[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 220 (Thursday, November 13, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67201-67206]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-26995]



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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Minerals Management Service


Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, Mid-
Atlantic Proposed Oil and Gas Lease Sale 220

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service (MMS), Interior.

ACTION: Call for Information and Interest/Nominations (Call) and Notice 
of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

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SUMMARY: This Call for Information and Interest/Nominations 
(hereinafter referred to as ``Call'') and the NOI are the initial 
information-gathering steps in a process that incorporates planning and 
analysis for proposed OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 220 in the Mid-
Atlantic Planning Area in the area offshore the Commonwealth of 
Virginia. The program area is that subarea of the Mid-Atlantic Planning 
Area offshore Virginia, identified in the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing 
Program, 2007-2012, that may be offered in proposed Sale 220. Readers 
are cautioned that this announcement is not a commitment to hold a 
lease sale but rather a continuation of the information-gathering and 
evaluation process.
    Simultaneously with this Call, the MMS is giving notice of its 
intent to prepare an EIS for Sale 220 in the Mid-Atlantic Planning 
Area, scheduled for 2011. The EIS analysis will focus on the potential 
environmental effects of oil and gas exploration, development, and 
production in the proposed sale area and its vicinity. This NOI also 
serves to announce the initiation of the scoping process for this EIS. 
The MMS will consider comments received in response to this NOI and 
Call in determining the proposed sale area and the scope of the EIS. 
The Department of the Interior (DOI) is also inviting other Federal, 
State, Tribal, and local governments to consider becoming cooperating 
agencies in the preparation of the EIS.

DATES: Comments on the Call must be received no later than December 29, 
2008. Submittals should be labeled ``Comments on the Call for 
Information and Interest/Nominations for Proposed Sale 220.'' Comments 
on the NOI also must be received no later than December 29, 2008. 
Submittals should be labeled ``Comments on the Notice of Intent for 
Proposed Sale 220.'' Scoping meetings to obtain additional comments and 
information regarding the scope of the EIS will be held in appropriate 
locations and will be announced in the Federal Register at a later 
date; an additional scoping comment period will be announced at that 
time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the Call, please 
contact Mr. Carrol Williams, Sales and Support Unit Supervisor, 
Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood 
Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394, telephone (504) 736-
2803. For information on the NOI, you may contact Mr. Gary Goeke, NEPA/
CZM Coordination Unit Supervisor, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of 
Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 
70123-2394, telephone (504) 736-3233.
    Supplementary Information on the Call: The final EIS will serve as 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis for the Mid-
Atlantic Planning Area Sale 220. The MMS will prepare additional 
Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) Consistency Determination (CD), and 
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) documents, as appropriate.
    The MMS is sponsoring a workshop on the environmental research 
needs in support of potential Virginia offshore oil and gas activities 
to be held Dec. 3-4, 2008, in Williamsburg, Virginia. The focus of the 
workshop will be on the existing scientific knowledge base along the 
Virginia Coast and the information gaps that need to be addressed 
should a lease sale for oil and gas activities be held offshore 
Virginia. Additionally, the following three new studies are being 
funded by the MMS: Oil and Gas Infrastructure in the Atlantic Region, 
Inventory and Analysis of Archaeological Site Occurrence on the 
Atlantic OCS, and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Model Calculations.

