Overview of Air Quality Regulations

On May 14, 2020, BOEM announced its final rule to update air quality regulations applicable to activities authorized by BOEM on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska’s North Slope Borough.


The OCS Lands Act authorizes the Department of the Interior (DOI) to regulate activities authorized by BOEM in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and offshore the North Slope Borough of Alaska. (Per the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has air quality jurisdiction over all other parts of the OCS.)  Under the OCS Lands Act, DOI is limited to regulating offshore emissions of criteria and their precursor pollutants to the extent they significantly affect the air quality of any state.

Final Rule on Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance

Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13795 and Secretary’s Order 3350 America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, BOEM reviewed its 2016 Proposed Rule on Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance.

As a result of this review and analysis of comments received on the proposed rule, BOEM’s final rule adopts a small number of the changes listed in the proposed rule, such as:

  1. Compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs). As was the case with the proposed rule, this final rule adds a definition of the NAAQS. It also clarifies that DOI’s reporting and compliance requirements apply to the emissions of all pollutants on the OCS for which a national ambient air quality standard has been defined.
  2. Updating Significance Levels (SLs). The final rule replaces the table of SLs in BOEM’s existing regulations, dating from 1980, with a revised table, which is based on values set forth in EPA’s regulations at  40 CFR 51.165(b)(2). BOEM will continue to update the table of SLs as appropriate, which will save operators from having to search for the SLs in EPA’s regulations.
  3. New Requirements for PM2.5 and PM10. This final rule replaces the former criteria air pollutant “total suspended particulates (TSP)” modeling requirements with new modeling requirements for the criteria pollutants “particulate matter 10” (PM10) and “particulate matter 2.5” (PM2.5). BOEM is also updating its forms to enable lessees and operators to identify, report, and evaluate PM2.5 and PM10 pollution in the air quality spreadsheets that they submit in connection with their exploration or development plans.
  4. Emissions Exemption Thresholds. The final rule also updates existing regulations that refer to Emissions Exemption Thresholds to clarify that these formulas apply equally to Development and Production Plans (DPPs) and Development Operations Coordination Documents (DOCDs). This update will not lead to a change in practice because BOEM has always applied its existing regulations on air quality to both DPPs and DOCDs.
  5. Clarifying Terminology. The final rule updates various terminology to better clarify the intent of the regulations. For example, the final rule replaces the term “air pollutant” with the term “criteria air pollutant.” Under the OCS Lands Act, BOEM regulates the emissions of criteria air pollutants, as they represent pollutants for which the EPA has defined a NAAQS. BOEM regulates only those emissions that could affect BOEM’s obligation to ensure compliance of state air quality with the NAAQS, so the term “air pollutant” is not appropriate.
  6. Air Quality Spreadsheets. With the implementation of the new air quality rule, BOEM is also updating the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)-approved air quality spreadsheets, BOEM-0138 (for exploration plans) and BOEM-0139 (for DOCDs and DPPs). The lessee or its designated operator must use these forms for proposed operations in areas of BOEM air quality regulatory jurisdiction. Concurrent with these changes, BOEM is phasing out its previous practice of including the emissions from transitory support vessels in the EET calculations. Air quality modeling will henceforth only be required in situations when a regulated facility, exclusive of support vessels, exceeds the relevant EET.

Press Releases

Supporting Documents Associated with the Final Rule

Air Quality Studies

BOEM continues to assess potential onshore air quality impacts from the development of OCS petroleum resources in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore the North Slope Borough of Alaska. These studies are available on the ESPIS web site at https://marinecadastre.gov/espis/#/.

Air Quality Models

For More Information

For more information, send an email to BOEMPublicAffairs@boem.gov.