[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 134 (Monday, July 14, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40703-40704]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-16426]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 700

[Docket No. 070824479-8107-02]
RIN 0648-AV53


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Environmental Review Process for 
Fishery Management Actions

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.

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SUMMARY: NMFS withdraws a proposed rule that would have established new 
regulations pertaining to compliance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) in the context of fishery management actions 
developed pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (MSA). Instead of going forward with a final rule 
directly resulting from the 2008 proposed rule, NMFS issued an internal 
policy on February 19, 2013. This policy, entitled ``National 
Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-Initiated Fishery 
Management Actions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act'' clarifies roles and 
responsibilities of NMFS and the Regional Fishery Management Councils 
(Councils), explains timing and procedural linkages, provides guidance 
on documentation needs, and fosters partnerships and cooperation 
between NMFS and Councils on NEPA compliance.
    NMFS consulted with the Councils and with the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) on proposed revisions to the 2013 NMFS NEPA 
policy directive, and based on those consultations NMFS now proposes to 
use this policy as a basis for issuing revised and updated NEPA 
procedures for MSA actions in the form of a line-office supplement to 
NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6. On June 30, 2014, NMFS published 
a Federal Register notice of availability of the draft revised and 
updated NEPA procedures for MSA actions and requested public comments, 
with a 90-day public comment period.

[[Page 40704]]


DATES: The proposed rule published on May 14, 2008 (73 FR 27998) is 
withdrawn as of July 14, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Leathery via email at 
steve.leathery@noaa.gov or via phone at 301-427-8014.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization 
Act (MSRA) required NMFS to ``revise and update'' agency procedures to 
comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for fisheries 
actions. In developing a proposed approach, NMFS conducted extensive 
public outreach which included the following:
     Consulted with the CEQ and the Councils.
     Posted Trigger Questions, developed by NMFS, and a 
Strawman proposal, developed by the Council Coordination Committee 
(CCC), for 60-day public comment.
     NMFS made presentations at each meetings of each Council 
on Trigger Questions and Strawman during the 60-day period; NMFS 
received over 1600 comments.
     NMFS published proposed rule May 2008 with a 90-day 
comment period; conducted 3 NMFS-sponsored public hearings and a public 
workshop; conducted presentations at meetings of all eight Councils; 
and received over 150,000 public comments.
    NMFS's initial approach was to propose a rule creating new 
regulatory requirements aligning the decision-making processes of the 
Councils and NMFS under the MSA with the analytical and procedural 
requirements of NEPA. The proposed rule would have required Council 
consideration of draft NEPA documents prior to recommending fishery 
management measures, and NMFS consideration of a final NEPA document 
during Secretarial review of the measures. These comment periods could 
be less than 45 days each in limited circumstances, but in no case 
could the combined total of days be less than 45, which is the minimum 
comment period established by CEQ's regulations for Environmental 
Impact Statements (EISs). The proposed rule would have included 
regulatory provisions pertaining to inadequate and incomplete 
information, a new categorical exclusion for exempted fishing permits, 
and it would have changed the name of the EIS-level NEPA compliance 
document for fisheries to reflect the integration of fisheries 
management and environmental considerations. It also would have 
established a new NEPA tiering mechanism modeled on fishery management 
plan (FMP) ``frameworks.''
    NMFS published the proposed rule on May 14, 2008, and provided for 
a 90-day public comment period. During the public comment period, NMFS 
delivered presentations at meetings of all eight Councils and conducted 
three NMFS-sponsored public listening sessions: One in Washington, DC 
metro area, one in St. Petersburg, FL, and one in Seattle, WA. In 
addition, NMFS, Council representatives and CEQ held an interactive 
public workshop in the Washington DC, area. By the close of the public 
comment period, NMFS had received over 150,000 comment letters, many of 
which were form letters urging NMFS to withdraw the proposed rule and 
start over.
    NMFS subsequently determined that it would be more appropriate to 
revise and update internal guidance rather than to create new 
regulatory requirements. On February 19, 2013, NMFS issued a policy 
titled ``National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-
Initiated Fishery Management Actions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.'' 
This policy clarifies roles and responsibilities of NMFS and the 
Councils, explains timing and procedural linkages, provides guidance on 
documentation needs, and fosters partnerships and cooperation between 
NMFS and Councils on NEPA compliance. This policy satisfied the 
requirements of section 304(i) of the MSA.
    After issuing the 2013 Policy Directive, NMFS consulted with the 
Councils and with CEQ on proposed revisions to the 2013 NMFS NEPA 
policy directive, and based on those consultations, NMFS now proposes 
to use this policy as a basis for issuing revised and updated NEPA 
procedures for MSA actions in the form of a line-office supplement to 
NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6. On June 30, 2014, NMFS published 
a notice of availability of the draft Revised and Updated MSA NEPA 
procedures (79 FR 36726). Both the 2013 Policy Directive and the draft 
Revised and Updated MSA NEPA Procedures are available on the web at: 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/msa/nepa.html.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: July 8, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-16426 Filed 7-11-14; 8:45 am]
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