Call for Information and Interest/Nominations

    1. Authority: This Call is published pursuant to the OCSLA (43 
U.S.C. 1331-1356, as amended) and the regulations issued thereunder (30 
CFR part 256); and in accordance with the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing 
Program, 2007-2012.
    2. Purpose of Call: The purpose of the Call is to gather 
information for proposed OCS Lease Sale 220 in the Mid-Atlantic 
Planning Area offshore Virginia, tentatively scheduled in 2011.
    Information on oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development 
and production within the program area offshore Virginia are sought 
from all interested parties. This early planning and consultation step 
is important for ensuring that all interests and concerns are 
communicated to the DOI for its consideration in future decisions in 
the leasing process pursuant to the OCSLA and regulations at 30 CFR 
part 256. This Call/NOI is being issued in accordance with the OCS Oil 
and Gas Leasing Program, 2007-2012.
    This Call is to gather information and does not indicate a 
preliminary decision to lease in the area described below. Final 
decision and delineation of the area for possible leasing will be made 
at a later date and only if there is compliance with applicable laws 
including all requirements of the OCSLA and NEPA using established 
departmental procedures. The MMS is aware of Virginia's current Energy 
Policy, which states: ``* * * The policy of the Commonwealth shall 
further support the inclusion of the Atlantic Planning Areas in the 
Minerals Management Service's draft environmental impact statement with 
respect to natural gas exploration 50 miles or more off the Atlantic 
shoreline.'' The OCSLA does not include provisions that would allow 
gas-only leasing. The only potential avenue to allow for the 
exploration of gas resources is through the leasing process described 
in section 8 and section 19 of the OCSLA. This Call/NOI is the first 
step in the section 19 process.
    3. Description of Area: The area that is the subject of this Call 
is located in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area offshore Virginia. The 
``program area'' is that offshore Virginia subarea of the larger Mid-
Atlantic Planning Area identified in OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 
2007-2012. The ``program area'' extends offshore from about 50 statute 
miles to approximately 183 statute miles (or 159 nautical miles), in 
water depths from approximately 40 meters to 3,500 meters. This area 
consists of approximately 593 whole and partial blocks encompassing 
about 2.9 million acres. A page-size map of the program area considered 
for leasing accompanies this Call. Official Protraction Diagrams (OPDs) 
are available at no charge at the Web site: http://www.mms.gov/ld/atlantic.htm.
    4. Instructions on Call: Information must be received no later than 
45 days following publication of this Call in the Federal Register in 
envelopes labeled ``Comments on the Call for Information and Interest/
Nominations for Proposed Sale 220,'' submitted to the Minerals 
Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, Leasing Activities 
Section, (Attention: Mr. Carrol Williams), 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard 
(Mail Stop 5422), New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394. You may also 
submit comments on the Call via e-mail to [email protected]. You 
should include ``Comments on the Call for

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Proposed Sale 220'' in the subject line of your message.
    Please submit e-mail comments as an ASCII file avoiding the use of 
special characters and any form of encryption. Please also include your 
name and return address in your e-mail message.
    The Call for Information and Interest/Nominations Map delineates 
the Call area identified by MMS as having potential for the discovery 
of accumulations of oil and gas. Respondents are requested to indicate 
nominations of areas to be considered for leasing and comments on any 
or all of the Federal acreage within the boundaries of the Call area. 
Although individual nominations are considered privileged and 
proprietary information, the names of persons or entities indicating 
interest or submitting comments will be of public record.
    Nominations must be submitted using the large-scale Call for 
Information and Interest/Nominations Map located at: http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/lsesale/220/matl220.html by outlining the area 
of interest along block lines. Respondents should rank the portion of 
the area in which they have nominated according to priority of 
interest; for example, priority 1 (high), or 2 (medium). Blocks 
nominated that do not indicate priorities will be considered priority 3 
(low). Respondents must be specific in indicating blocks by priority, 
and be prepared to discuss with MMS their priority of interest 
regarding the nominated area. The telephone number and name of a person 
to contact in the nominator's organization for additional information 
should be included in the response. The Gulf of Mexico OCS Regional 
Office may contact this person to set up a mutually agreeable time and 
place for a meeting to more fully review the company's nominations. 
Respondents may also submit a detailed list of blocks nominated by 
Official Protraction Diagram and Leasing Map designations to ensure 
correct interpretation of their nominations.
    Comments are sought from all interested parties about particular 
environmental, biological, archaeological, socioeconomic, and 
geological (including natural hazard areas) conditions or potential 
conflicts, or other information that might bear upon the potential 
leasing, exploration, and development of the program area and vicinity. 
Comments are also sought on possible conflicts between future OCS oil 
and gas activities that may result from the proposed sale and the 
enforceable policies of an approved local district coastal management 
plan. These comments should identify specific policies of concern, the 
nature of the potential conflict foreseen, and steps that MMS could 
take to avoid or mitigate the potential conflict. Comments may be in 
terms of broad area or restricted to particular blocks or areas of 
concern. Those submitting comments are requested to list block numbers 
or outline the subject area on the standard Call for Information and 
Interest/Nominations Map.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and addresses of 
respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. 
Individual respondents may request that we withhold their address from 
the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by 
law. There also may be circumstances in which we would withhold a 
respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name 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.
    5. Use of Call Information: Information submitted in response to 
this Call will be used for several purposes. Responses will be used to:
     Identify the proposed sale area;
     Help identify areas of potential oil and gas development;
     Identify potential environmental effects and potential use 
conflicts;
     Assist in the scoping process for the EIS;
     Develop possible alternatives to the proposed action;
     Develop lease terms and conditions/mitigating measures; 
and
     Identify potential conflicts between oil and gas 
activities and coastal management plans.
    6. Tentative Schedule: The following is a list of tentative 
milestone dates that apply to Sale 220 covered by this Call:

