Atlantic Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Activities Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS)
BOEM is producing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to evaluate potential significant environmental effects of multiple geological and geophysical (G&G) activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This draft PEIS follows through on that direction as prescribed by the Conference Report for Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Act, 2010. The proposed action is to permit G&G activities in support of oil and gas exploration and development, renewable energy, and marine minerals in the Mid- and South Atlantic Planning Areas. We and other responsible agencies will use the PEIS to comply with various environmental laws (e.g., Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act).
Our goal at BOEM has always been to provide factual, reliable, and clear analytical statements in order to inform decisionmakers and the public about the environmental effects of proposed OCS activities and their alternatives. Please see the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register for public meeting locations and for directions on providing comments during the comment period for the draft PEIS. The comment period closed July 2, 2012.
A Notice of Availability for the Draft PEIS was published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2012 (77 FR 19321) opening a 60-day comment period originally scheduled to close on May 30, 2012. The comment period for the draft PEIS was extended for an additional 30-days on June 4, 2012 (77 FR 32995) until July 2, 2012. The comment period includes the additional 4 days between the initial closing period until the reopening was published in the FR on June 4, 2012, resulting in a total of 94-days for the comment period. All comments received between May 31 and June 3, 2012 are included as part of the PEIS administrative record.
Over the 94-day comment period (March 30 to July 2), 55,295 comments were received on the draft PEIS for Atlantic G&G activity. Of these comment submissions an overwhelming majority, 54,750, were form letter emails. These comments consisted of 10 formulaic letters set up as email campaigns on the webpages of nine non-governmental organizations. Examples of the letters from these campaigns are included below. Of all formulaic comments of this type received, the largest collection was from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In addition to the email submissions, comments were also received by mail, hand delivered, or were provided during the public hearings.
BOEM is issuing this draft PEIS to describe and evaluate the potential environmental impacts of geological and geophysical (G&G) survey activities in Federal waters of the Mid- and South Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and adjacent State waters. The draft PEIS examines G&G survey activities for three program areas (oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine minerals) for activity levels projected between 2012 and 2020. The draft PEIS evaluates impacts to Atlantic resources that could occur as a result of G&G activities, and identifies mitigation and monitoring measures to avoid, reduce, or minimize impacts.
This draft PEIS was prepared upon direction of the Congress because BOEM currently has no programmatic NEPA coverage for permitting G&G activities in Atlantic OCS waters. BOEM has received several permit requests for seismic airgun surveys in support of oil and gas exploration, and industry has expressed interest in expanding activities into Atlantic offshore waters. This draft PEIS establishes a framework for future NEPA evaluations of site-specific actions, while identifying and analyzing mitigation measures for future programmatic use.
The purpose of the proposed action is to gather state-of-the-practice data about the ocean bottom and subsurface. These data would provide information about the location and extent of oil and gas reserves, seafloor conditions for oil and gas or renewable energy installations, and marine minerals deposits off the U.S. Atlantic coast. State-of-the-practice G&G data and information are required for business decisions in furtherance of prospecting for OCS oil and gas in an orderly manner, assessing sites for renewable energy facilities, or using marine mineral resources in the area. The G&G quality of data in surveys acquired during the period when Atlantic oil and gas leasing took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s has been eclipsed by newer instrumentation and technology that make seismic data of that era inadequate for business decisions to lease and develop these OCS lands or to evaluate the environmental impacts of leasing and development.
The need for the proposed action is to use the information obtained by G&G surveys to make informed business decisions regarding oil and gas reserves, engineering decisions regarding the construction of renewable energy projects, and informed estimates regarding the composition and volume of marine mineral resources. This information would also be used to ensure the proper use and conservation of OCS energy resources and the receipt of fair market value for the leasing of public lands.
This summary is only a brief overview of the alternatives, issues, resources, potential impacts, and proposed mitigation measures discussed in this draft PEIS. To obtain a full perspective it is necessary to read the entire analysis.
- Chapter 1 (Introduction) – describes the purpose of and need for the proposed action, provides background information, and explains the regulatory context.
- Chapter 2 (Alternatives Including the Proposed Action) – describes alternatives that were evaluated in detail, identifies additional alternatives that were eliminated from further analysis, identifies mitigation to avoid or minimize impacts, and summarizes the findings of the impact analysis for each alternative from Chapter 4.
- Chapter 3 (G&G Activities and Proposed Action Scenario) – describes the G&G activities included in each of the program areas and their expected level of effort during the 2012-2020 time period, identifies and describes impact-producing factors (IPFs), and provides a cumulative activity scenario for impact analysis.
- Chapter 4 (Description of the Affected Resources and Impact Analysis) – describes the affected environment and analyzes potential impacts of each main alternative.
- Chapter 5 (Consultation and Coordination) – describes the consultation and coordination activities with Federal, State, and local agencies and other interested parties that occurred during the development of this PEIS.
Applications received for Atlantic OCS seismic activities: