[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 82 (Wednesday, April 29, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 23818-23820]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-10035]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

[MMAA 104000]


Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Gulf of Mexico (GOM), Oil and Gas 
Lease Sales for 2017-2022

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

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
and notice of public scoping meetings.

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SUMMARY: Consistent with the regulations implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), BOEM is 
announcing its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS) on the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) 
oil and gas lease sales tentatively proposed in the 2017-2022 Outer 
Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program 
(2017-2022 Draft Proposed Program). This Notice of Intent (NOI) serves 
to announce the EIS scoping process and scoping meetings for the 2017-
2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS. Due to the lead time to prepare an 
EIS, BOEM will begin preparation of the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico 
Multisale EIS prior to the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program 
being finalized. Should the GOM lease sales ultimately included in the 
2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program differ substantially from 
those proposed in the 2017-2022 Draft Proposed Program, BOEM will 
incorporate those changes into the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale 
EIS, as appropriate.
    Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1344) requires the 
development of an OCS oil and gas leasing program every five years, 
setting forth a five-year schedule of lease sales designed to best meet 
the Nation's energy needs. The lease sales proposed in the GOM in the 
2017-2022 Draft Proposed Program are region-wide sales comprised of the 
Western, Central, and a small portion of the Eastern Planning Areas in 
the GOM not subject to Congressional moratorium. These planning areas 
are located offshore the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, 
Alabama, and Florida. Should the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing 
Program include GOM-wide sales, any individual lease sale could still 
be scaled back during the pre-lease sale process to offer a smaller 
area should circumstances warrant. For example, an individual lease 
sale could offer an area that conforms more closely to the separate 
planning area model used in the 2012-2017 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing 
Program.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implementing NEPA encourage 
agencies to analyze similar or related proposals in one EIS (40 CFR 
1508.25). Since each lease sale and ensuing OCS activities are similar 
each year in each sale area, BOEM is preparing a single 2017-2022 Gulf 
of Mexico Multisale EIS for the lease sales proposed to be held in the 
GOM during the program. The 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS will 
eliminate the repetition of annual draft and final EISs for each 
proposed lease sale. The Multisale EIS approach allows for subsequent 
NEPA analysis to focus on changes in the proposed sales and on new 
issues and information. The resource estimates and scenario information 
for the 2017-2022 Multisale EIS will include a range that encompasses 
the resources and activities estimated for any of the proposed lease 
sales. At the completion of this Multisale EIS process, a decision will 
be made for the first lease sale in the GOM. Thereafter, BOEM will 
conduct a NEPA review for each of the remaining proposed lease sales in 
the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
    The 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS analysis will focus on 
the potential environmental effects from oil and natural gas leasing, 
exploration, development, and production on all available acreage in 
the GOM, including the Western and Central Planning Areas and the 
portion of the Eastern Planning Area not subject to Congressional 
moratorium. In addition to the no action alternative (i.e., cancel the 
sale), other alternatives will be considered for each proposed lease 
sale, such as offering individual or multiple planning areas for lease 
(rather than GOM-wide) and potentially deferring certain areas from the 
proposed lease sales in addition to those considered in the 2017-2022 
OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
    Pursuant to OCSLA, BOEM will separately publish a Call for 
Information and Nominations (Call) to request and gather information to 
determine the Area Identification (ID) for each sale. The Call will 
invite potential bidders to nominate areas of interest within the 
program area(s) included in the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing 
Program. The Call is also an opportunity for the public to provide 
information on environmental, socioeconomic, and other considerations 
relevant to determining the Area ID. Using information provided in 
response to the Call and from scoping comments

