[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 33 (Thursday, February 17, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page 0]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-3521]

[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: February 17, 1994]


Part V

Department of Transportation


Coast Guard


33 CFR Part 150

Louisiana Offshore Oil Port: Expansion of Deepwater Port Safety Zone 
Boundaries; Proposed Rule

Coast Guard

33 CFR Part 150

[CGD 93-080]
RIN 2115-AE69

Louisiana Offshore Oil Port: Expansion of Deepwater Port Safety 
Zone Boundaries

AGENCY: Coast Guard, DOT.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.


SUMMARY: The Coast Guard proposes to expand the boundaries of the 
safety zone for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP). A deepwater 
port safety zone constitutes an area within which the erection of 
structures or mobile drilling operations for the exploration for or 
extraction of oil or gas is prohibited. An expanded safety zone would 
enlarge the approach to the terminal portion of the safety zone and 
provide more unobstructed maneuvering room for vessels arriving and 
departing from LOOP. This would reduce the risk of a marine casualty 
and subsequent pollution.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before March 21, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be mailed to the Executive Secretary, Marine 
Safety Council (G-LRA/3406) (CGD 93-080), U.S. Coast Guard 
Headquarters, 2100 Second Street, SW., Washington, DC 20593-0001, or 
may be delivered to room 3406, at the same address, between 8 a.m. and 
3 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone 
number is (202) 267-1477.
    The Executive Secretary maintains the public docket for this 
rulemaking. Comments will become part of this docket and will be 
available for inspection or copying at room 3406, U.S. Coast Guard 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lieutenant Commander Walter (Bud) 
Hunt, Project Manager, Oil Pollution Act (OPA 90) Staff, (G-MS-1), 
(202) 267-6740. This telephone is equipped to record messages on a 24-
hour basis.


Request for Comments

    The Coast Guard encourages interested persons to participate in 
this rulemaking by submitting written data, views, or arguments. 
Persons submitting comments should include their names and addresses, 
identify this rulemaking (CGD 93-080), and give the reason for each 
comment. The Coast Guard requests that all comments and attachments be 
submitted in an unbound format suitable for copying and electronic 
filing. If not practical, a second copy of any bound materials is 
requested. Persons wanting acknowledgment of receipt of comments should 
enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope.
    The Coast Guard will consider all comments received during the 
comment period. It may change this proposal in view of the comments. 
The Coast Guard encourages individuals or organizations that commented 
on the notice of petition for rulemaking to submit comments on this 
notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
    The Coast Guard plans no public hearing. Persons may request a 
public hearing by writing to the Marine Safety Council at the address 
under ADDRESSES. The request should include reasons why a hearing would 
be beneficial. If it determines that the opportunity for oral 
presentations will aid this rulemaking, the Coast Guard will hold a 
public hearing at a time and place to be announced by a later notice in 
the Federal Register.

Drafting Information

    The principal persons involved in drafting this document are 
Lieutenant Commander Walter (Bud) Hunt, Project Manager, and Jacqueline 
Sullivan, Project Counsel, Oil Pollution Act (OPA 90) Staff, (G-MS-1).

