BOEM and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347) is the foundation of environmental policymaking in the United States. The intent of the NEPA process is to help public officials make decisions based on an understanding of environmental consequences and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment. The NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to advise agencies on the environmental decision making process and to oversee and coordinate the development of Federal environmental policy. The CEQ issued regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508) in 1978 implementing NEPA. The regulations include procedures to be used by Federal Agencies for the environmental review process. The CEQ's NEPAnet website includes additional guidance for implementing NEPA and links to other websites dealing with environmental impact assessment. On this website can be found a very useful guide for the public; "A Citizen's Guide to the NEPA – Having Your Voice Heard". The DOI, through the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, provides guidance on NEPA through:
BOEM produces NEPA documents for each of the major stages of energy development planning. From the overarching 5-Year Leasing Program EIS, through each of the NEPA documents for the energy lease sales, exploration, development and production plans. The links below provide an overview of the BOEM NEPA process.
BOEM prepares Environmental Assessments (EAs) for proposals to determine if significant impacts may occur that would require preparation of an EIS. EAs are prepared for each exploration plan outside the central and western GOM. EAs are prepared for other Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas activities on a selective basis. For example, in the central and western GOM, EAs are routinely prepared for proposals to remove structures and to operate near especially sensitive areas (e.g., the Flower Garden Banks).
BOEM prepares Categorical Exclusion Reviews (CER) to verify that neither an EA nor an EIS is needed prior to making a decision on the activity being considered for approval. A CER is the briefest form of NEPA review and are prepared mostly for exploration and development proposals in the central and western GOM and most geological and geophysical survey permit applications on all OCS areas.