[[Page 23819]]

resulting from this NOI, BOEM will then develop an Area ID Memorandum 
and identify the area for environmental analysis and consideration for 
leasing. All of this information will be used to develop a range of 
alternatives for the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS.
    Scoping Process: This NOI serves to announce the scoping process 
for identifying issues and potential alternatives for consideration in 
the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS. Throughout the scoping 
process, Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments and the general 
public have the opportunity to help BOEM determine significant 
resources and issues, impacting factors, reasonable alternatives, and 
potential mitigating measures to be analyzed in the EIS and to provide 
additional information. BOEM will also use the NEPA commenting process 
to initiate the Section 106 consultation process of the National 
Historic Preservation Act (54 U.S.C. 300101 et seq.), as provided in 36 
CFR 800.2(d)(3).
    BOEM typically prepares technical reports that allow for detailed 
technical information to be incorporated by reference into EISs (40 CFR 
1502.21). BOEM proposes to develop technical reports for this purpose, 
which will be publicly available and may replace and update appendices 
used in previous lease sale EISs (e.g., the 2012-2017 Western Planning 
Area/Central Planning Area Multisale EIS and the 2014-2016 Eastern 
Planning Area Multisale EIS), such as the ``Catastrophic Spill Event 
Analysis,'' ``BOEM-OSRA Catastrophic Run,'' and ``Essential Fish 
Habitat Assessment.'' BOEM proposes to incorporate by reference other 
technical information from air quality modeling, the Gulfwide Offshore 
Activity Data System (an air emissions inventory system), and a 
methodology paper related to the exploration and development scenario. 
These reports will be summarized and incorporated by reference in the 
2017-2022 GOM Multisale EIS and will be made publicly available on 
BOEM's Web site http://www.boem.gov/Gulf-of-Mexico-Region/. BOEM is 
soliciting input on these examples and other topics that would be 
conducive to reducing the size of the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico 
Multisale EIS and future NEPA documents.
    BOEM is also soliciting comments to identify significant 
environmental issues deserving study, but also to deemphasize 
insignificant issues, thus streamlining the analyses and narrowing the 
scope of the EIS process accordingly (40 CFR 1501.7). BOEM has reviewed 
the environmental and socioeconomic resources analyzed in the 2012-2017 
Western Planning Area/Central Planning Area Multisale EIS, 2014-2016 
Eastern Planning Area Multisale EIS, and the resulting Supplemental 
EISs and is therefore proposing the following list of resources to be 
analyzed in the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS:

 Air Quality
 Water Quality
    [cir] Coastal
    [cir] Offshore
 Coastal Habitats
    [cir] Wetlands
    [cir] Dunes and Beaches
 Deepwater Habitats
    [cir] Chemosynthetic Communities
    [cir] Deepwater Corals
    [cir] Sargassum
 Live Bottom Habitats
    [cir] Topographic Features
    [cir] Pinnacles (Low Relief)
    [cir] Inshore Reefs
    [cir] Seagrass
 Fishes and Invertebrate Resources
 Coastal and Migratory Bird Resources
 Protected Species
    [cir] ESA Species' List (Protected Birds and Protected Fish)
    [cir] Sea Turtles
    [cir] Diamondback Terrapins
    [cir] Beach Mice
    [cir] Marine Mammals
 Archaeological Resources
    [cir] Historic
    [cir] Prehistoric
 Commercial Fisheries
 Recreational Fishing
 Recreational Resources
 Human Resources and Land Use
    [cir] Land Use and Coastal Infrastructure
    [cir] Demographics
    [cir] Economic Factors
    [cir] Environmental Justice

