BOEMRE's Environmental Studies Program: Utilizing Science to Inform Decisionmaking and Environmental Analyses Related to Production and Development of Oil and Gas and Renewable Energy Resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)

Damour, Melanie (Bureau of Ocean Energy Mgmt Regulation&Enforcement)


Abstract The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement's (BOEMRE) Environmental Studies Program has funded more than $750 million in environmental studies since 1973 to support decisionmaking as it relates to offshore oil and gas and most recently, renewable energy production. Each regional office within the agency developed its own studies program to support environmental research for information needs specific to that region. The regions' studies programs evolve as new information needs and environmental concerns arise. The Gulf of Mexico Region's (GOMR) Environmental Studies Program funds studies related to air quality, biology, protected species, physical oceanography, oil spills, socioeconomics, and marine archaeology as well as other topics. This paper will discuss BOEMRE's Environmental Studies Program in the GOMR and highlight studies that focused on or included a marine archaeology component to illustrate how science is used to inform decisionmaking and ensure that industry activities do not impact sensitive resources. It will also discuss the program's continual evolution in response to changing information needs such as studying the impacts from the Macondo oil spill. Study results aid in the analyses incorporated into our environmental impact statements and environmental assessments required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and the development of survey requirements. Study results are also used to create or modify environmental mitigations that may be assigned to permits as a condition of approval where sensitive features such as live-bottom habitats, chemosynthetic communities, or archaeological resources could potentially be impacted by industry activities. The BOEMRE's Environmental Studies Program and the results of agency-funded environmental studies as they relate to analyses and management of offshore resources have not been previously presented at OTC. This paper will inform industry about the Environmental Studies Program and how study results are used to support agency decisionmaking. Introduction In 1973, the Environmental Studies Program (ESP) was developed to support the oil and gas leasing program administered by the US Department of the Interior (DOI). The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) of 1953 as amended, authorized the program and established its goals, while the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) imparted additional statutory authority. The goals of the ESP, provided in Section 20 of OCSLA, are to:Establish the information needed for assessment and management of environmental impacts on the human, marine, and coastal environments of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the potentially affected coastal areas; 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 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.

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