breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic and several wintering regions, including the Southeast U.S., Northeast Gulf of Mexico, northern Brazil, and Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.

References of note include the following:

  • “High potential exists for small or medium spills to impact moderate numbers of red knots or their habitats, such that one or more such events is likely over the next few decades, based on the proximity of key red knot habitats to high-volume oil operations”
  • “A major spill affecting habitats in a key red knot concentration area (e.g., Tierra del Fuego, Gulf coasts of Florida or Texas, Delaware Bay, Mingan Archipelago) while knots are present is less likely but would be expected to cause population-level impacts.”
  • “Oil, as well as spill response activities, can directly and indirectly affect both the bird and its habitat through several pathways. Red knots can be exposed to petroleum products via spills from shipping vessels, leaks or spills from offshore oil rigs or undersea pipelines, leaks or spills from onshore facilities such as petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants, and beachstranded barrels and containers that can fall from moving cargo ships or offshore rigs”
  • “Several key red knot wintering or stopover areas also contain large-scale petroleum extraction, transportation, or both activities” “…the geographic location of a spill, weather conditions (e.g., prevailing winds), and type of oil spilled are as important, if not more so, than the volume of the discharge”
  • “In the Gulf of Mexico, threats from oil spills are primarily from the high volume of shipping vessels, from which most documented spills have originated, traveling offshore and within connected bays”
  • “In addition to the risk of leaks and spills from offshore oil rigs, pipelines, and petroleum refineries, there is a risk of leaks from oil-filled barrels and containers that routinely wash up on the Texas coast. Federal and State land managers have protective provisions in place to secure and remove the barrels, thus reducing the likelihood of contamination”
  • “To date, the documented effects to red knots from oil spills and leaks have been minimal; however, information regarding any oiling of red knots during the Deepwater Horizon spill has not yet been released”
  • “Risk of a spill may decrease with improved spill contingency planning, infrastructure safety upgrades, and improved spill response and recovery methods. However, these decreases in risk (e.g., per barrel extracted or transported) could be offset if the total volume of petroleum extraction and transport continues to grow”

NMFS Issues Acoustic/Deepwater Horizon-Related Marine Mammal Research Permit 

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has announced the issuance of a 5-year permit (effective Sept. 11, 2013) that authorizes research on marine mammals in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Gulf of Mexico.

The permit issued to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography specifically authorizes the organization to conduct scientific research activities on 35 cetacean species/stocks in the Gulf of Mexico, in waters off Alaska, off the U.S. west coast, and near Hawaii.

The study is intended to “understand[] cetacean use of sound and their sensitivity to anthropogenic sound as well as the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”  The permit notes that study sites will be areas “where opportunistic anthropogenic acoustic sources and/or oil spill effects may be present to provide an opportunity to investigate possible impacts from sound and/or oil spill exposure.”

Among other things, the Scripps permit notes the following:

  • “Evidence suggests that high-intensity anthropogenic sound from military sonar has resulted in stranding and subsequent mortality of beaked whales… A more pervasive, yet subtle, problem may be the effects of increases in ocean background noise levels…Contributors to ocean noise include commercial shipping, defense-related activities, hydrocarbon exploration and development, research, and recreation.”
  • “There is growing concern that sound introduced into the sea by human activities has detrimental effects on marine mammals”
  • “The ocean is also vital to humans as a source of food and energy, path for commerce, and site of military action. All these human activities create sounds within the water, and potentially create a conflict between human and marine mammal use of the sea. As human use of the ocean has increased in recent decades, so too have associated noise levels. Just as we have come to realize that humans are affected by noise, it is clear that marine mammals with their greater reliance on sound are likely to be affected by noise.”

CBD Seeks Cessation Of Offshore Fracturing In California, Further NEPA Analysis

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has announced the filing of a notice with the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seeks to compel the suspension of any operations that involve hydraulic fracturing off California’s coast and commencement of a full National Environmental Policy Act analysis of “fracking pollution’s threats” to the environment and wildlife in the area.

According to CBD, the federal government is “violating a key national environmental law by allowing offshore fracking in waters off California’s coast without analyzing risks to human health and endangered marine species.”

CBS claims that during offshore hydraulic fracturing, “a significant amount of fracking fluid returns to the surface and is either discharged into the ocean or transported for onshore ground injection,”  with chemicals “enter[ing] the marine ecosystem and threaten[ing] marine life and sensitive habitats.”

Rigs To Reefs/Idle Iron Update On Agenda For Upcoming Advisory Council Meeting

The U.S. Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council (Council) will hold an open meeting in New Orleans, LA on October 28-29, 2013.