    Pursuant to the regulations implementing the procedural provisions 
of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 1501.7), BOEM will hold public scoping meetings in 
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. BOEM's scoping 
meetings will be held at the following places and times:
     New Orleans, Louisiana: Tuesday, May 12, 2015, BOEM, Gulf 
of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, 
Louisiana 70123, one meeting beginning at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
     Houston, Texas: Thursday, May 14, 2015, Hilton Garden Inn 
Houston/Bush Intercontinental Airport, 15400 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 
Houston, Texas 77032, one meeting beginning at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
     Panama City, Florida: Tuesday, May 19, 2015, Hilton Garden 
Inn Panama City, 1101 US Highway 231, Panama City, Florida 32405, one 
meeting beginning at 6:00 p.m. CDT.
     Mobile, Alabama: Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Hilton Garden 
Inn Mobile West, 828 West I-65 Service Road South, Mobile, Alabama 
36609, one meeting beginning at 3:00 p.m. CDT.
     Gulfport, Mississippi: Thursday, May 21, 2015, Courtyard 
by Marriott, Gulfport Beachfront MS Hotel, 1600 East Beach Boulevard, 
Gulfport, Mississippi 39501, one meeting beginning at 3:00 p.m. CDT.
    Cooperating Agencies: BOEM invites other Federal, State, Tribal, 
and local governments to consider becoming cooperating agencies in the 
preparation of the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS. We invite 
qualified government entities to inquire about cooperating agency 
status for this EIS. Following the guidelines from the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ), qualified agencies and governments are 
those with ``jurisdiction by law or special expertise.'' Potential 
cooperating agencies should consider their authority and capacity to 
assume the responsibilities of a cooperating agency and should remember 
that an agency's role in the environmental analysis neither enlarges 
nor diminishes the final decision making authority of any other agency 
involved in the NEPA process. Upon request, BOEM will provide potential 
cooperating agencies with a written summary of expectations for 
cooperating agencies, including time schedules and critical action 
dates, milestones, responsibilities, scope and detail of cooperating 
agencies' contributions, and availability of predecisional information. 
BOEM anticipates this summary will form the basis for a Memorandum of 
Agreement between BOEM and any cooperating agency. Agencies should also 
consider the ``Factors for Determining Cooperating Agency Status'' in 
Attachment 1 to CEQ's January 30, 2002, Memorandum for the Heads of 
Federal Agencies: Cooperating Agencies in Implementing the Procedural 
Requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. This document is 
available on the Internet at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/nepapub/nepa_documents/RedDont/G-CEQ-CoopAgenciesImplem.pdf.
    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 stages of the NEPA process.

[[Page 23820]]

    Comments: Federal agencies; Tribal, State, and local governments; 
and other interested parties are requested to send their written 
comments on the scope of the 2017-2022 Gulf of Mexico Multisale EIS, 
significant issues that should be addressed, and alternatives that 
should be considered one of the following ways:
    1. In written form enclosed in an envelope labeled ``Comments on 
the 2017-2022 GOM Multisale EIS'' and mailed (or hand carried) to Mr. 
Gary D. Goeke, Chief, Environmental Assessment Section, Office of 
Environment (GM 623E), BOEM, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood 
Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394;
    2. Through the regulations.gov web portal: Navigate to http://www.regulations.gov and search for ``Oil and Gas Lease Sales: Gulf of 
Mexico, Outer Continental Shelf; 2017-2022 GOM Multisale EIS'' (Note: 
It is important to include the quotation marks in your search terms.) 
Click on the ``Comment Now!'' button to the right of the document link. 
Enter your information and comment, then click ``Submit''; or
    3. BOEM email address: multisaleeis2017-2022@boem.gov.
    It is BOEM's practice to make comments, including the names and 
addresses of respondents, available for public review. BOEM does not 
consider anonymous comments. Please include your name and address as 
part of your submittal. Individual respondents may request that BOEM 
withhold their names and/or addresses from the public record, but BOEM 
cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so. If you wish your name 
and/or address to be withheld, you must state your preference 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. All submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, will be made available for public inspection in their 
entirety.
DATES: Comments should be submitted no later than May 29, 2015 to the 
address specified above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the 2017-2022 Gulf 
of Mexico Multisale EIS, the submission of comments, or BOEM's policies 
associated with this notice, please contact Mr. Gary D. Goeke, Chief, 
Environmental Assessment Section, Office of Environment (GM 623E), 
BOEM, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New 
Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394, telephone 504-736-3233.

    Authority: This NOI is published pursuant to the regulations (40 
CFR 1501.7) implementing the provisions of NEPA.

    Dated: April 16, 2015.
Abigail Ross Hopper,
Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
[FR Doc. 2015-10035 Filed 4-28-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P