Background and Purpose

    The Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (33 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.) requires 
the Secretary of Transportation to designate a zone of appropriate size 
around and including any deepwater port for the purpose of navigational 
safety and to protect the marine environment. This responsibility was 
delegated to the Coast Guard in 49 CFR 1.46(s). A deepwater port safety 
zone is designed to promote safety of life and property, marine 
environmental protection and navigational safety at any deepwater port 
and adjacent waters. No installations, structures, or uses that are 
incompatible with port operations are permitted in a deepwater safety 
zone. 33 CFR part 150 establishes the geographic boundaries of the 
safety zone for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) in Annex A and 
provides for the modification of safety zone boundaries as experience 
is gained in deepwater port operations. Changes in a safety zone at a 
deepwater port are subject to notification and consideration of the 
views of interested parties.
    On December 29, 1980, the Coast Guard established a safety zone to 
protect three single-point moorings at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port 
(LOOP) (45 FR 85644). The rulemaking was considered ``nonsignificant'' 
under existing Department of Transportation (DOT) and Coast Guard 
regulatory guidelines. On May 13, 1982, the Coast Guard established a 
safety fairway to provide unobstructed approach for vessels 
transmitting to the LOOP safety zone (47 FR 20580).
    On January 16, 1984, LOOP submitted to the Coast Guard a request 
for a waiver of the requirements of 33 CFR 150.337(a) which prohibits a 
tanker from entering or departing a safety zone by other than a 
designated safety fairway. LOOP submitted to the Coast Guard chart 
11359 and indicated two uncharted areas adjacent to the safety zone 
which they referred to as excursion zones. LOOP requested that vessels 
calling at the deepwater port be provided with additional maneuvering 
room by allowing use of these excursion zones when departing or 
entering the LOOP safety zone. Deviations from the safety fairway into 
these zones came to be known as ``excursions.'' On February 20, 1987, 
the Coast Guard granted for 1 year a waiver of the requirements that 
tankers enter and leave the safety zone by the safety fairway. LOOP was 
required to document the number of tanker maneuverings requiring 
transit outside the existing safety zone, the percentage of excursions 
which occurred within the two uncharted areas identified as excursion 
zones, and the date, time, and approximate track line used for each 
excursion. Since then, the Coast Guard has renewed the waiver on an 
annual basis.
    On December 30, 1987, LOOP asked the Coast Guard to make the waiver 
permanent. On February 8, 1988, the request was denied on the grounds 
that future exploration for or extraction of oil or gas might occur 
within one or both excursion zones. If such activity took place, the 
Coast Guard might have to revoke the waiver for the sake of safety.
    In May 1988, CONOCO, Inc. (CONOCO) was issued an oil and gas lease 
by the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) 
under the Outer Continental Shelf and Lands Act (OCSLA) (43 U.S.C. 1331 
et seq.) in the area that was in the uncharted existing excursion zone. 
The lease included a provision for the government to suspend or cancel 
the lease with compensation when provided by the OCSLA. In August 1990, 
LOOP notified the Coast Guard that CONOCO intended to drill under 
authority of Lease OCS-G 9678 within Grand Isle Block 59, approximately 
500 yards outside of the existing safety zone and safety fairway and 
inside the uncharted southerly excursion zone. The Coast Guard is 
concerned that a vessel casualty could result in a catastrophic 
pollution incident if a vessel collided with a drilling platform 
located in the existing excursion area. However, neither MMS policy nor 
budget provided for repurchasing a lease. While MMS supports the Coast 
Guard's interest in minimizing the risk of a catastrophic pollution 
incident at LOOP, it contends that CONOCO has a legal right of access 
to explore for and produce oil or gas from the lease.
    On January 21, 1992, the Coast Guard published a notice of petition 
for rulemaking and request for comments in the Federal Register 
announcing a request by LOOP that the Coast Guard expand the safety 
zone that surrounds the deepwater port (57 FR 2236). LOOP requested the 
Coast Guard to make the waiver permanent thereby enlarging the safety 
zone by adding the two excursion zones, and prohibiting structures. The 
proposed safety zone would broaden the entrance to LOOP and prohibit 
the erection of structures or mobile drilling operations. As a result, 
the enlarged safety zone would reduce the number of required vessel 
maneuverings, eliminate structures from the zone, possibly reducing the 
risk of accidents and subsequent pollution. The proposed safety zone 
reflects actual tanker activity at LOOP based on detailed records the 
Coast Guard has required LOOP to maintain.
    The Coast Guard received 48 comments in response to the notice of 
petition for rulemaking. Forty-three responses, mostly from mooring 
masters and shipping companies, offered strong support for the safety 
zone expansion. Opposition to the proposal came from CONOCO, MMS, and 
three oil exploration companies. MMS suggested that if CONOCO or other 
lessees are denied access to potential oil and gas resources, 
restitution should be provided by either LOOP or the Coast Guard. 
Neither the Coast Guard nor the DOT is prepared to provide restitution 
to CONOCO for loss of potential revenues or costs already incurred in 
conjunction with oil or gas exploration.
    To resolve the conflicting use problems in the excursion zones, 
LOOP has agreed to purchase from CONOCO the oil and gas leases for 
Grand Isle Blocks 53, 58, 59, and 65. LOOP would then relinquish these 
blocks to MMS. LOOP would not seek further expansion of the safety zone 
or oppose any exploration and production activity outside or adjacent 
to the expanded safety zone.
    On November 2, 1993, in a letter to the Department of 
Transportation, the MMS stated that it supports the agreement between 
CONOCO and LOOP. MMS stated that it is prepared to prohibit surface 
occupancy of offshore oil and gas facilities in the proposed safety 
zone. However, MMS stated that it may be economically and technically 
feasible to develop the resources lying beneath the safety zone by 
directional drilling. MMS would not preclude subseabed access provided 
that any surface facilities are located outside the safety zone. Such 
subseabed activity within the safety zone would not interfere with 
vessel activity in the safety zone.
    Under the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, as amended (33 U.S.C. 
1509(d)(1)), the Secretary of Transportation is required to consult 
with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of 
the Interior, and the Secretary of Commerce prior to issuing the safety 
zone around any deepwater port for the purposes of navigational safety. 
The Coast Guard has informed the noted Departments of the proposed 
safety zone.

Discussion of Proposed Amendment

    Appendix A, Annex A, section (a) of 33 CFR part 150 is amended to 
expand the boundaries of the deepwater port safety zone at LOOP. This 
is being done at the request of LOOP, Inc. to enlarge the approach to 
the terminal portion and provide more maneuvering area for tank vessels 
arriving or departing from the deepwater port. It does not amend the 
Areas to be Avoided or the Anchorage Area listed in sections (b) and 
(c), respectively, in Annex A to Appendix A of 33 CFR part 150.

