Environmental Studies Program History

Applied Science for Informed Decision Making

Mission: To provide the information needed to predict, assess, and manage impacts from offshore energy and marine mineral exploration, development, and production activities on human, marine, and coastal environments. The Environmental Studies Program (ESP) was initiated in 1973 to support the U.S. Department of the Interior's offshore oil and gas leasing program. Statutory authorization is derived primarily from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act (OCSLA), as amended, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Section 20 of the OCSLA authorizes the ESP and establishes three general goals for the program:

  1. to establish the information needed for assessment and management of environmental impacts on the human, marine, and coastal environments of the OCS and the potentially affected coastal areas;
  2. to predict impacts on the marine biota which may result from chronic, low-level pollution or large spills associated with OCS production, from drilling fluids and cuttings discharges, pipeline emplacement, or onshore facilities; and
  3. to monitor human, marine, and coastal environments to provide time series and data trend information for identification of significant changes in the quality and productivity of these environments, and to identify the causes of these changes.

In addition to the specific mandates identified, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 added responsibilities for offshore renewable energy projects and alternate use of existing structures. Information collected through the program also addresses other laws including the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Air and Water Act, to name a few.

The broad spectrum of research and monitoring undertaken through the ESP contributes to the BOEM mission and long-term DOI goals focusing on environmentally sound development of our Nation’s energy and mineral resources. The ESP works hard to maximize cooperative efforts with other Federal programs involved with marine environmental research and data collection. BOEM has provided cooperative funding for many projects conducted by other agencies with missions involving specific components of marine ecosystems. BOEM research has consistently been recognized for excellence in partnering with the DOI Partners in Conservation Awards, and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program Excellence Awards.

The ESP research portfolio addresses a wide variety of environmental concerns and issues – all premised on environmentally sound and responsible management of offshore energy and mineral resources. It complements and builds upon broader strategic plans that set DOI wide policies and directions.