BOEM sets rules for GoM G&G survey ops

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued a ‘Record of Decision’ (ROD) establishing safeguards to reduce or eliminate impacts to marine life while setting a path forward for appropriate geological and geophysical survey activities on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf.

Geological and geophysical (G&G) surveys help provide an increased understanding of the US’s OCS, including providing information to safely identify and evaluate resources and hazards for BOEM’s oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine minerals programs.

As a steward for these resources, BOEM must ensure that all authorised activities take place in a safe and environmentally sound manner, and that any potential adverse impacts to the marine, coastal, and human environments are avoided or minimized.

The ROD does not authorise any G&G activities, but rather it establishes a framework for additional mandatory environmental reviews for site-specific actions and identifies applicable mitigation measures governing any future G&G activities in the region.

Mike Celata, director of BOEM’s GoM office in New Orleans, said:

“G&G surveys help us make informed decisions for BOEM’s oil and gas, renewable energy and marine minerals programs,

“The mitigation measures chosen at this stage will help minimise the impacts of G&G activities on marine resources in the Gulf and adjacent state waters.”

BOEM will analyse the potential impacts of future site‑specific actions in subsequent evaluations, which will tier from the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). As new scientific information becomes available, these additional findings can be incorporated into the survey-specific environmental reviews through an adaptive management approach.

In developing the PEIS under the National Environmental Policy Act, BOEM coordinated with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as other agencies and organizations to develop a mitigation strategy focused on avoiding injury or disruption to marine animals or habitats.

BOEM published the draft PEIS for public comment on September 30, 2016. During the 60-day comment period, BOEM received more than 61,000 comments from a variety of industry, government, and non‑government stakeholder groups and the general public, many with constructive, substantive suggestions. Throughout this public process, BOEM also held numerous public meetings in coastal cities to discuss the process and receive attendees’ comments. On August 4, 2017, BOEM published the final PEIS. BOEM received an additional 9 comments from various stakeholders after publication.

The ROD summarises the alternatives considered, states the decision of the agency regarding the selected alternative, identifies and discusses the factors involved in the decision, conveys the practical means to avoid or minimise environmental harm, adopted at this programmatic stage, and also describes how the chosen mitigation measures will be enforced and monitored.