[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 241 (Friday, December 14, 2012)]
[Pages 74512-74513]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30185]



Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

[Docket No. BOEM-2012-0074]

Interim Policy Leasing for Renewable Energy Data Collection 
Facility on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Coast of Georgia

AGENCY: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment.


SUMMARY: This Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment (EA) is being published as an initial step for the purpose 
of involving Federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, and 
the public in the preparation of an EA. The EA will consider the 
environmental consequences associated with issuing a lease for an 
offshore data collection facility located on the Outer Continental 
Shelf (OCS), in accordance with applicable Department of the Interior 
(DOI) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations 
implementing the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) of 1969 as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    On November 6, 2007, the Minerals Management Service, now BOEM, 
announced an interim policy for authorizing the issuance of leases for 
the installation of offshore data collection and technology testing 
facilities on the OCS (72 FR 62673). An applicant has submitted a lease 
proposal to BOEM pursuant to the interim policy and, thus, has 
initiated the need for an EA.
    On April 7, 2011, Southern Company submitted an application to 
lease three OCS blocks, approximately 3--11 nautical miles off the 
coast of Tybee Island, Georgia, under its original nomination submitted 
on July 23, 2008. The areas proposed for leasing are identified as 
Brunswick NH 17-02 OCS blocks numbered 6074, 6174, and 6126. The 
proposed lease area covers about 70 square kilometers (17,280 acres) of 
seafloor, and ranges from a depth of 12 meters (m) in Block 6074 to 20 
m in the eastern half of Block 6126. Southern Company submitted amended 
project applications on May 18, 2012, and October 25, 2012, which 
describe additional data collection and technology testing activities 
to be conducted on the proposed lease. Southern Company intends to 
deploy a meteorological tower and/or a meteorological buoy that will 
measure wind speed, direction and shear, and potentially collect other 
environmental data during the five year lease term.
    BOEM intends to prepare an EA for the purpose of considering the 
environmental consequences associated with issuing an interim policy 
lease to Southern Company; this EA will consider impacts associated 
with the deployment and installation of a meteorological tower and/or 
the deployment of a meteorological buoy. At a minimum, the EA will 
consider the alternatives of no action (i.e., no issuance of a lease) 
and the issuance of a lease and approval of certain technology testing 
activities within the lease area, such as installation of a fixed 
meteorological tower and/or deployment of a meteorological buoy.
    With this NOI, BOEM requests comments and input from Federal, 
state, and local government agencies, tribal governments, and other 
interested parties on important environmental issues and alternatives 
that may be appropriate for consideration in the EA. BOEM also requests 
information pertaining to measures (e.g., limitations on activities 
based on technology, siting, or timing) that would minimize the 
reasonably foreseeable impacts to environmental resources and 
socioeconomic conditions which could result from the proposed activity. 
BOEM will conduct consultations with other Federal agencies, tribal 
governments, and affected states during the EA process.

    Authority: BOEM publishes this NOI to prepare an EA pursuant to 
43 CFR 46.305.

Renewable Energy Programs, 381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, Virginia 
20170-4817, (703) 787-1340 or michelle.morin@boem.gov.


1. Interim Policy

    Subsection 8(p) of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1337(p)), which was 
added by section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), gave the 
Secretary of the Interior the authority to issue leases, easements and 
rights-of-way on the OCS for alternative energy activities. The 
Secretary delegated this authority to BOEM. In a Request for 
Information and Nominations published on November 6, 2007, in the 
Federal Register (72 FR 62673), BOEM announced that it had established 
an interim policy under which it would issue limited leases authorizing 
renewable energy resource assessment, data collection, and technology 
testing activities on the OCS and that it was accepting nominations for 
limited leases to conduct such activities. Leases issued under the 
interim policy have a term of five years, and do not authorize the 
production or transmission of energy. In response to the November 6, 
2007 notice, BOEM received more than 40 nominations proposing areas for 
interim policy leases on the OCS off the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts.
    BOEM reviewed in detail all nominations received and, on April 18, 
2008, identified 16 proposed lease areas for consideration based on 
factors such as the technological complexity of the proposed project, 
timing needs, competing OCS space-use issues, and relevant state-
supported renewable energy activities and initiatives (73 FR 21152). 
BOEM also took into consideration the importance of supporting the 
advancement of activities related to the development of each of the 
renewable energy resource types that would be studied in the 
proposals--wind, ocean current, and wave. Of the 16 areas, BOEM 
identified three proposed areas offshore Georgia as suitable areas for 
renewable energy resource data collection and technology testing.
    In the April 18, 2008 notice, BOEM solicited expressions of 
competitive interest from parties interested in leasing any of these 
nominated areas. The notice also invited comments and solicited 
information from the public regarding the suitability of these areas 
for leasing and the environmental and socioeconomic consequences that 
may be associated with issuing research leases in these areas.
    The terms outlined in the BOEM interim policy lease and 
stipulations published in the Federal Register (73 FR 21363) on April 
21, 2008, govern interim policy leases. More information about the 
interim policy can be found at the following web address: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Regulatory-Information/Index.aspx#Interim_Policy.

2. Cooperating Agencies

    BOEM invites Federal, state, and local government agencies as well 
as tribal governments to consider becoming cooperating agencies in the 
preparation of the EA. CEQ regulations

[[Page 74513]]

implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA define cooperating 
agencies as those with ``jurisdiction by law or special expertise'' (40 
CFR 1508.5). Potential cooperating agencies should consider their 
authority and capacity to assume the responsibilities of a cooperating 
agency and remember that an agency's role in the environmental analysis 
neither enlarges nor diminishes the final decisionmaking authority of 
any other agency involved in the NEPA process.
    Upon request, BOEM will provide potential cooperating agencies with 
a draft Memorandum of Agreement that includes a schedule with critical 
action dates and milestones, mutual responsibilities, designated points 
of contact, and expectations for handling pre-decisional information. 
Agencies should also consider the ``Factors for Determining Whether To 
Invite, Decline, or End Cooperating Agency Status'' in Attachment 1 of 
CEQ's January 30, 2002, Memorandum for the Heads of Federal Agencies: 
Cooperating Agencies in Implementing the Procedural Requirements of the 
NEPA. Copies of this document are available at the following web 
addresses: http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagenciesmemorandum.html and http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagencymemofactors.html.
    BOEM, as the lead agency, will not provide financial assistance to 
cooperating agencies. Even if an organization is not a cooperating 
agency, opportunities will exist to provide information and comments to 
BOEM during the normal public input phases of the NEPA process.


    Federal, state, local government agencies, tribal governments, and 
other interested parties are requested to send their written comments 
regarding important environmental issues and the identification of 
reasonable alternatives related to the proposed issuance of an interim 
policy lease to Southern Company to conduct data collection and 
technology testing activities in one of the following ways:
    1. Electronically: http://www.regulations.gov. In the entry titled 
``Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter ``BOEM-2012-0074,'' then click 
``Search.'' Follow the instructions to submit public comments and view 
supporting and related materials available for this document.
    2. In written form, delivered by hand or by mail, enclosed in an 
envelope labeled ``Comments on OCS Renewable Energy Program Interim 
Policy Lease for Southern Company'' to Program Manager, Office of 
Renewable Energy Programs (HM 1328), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 
381 Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia 20170.
    Comments should be submitted no later than January 14, 2013.

    Dated: December 5, 2012.
Tommy P. Beaudreau,
Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
[FR Doc. 2012-30185 Filed 12-13-12; 8:45 am]