Call/NOI published...........................  November 2008
Comments due on Call/NOI.....................  December 2008/January
                                                2009
Area Identification of the Area to be          early 2009
 Included in the EIS.
Notice of Scoping Meetings and Additional      Spring 2009
 Scoping Comment Period.
Draft EIS available..........................  2010
Public Hearings..............................  2010
Final EIS available..........................  2011
Consistency Determination/Proposed Notice of   2011
 Sale issued.
Governor's Comments due......................  2011
Final Notice of Sale published...............  2011
Sale held....................................  2011
 

Supplemental Information on Notice of Intent To Prepare an EIS

    1. Authority: The NOI is published pursuant to the regulations (40 
CFR 1501.7) implementing the provisions of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. (1988)) (NEPA).
    2. Purpose of Notice of Intent: Pursuant to the regulations (40 CFR 
1501.7) implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA, the MMS is 
announcing its intent to prepare an EIS for proposed oil and gas lease 
Sale 220 tentatively scheduled for 2011 in the Mid-Atlantic Planning 
Area offshore Virginia, no closer than 50 statute miles off the coast 
of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The proposed action is to offer for 
lease all of the blocks in this Mid-Atlantic Planning Area offshore 
Virginia. The EIS analysis will focus on the potential environmental 
effects on biological, physical, and socioeconomic environmental 
resources from oil and gas exploration, development, and production 
activities in the Mid-Atlantic OCS. This NOI also serves to announce 
the initiation of the scoping process for this EIS. Throughout the 
scoping process, Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments and 
other interested parties aid MMS in determining the significant issues, 
reasonable alternatives, and potential mitigating measures to be 
analyzed in the EIS and the possible need for additional information. 
Alternatives may include, at a minimum, the proposed action, taking no 
action, or implementing appropriate restrictions on oil and gas 
activities. These and any additional alternatives developed through 
scoping and the NEPA

