The proposed project area evaluated BOEM’s Western, Central, and Eastern GoM planning areas as well as adjacent state waters. (Courtesy Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) that recommends measures to protect marine mammals and coastal environments in the Gulf of Mexico from the potential impacts of geological and geophysical (G&G) surveys.
Completion of the draft PEIS was a condition of a federal court settlement between BOEM and the National Resource Defense Council and other co-plaintiffs announced earlier this year.
The draft PEIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts of G&G survey activities on marine mammals, fish, corals, and other environmentally sensitive species in the seabed and water column of the Gulf’s outer continental shelf.
The G&G activities assessed in the draft PEIS include deep-penetration and high-resolution seismic surveys, electromagnetic surveys, magnetic surveys, gravity surveys, remote-sensing surveys and geological and geochemical sampling.
Among the mitigations the bureau has recommended in its preferred alternative are: requiring protected species observers on each boat, mandatory vessel avoidance of marine mammals and start up/shut down rules that apply if/when marine mammals are observed in the area.
BOEM is the lead agency on this draft PEIS, with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as cooperating agencies. The PEIS will support both BOEM’s G&G permitting and NMFS’s Marine Mammal Protection Act decision-making for oil- and gas-related G&G. The target date for completing the PEIS is September 2017.
The proposed project area evaluated BOEM’s Western, Central, and Eastern GoM planning areas as well as adjacent state waters.
The draft PEIS will be open for public comment for 60 days, following publication of the notice of availability in the Federal Register on Sept. 30, 2016, and BOEM will hold five public meetings in the Gulf area to solicit input and answer questions. The bureau prepared the PEIS pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.
Comments received will help the bureau and the cooperating agencies further refine the analysis of the draft for publication of the final PEIS.
The draft PEIS is available now at http://www.boem.gov/GOM-G-G-PEIS/.
BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said: “BOEM’s recommended approach offers the strongest practicable safeguards in an effort to eliminate or reduce impacts to marine mammals and the environment. We continue to conduct research and monitor the science of this field and work with other agencies and stakeholders to create and maintain the protection of these resources.”