Agenda items for the Council meeting include updates on the Rigs to Reefs Program and Interior Department implementation of its “Idle Iron” policy for the decommissioning and removal of unused oil and gas production infrastructure.

The Council was created in part to “foster partnerships to enhance public awareness of the importance of aquatic resources and the social and economic benefits of recreational fishing and boating” in the U.S., and advises the Interior Secretary on nationally significant recreational fishing, boating, and aquatic resource conservation issues.

Comment Period Reopened On Loggerhead Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Designation 

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced that it is reopening the comment period on (1) its proposal to designate 36 marine areas in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico that are within the Northwest Atlantic Ocean loggerhead sea turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS); and (2) its proposed determination that no marine areas within U.S. waters of the North Pacific Ocean meet the definition for critical habitat for the North Pacific Ocean DPS.  The Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS has been listed as threatened since September 2011.

Comments are now due by Friday, November 29, 2013, and requests for additional public hearings are due by Thursday, November 14, 2013.

October 2013 Proclaimed “National Energy Action Month”

President Obama recently issued a Presidential Proclamation recognizing October 2013 at “National Energy Action Month.”  The Proclamation calls for “recommitting to increasing our energy security, strengthening our economy, combatting climate change, and improving the environment ,” encouraging the American people to “work[] together to achieve greater energy security, a more robust economy, and a healthier environment for our children.”

Stating that a “continuing cycle of spiking gasoline prices hurts American families and our businesses’ bottom lines” and “reflects our economy’s outsized demand for oil,” President Obama said that a clean energy future will require that the U.S. “eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” “engage with partners around the world to reduce carbon pollution,” increase clean energy production, reduce waste and maximize efficiency, further decrease reliance on foreign oil, develop additional energy sources in the U.S., and build global markets for advanced technologies.

Date Change Announced For U.S. EITI Meeting

The Interior Department (DOI) announced that it changed the date of a U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Multi-Stakeholder Group Advisory Committee public meeting that was previously scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on October 1-2.  The meeting will now take place in Washington, DC on November 5-6, 2013.

The public can participate at the meeting in person or by teleconference at 866-707-0640 (Passcode: 1500538).  Documents and presentations under discussion will be accessible at http://bit.ly.ZQ9aQP.

Agenda items for the October meeting include continued review of the U.S. draft candidacy application for EITI, guidance from EITI experts, and a discussion on next steps toward attaining candidacy.

A final agenda and materials for the meeting will be available here.

USCG Seeks Applicants Applications For Towing Safety Advisory Committee 

The U.S. Coast Guard has announced that it is seeking applications for nominees to fill the following 6 positions on the 18-member Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) that will become vacant on September 30, 2014:

  • 1 member representing Port districts, authorities or terminal operators;
  • 2 representatives of barge and towing industry reflecting a regional geographic balance (Western Rivers operators are encouraged to apply);
  • 1 member representing holders  of active licensed Masters or Pilots of towing vessels with experience on the Western Rivers and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway;
  • 1 member representing active Masters of ship-docking or harbor towing vessels; and
  • 1 member drawn from the general public

TSAC, which includes one member representing the offshore mineral and oil supply vessel industry, advises the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on matters relating to shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety.  The advice also helps assist the Coast Guard in formulating the U.S. position regarding the towing industry in advance of International Maritime Organization meetings.

TSAC meets at least twice each year either in the Washington DC area or in cities with large towing centers of commerce and populated by high concentrations of towing industry and related businesses.

TSAC applicants should have expertise, knowledge, and experience relative to the position in the towing industry, marine transportation, or business operations associated with shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety.  TSAC members serve for a term up to 3 years and serve at their own expense (travel reimbursement and per diem may be disbursed on request).

Applications are due by Monday, November 18, 2013.

NOAA Science Advisory Board Announces Public Meeting

NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric Research has announced that the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) will hold a public meeting in the Washington, DC area on November 19 and 20, 2013.

According to the announcement, the meeting will include a 15-minute public comment period and discussion on the following topics:

·         NOAA Update
·         SAB Strategic Planning: NOAA Presentation and Discussion
·         NOAA Response to the Review of the Ocean Exploration Program
·         Ocean Exploration Forum Highlights
·         Recommendations from the from the Ecosystem Sciences and Management Working Group
·         Discussion of Environmental Information Services Working Group and Climate Working Group comments on NOAA Response to Climate Partnership Task Force Report
·         Recommendations and Proposed New Members from the Data Archive and  Access Requirements Working Group
·         Discussion of SAB Working Groups-Overall Funding and Tasking in a Budget-Constrained Environment
·         Updates from NOAA SAB Working Groups
·         NOAA Response to the SAB Satellite Task Force Report
·         Update on NOAA Cooperative Institutes
·         Report on the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere

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