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evaluation will be considered in the decision-making process.
    3. Instructions on the Notice of Intent: Federal, State, Tribal, 
and local governments and other interested parties are requested to 
provide comments related to the scope of the EIS, including significant 
issues that should be addressed, the types of biologic, physical or 
socioeconomic resources that should be considered, the types of 
activities that produce impacts, reasonable alternatives, potential 
mitigation measures, and other relevant information that is available 
and should be considered. You may mail comments to the Minerals 
Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region (Attention: Mr. Gary 
Goeke), 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123-2394. 
Comments should be enclosed in an envelope clearly labeled ``Comments 
on the NOI for Proposed Sale 220.'' You may also submit comments via e-
mail to [email protected]. Please include ``Attn: Proposed Sale 220 NOI'' 
in the subject line, and your name and return address in your scoping 
comment. If you do not receive an auto-confirmation from the system 
that we have received your e-mail message, please contact us at (504) 
736-3233. Lastly, you may hand-deliver comments to the address above. 
Comments are due no later than December 29, 2008.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and addresses of 
respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. 
Individual respondents may request that we withhold their address from 
the public record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. 
There may also be circumstances in which we would withhold a 
respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. 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. Scoping meetings to obtain additional comments and 
information regarding the scope of the EIS will be held in appropriate 
locations and will be announced at a later date. An additional comment 
period will be announced at that time.
    A Notice of Availability of the draft EIS for public review and 
comment will be announced in the Federal Register by the MMS and the 
Environmental Protection Agency; on the MMS, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region 
Web site; and, in the local media. Public hearings will be held in the 
local area following release of the draft EIS on dates and at locations 
to be determined.
    4. Cooperating Agencies: The DOI policy is to invite other Federal 
agencies, and State, Tribal, and local governments to consider becoming 
cooperating agencies in the preparation of an EIS. Under the Council of 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, qualified agencies and 
governments are those with ``jurisdiction by law or special 
expertise.'' Potential cooperating agencies should consider their 
authority and capacity to assume the responsibilities of a cooperating 
agency. Cooperating agency status neither enlarges nor diminishes the 
final decision-making authority of any agency involved in the NEPA 
process. The MMS invites qualified government entities to inquire about 
cooperating agency status for this lease sale EIS. Upon request, the 
MMS will provide qualified cooperating agencies with a written summary 
of ground rules for cooperating agencies, including time schedules and 
critical action dates, milestones, responsibilities, scope and detail 
of cooperating agencies' contributions, and handling of predecisional 
information. The MMS anticipates this summary will form the basis for a 
Memorandum of Understanding between the MMS and each cooperating 
agency. You should also consider the CEQ's ``Factors for Determining 
Cooperating Agency Status.'' This document is available on the CEQ Web 
site at: http://ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagencymemofactors.html.
    Even if your agency is not a cooperating agency you will continue 
to have opportunities to provide information and comments to MMS during 
the normal public input phases of the NEPA/EIS process.
    5. Background Information: The Mid-Atlantic Planning Area lies 
offshore the middle Atlantic States and extends from Delaware to North 
Carolina. The program area lies in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area 
offshore Virginia at the southern end of a basin in a geologic province 
called the Baltimore Trough. The area is believed to be gas-prone. The 
program area consists of 593 whole and partial OCS blocks encompassing 
approximately 2.9 million acres. Water depths in the program area range 
from 40 meters to 3,500 meters. The program area is pie-slice-shaped 
with the apex pointed to the east. It is everywhere greater than 50 
statute miles from the boundary between the Commonwealth of Virginia 
and Federal waters, and extends seaward to 183 statute miles.
    In spending bills since 1983, Congress has banned DOI expenditures 
in support of any petroleum leasing or development activities in the 
Atlantic planning areas. In June 1990 President George H.W. Bush 
reinforced the ban by issuing an executive order that more explicitly 
blocked Atlantic drilling for a period of 10 years. On June 12, 1998, 
President William J. Clinton withdrew these areas from leasing through 
June 30, 2012. On July 14, 2008, President George W. Bush announced a 
modification of the Presidential Withdrawal and on September 30, 2008, 
the Congress let expire the previous Department of the Interior 
Appropriations measures that had imposed an Atlantic drilling ban that 
lasted a total of 25 years.
    The last lease sale in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area was Sale 76 
held on April 26, 1983. In the period between 1976 and 1983 when lease 
sales were conducted in the Mid-Atlantic Area, including the offshore 
Virginia program area, a total of 32 exploration wells were drilled 
resulting in no commercial hydrocarbon discoveries. One OCS block was 
leased off of the Commonwealth of Virginia in this period but was never 
drilled. Based on the 2006 National Assessment, we estimate the mean 
Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Resources contained in the Sale 
220 area to be 130 million barrels of oil and 1,140 billion cubic feet 
of gas.
    The MMS has developed an overview of the leasing process titled 
Leasing Oil and Natural Gas Resources which can be found at the 
following link: http://www.mms.gov/ld/PDFs/GreenBook-LeasingDocument.pdf, or you may request a hard copy by contacting the 
MMS Leasing Division, at 703-787-1215.
    If the decision is made to conduct the sale and leases are 
acquired, a company would then need to submit an exploration plan (EP) 
to MMS proposing to drill wells on specific sites. Upon acquiring a 
lease, any lessee who wants to drill an exploration well must submit an 
extensive EP application containing an array of environmental, 
monitoring, and mitigation information that must demonstrate to MMS 
that the proposed EP activities ``do[es] not cause undue or serious 
harm or damage to the human, marine, or coastal environment. See 30 CFR 
250.202, 250.212-228. The MMS would review the EP to determine any 
potential impacts on the environment and ensure engineering safety. 
Affected States would also review the EP and determine its consistency 
with the

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State's coastal zone program. After all reviews, MMS would approve the 
EP, if acceptable. Other Federal agencies also review and issue permits 
for aspects of the activities. For example the Environmental Protection 
Agency issues the water discharge permits. Before any development or 
production activities can begin, a development plan must be submitted 
to MMS for review and approval. Again, the proposed development plan 
must contain a full array of environmental, monitoring, and mitigation 
information that must demonstrate to MMS that the proposed activities 
do not harm the environment. See 30 CFR 250.202, 250.241-262. Specific 
environmental, archaeological, and biological information must be 
submitted in support of the plans. The plans and supporting information 
are evaluated for seafloor or drilling hazards; air and water quality 
impacts; hydrocarbon resource conservation; appropriate mitigation of 
potential impacts; and compliance with NEPA, MMS operating regulations, 
and other requirements. Other Federal agencies and the designated 
coastal zone management agencies in Atlantic Coast states may take part 
in the review process.
BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN13NO08.038



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    Dated: November 6, 2008.
Randall B. Luthi,
Director, Minerals Management Service.
 [FR Doc. E8-26995 Filed 11-12-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-MR-C