Regulatory Assessment

    This proposal is not a significant regulatory action under Section 
3(F)(1) of Executive Order 12866 (58 FR 51735; October 4, 1993) and it 
does not require an assessment of potential costs and benefits under 
section 6(a)(3) of that Order. It is not a significant regulation under 
the ``Department of Transportation Regulatory Policies and Procedures'' 
(44 FR 11040; February 26, 1979).
    The Coast Guard expects the economic consequences of this 
rulemaking to be minimal. Potential economic effects include impacts on 
mineral extraction and the commercial fishing industry. The proposed 
expansion is relatively insignificant, comprising an approximate 15 
percent increase in the size of the safety zone.
    When the original safety zone was established, it was not expected 
that there would be significant interference with mineral extraction or 
navigation. Due to the relative size of the expansion, no impacts on 
mineral extraction or navigation are expected in this case either. 
Access is available via alternative methods such as directional 
    The economic consequences of the proposed rulemaking are expected 
to primarily impact commercial vessels, including commercial fishing 
vessels. Commercial fishing vessels are permitted restricted use of 
portions of the safety zone as provided in 33 CFR Table 150.345(a). 
Therefore, the impact on fishing activities would be negligible due to 
the small additional area involved. No opposition to the notice of 
petition for rulemaking was received from the commercial fishing 
    In addition, this proposed rulemaking will result in permanent 
safety benefits. Providing additional maneuvering area minimizes the 
likelihood of a catastrophic pollution incident resulting from a vessel 
colliding with any portion of the LOOP facility. Therefore, it is 
expected that expansion of the safety zone will reduce the 
environmental hazard.

Small Entities

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601, et seq.), the 
Coast Guard must consider whether this proposed safety zone will have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
``Small entities'' include independently owned and operated small 
business concerns under section 3 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 
632). The small entities affected by this proposed rule are commercial 
fishing activities at the deepwater port. Because it expects the impact 
of this proposal to be minimal, the Coast Guard certifies under 5 
U.S.C. 605(b) that this proposed safety zone will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

Collection of Information

    This proposed rule does not require the collection of information 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501, et seq.).


    The Coast Guard has analyzed this proposal in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12612 and has 
determined that this proposal does not have federalism implications and 
does not warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment. LOOP is 
located beyond State waters where only Federal jurisdiction applies.


    The Coast Guard considered the environmental impact of this 
proposal and concluded that, under section 2.B.2(c) of Commandant 
Instruction M16475.1B, this proposed rule is categorically excluded 
from further environmental documentation. This rule will not result in 
significant impact on the quality of the human environment, as defined 
by the National Environmental Policy Act. A Categorical Exclusion 
Determination is available in the docket for inspection or copying 
where indicated under ADDRESSES.

List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 150

    Harbors, Marine safety, Navigation (water), Occupational safety and 
health, Oil pollution, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, the Coast Guard proposes 
to amend 33 CFR part 150 as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 150 continues to read as 
follows: 33 U.S.C. 1231, 1321(j)(1)(C), (j)(5), (j)(6) and (m)(2), 
1509; sec. 2, E.O. 12777, 56 FR 54757; 49 CFR 1.46.
    2. Appendix A to part 150, Annex A, is amended by revising 
paragraph (a) to read as follows:

Appendix A to Part 150--Deepwater Port Safety Zone Boundaries

* * * * *

           Annex A--Loop, Inc. Deepwater Port, Gulf of Mexico           
                        Latitude N.                         Longitude W.
  (a) Deepwater Port Safety Zone:                                       
(1) Starting at:                                                        
      28 deg.55'23''                                        90 deg.00'37
(2) A rhumb line to:                                                    
      28 deg.53'50''                                        90 deg.04'07
(3) Then an arc with a 4,465 meter (4,883 yard) radius centered at the  
 port pumping platform complex (PPC),                                   
      28 deg.53'06''                                        90 deg.01'30
(4) To a point:                                                         
      28 deg.51'07''                                        90 deg.03'06
(5) Then a rhumb line to:                                               
      28 deg.50'09''                                        90 deg.02'24
(6) Then a rhumb line to:                                               
      28 deg.49'05''                                        89 deg.55'54
(6) Then a rhumb line to:                                               
      28 deg.48'36''                                        89 deg.55'00
(8) Then a rhumb line to:                                               
      28 deg.52'04''                                        89 deg.52'42
(9) Then a rhumb line to:                                               
      28 deg.53'10''                                        89 deg.53'42
(10) Then a rhumb line to:                                              
      28 deg.54'52''                                        89 deg.57'00
(11) Then a rhumb line to:                                              
      28 deg.54'52''                                        89 deg.59'36
(12) Then an arc with a 4,465 meter (4,883 yard) radius centered again  
 at the port PPC,                                                       
      28 deg.53'06''                                        90 deg.01'30
(13) To the point of starting:                                          
      28 deg.55'23''                                        90 deg.00'37

* * * * *
    Dated: January 31, 1994.
A.E. Henn,
Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Chief, Office of Marine Safety, 
Security and Environmental Protection.
[FR Doc. 94-3521 Filed 2-16-94; 8:45 am]