[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 241 (Thursday, December 16, 1999)]
[Pages 70283-70284]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-32597]



Minerals Management Service

Environmental Assessment Preparation for Proposed Lease Sale 177 
in the Western Gulf of Mexico (2000)

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service (MMS), Interior.

ACTION: Preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA).


SUMMARY: The MMS is beginning preparation of an EA for proposed Lease 
Sale 177 (scheduled for August 2000) in the Western Gulf of Mexico 
Planning Area. In January 1997, MMS issued a Call for Information and 
Nominations/Notice of Intent (Call/NOI) to Prepare an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) for the four proposed Western Gulf of Mexico 
sales in the current 5-year leasing program. In 1998, MMS prepared a 
single EIS for all four sales. The multisale Final EIS, filed in May 
1998, included an analysis of a single, ``typical'' sale, and a 
cumulative analysis that included the effects of holding all four 
sales, as well as the cumulative effects of the long-term development 
of the planning area. The MMS stated in the EIS that an EA would be 
prepared for each lease sale after the first sale covered in the EIS 
(Sale 171).
    The preparation of this EA is the first step in the prelease 
decision process for Sale 177. The proposal and alternatives for Sale 
177 were identified by the Director of MMS in January 1997, following 
the Call/NOI and were analyzed in the Western Gulf multisale EIS, which 
is available from the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region's Public Information 
Office at 1-800-200-GULF. The proposed action analyzed in the multisale 
EIS was the offering of all available unleased acreage in the Western 
Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, with the following exceptions: Blocks A-
375 (East Flower Garden Bank) and A-983 (West Flower Garden Bank) in 
the High Island Area, East Addition, South Extension, designated as a 
national marine sanctuary; and Blocks 793, 799, and 816 in the Mustang 
Island Area, identified by the Navy as needed for testing equipment and 
for training mine warfare personnel. The proposal to be addressed in 
this EA has been revised to the following extent: two

[[Page 70284]]

additional blocks or portions of these blocks (High Island Area, East 
Addition, South Extension, Block A-401 and High Island, South Addition, 
Block A-513), which lie partially within the Flower Gardens National 
Marine Sanctuary, are deferred from the proposed action in light of the 
President's June 1998, withdrawal of all Marine Sanctuaries from oil 
and gas leasing. The proposed action includes existing regulations and 
proposed lease stipulations designed to reduce environmental risks. The 
EA will also analyze alternatives to exclude blocks near biologically 
sensitive topographic features, as well as the no action alternative. 
The MMS may also consider deferring blocks beyond the U.S. Exclusive 
Economic Zone, in the area referred to as the northern portion of the 
Western Gap, as talks between the United States and Mexico are 
currently underway regarding the establishment of a continental shelf 
boundary in this area. The analysis in the EA will reexamine the 
potential environmental effects of the proposal and alternatives based 
on any new information regarding potential impacts and issues that were 
not available at the time the Final EIS was prepared.
    The MMS requests interested parties to submit comments regarding 
any such new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA 
to MMS, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, Office of Leasing and Environment, 
Attention: Regional Supervisor (MS 5400), 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, 
New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394 by January 18, 2000. After completion 
of the EA, MMS will determine whether to prepare a Finding of No New 
Significant Impact (FONNSI) or a supplemental EIS. The MMS will then 
prepare and send consistency determinations to the affected States to 
determine whether the proposed sale is consistent with federally-
approved State coastal zone management programs, and will send a 
proposed Notice of Sale to the Governors for their comments on the 
size, timing, and location of the proposed sale. The tentative schedule 
for the steps in the prelease decision process for Sale 177 are listed 
    Comments due to MMS, January 18, 2000; EA/FONNSI or Supplemental 
EIS, March 2000; Proposed Notice of Sale sent to Governors, March 2000; 
Consistency Determinations sent to States, March 2000; Final Notice of 
sale in Federal Register, July 2000; Sale, August 2000.
    If you wish to comment, you may mail or hand-carry written comments 
to the Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, 
Regional Director (MS-5410), Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood 
Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394. Our practice is to 
make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, 
available for public review during regular business hours. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their home address from the 
rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law.
    There may be circumstances in which we would withhold from the 
rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by the law. If 
you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Minerals Management Service, Gulf of 
Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 
70123-2394, Mr. George Hampton, telephone (504) 736-2465.

    Dated: December 13, 1999.
Carolita U. Kallaur,
Associate Director for Offshore Minerals Management.
[FR Doc. 99-32597 Filed 12-15-99; 8:45 am]