[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 63 (Friday, April 2, 2010)]
[Pages 16830-16833]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-7581]

[[Page 16830]]



Minerals Management Service

Geological and Geophysical Exploration (G&G) on the Mid- and 
South Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service, Interior.

ACTION: Reopening of Comment Period and Notice of Public Scoping 
Meetings for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for 
Future Industry G&G Activity on the Mid- and South Atlantic OCS.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the regulations implementing the procedural 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. (1988)) (NEPA), MMS will reopen the comment 
period for a period of 45 days from the date of this Federal Register 
notice. Public scoping meetings will be held during this 45-day period 
to solicit information that will be used to prepare a PEIS to evaluate 
potential environmental effects of multiple G&G activities on the 
Atlantic OCS. These activities are associated with Atlantic OCS siting 
for renewable energy projects, oil and gas exploration, and marine 
minerals extraction; these activities could take place over a period of 
several years. The purpose of the scoping meetings will be to receive 
comments on the scope of the PEIS, identify significant resources and 
issues to be analyzed in the PEIS, and identify possible alternatives 
to the proposed action.

DATES: Comments should be submitted no later than May 17, 2010. The MMS 
estimates completion of the PEIS by mid-2012.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted in one of the following two ways:
     In written form enclosed in an envelope labeled ``Comments 
on the PEIS Scope'' and mailed (or hand carried) to the Regional 
Supervisor, Leasing and Environment (MS 5410), Minerals Management 
Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New 
Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394; or
     Electronically to the MMS e-mail address: [email protected].
    For further information regarding the Atlantic OCS G&G PEIS, please 
visit our Web site at http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/offshore/atlocs/gandg.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the public scoping 
meetings, the submission of comments, or MMS's policies associated with 
this notice, please contact Mr. Gary Goeke, Section Chief, 
Environmental Assessment Section, Leasing and Environment (MS 5410), 
Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood 
Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394, telephone (504) 736-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: An initial comment period was commenced by 
the Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the PEIS, which was published in 
the Federal Register on January 21, 2009, (74 FR 3636). The comment 
period on the earlier NOI closed on March 23, 2009. MMS did not move 
forward on the PEIS at that time. Comments made during this 2009 
scoping period will still be considered and need not be resubmitted.
    The Atlantic OCS area that will be analyzed within the Mid- and 
South Atlantic G&G PEIS is illustrated in Figure 1 as the Mid-Atlantic 
Planning Area and the South Atlantic Planning Area.

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    Statements, both oral and written, will be received at the venues 
listed below. All persons wishing to speak will have an opportunity to 
do so. Time limits may be set on speakers to allow time for all 
speakers to participate.
    The following public scoping meetings are planned for the PEIS:
     April 20, 2010--Marriott Houston Intercontinental Hotel, 
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 18700 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 
Houston, Texas 77032; one meeting beginning at 1 p.m. CST;
     April 21, 2010--Jacksonville Marriott, 4760 Salisbury 
Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32256; two meetings, the first beginning at 
1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST;
     April 23, 2010--Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm Street, 
Savannah, Georgia 31401; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. 
EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST;
     April 27, 2010--Sheraton Newark Airport Hotel, 128 
Frontage Road, Newark, New Jersey 07114; two meetings, the first 
beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST;
     April 27, 2010--Embassy Suites North Charleston, 5055 
International Boulevard, North Charleston, South Carolina 29418; two 
meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 
7 p.m. EST;
     April 29, 2010--Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 North 
Water Street, Wilmington, North Carolina 28401; two meetings, the first 
beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST; and
     April 29, 2010--Hilton Norfolk Airport, 1500 N. Military 
Highway, Norfolk, Virginia 23502; two meetings, the first beginning at 
1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST.
    Through the scoping process, Federal, State, and local government 
agencies and other interested parties have the opportunity to help MMS 
determine the significant resources, issues, and alternatives for 
analysis in the PEIS. Comments received in response to this notice and 
at the public scoping meetings will assist MMS in developing the 
content and scope of the PEIS. This early planning and consultation 
step is important to ensure that all interests and concerns are 
communicated to MMS as it develops this PEIS and ultimately for future 
decisions regarding G&G operations under MMS regulatory authority. It 
is envisioned that this PEIS would cover G&G activity for renewable 
energy projects, minerals extraction, and oil and gas activities for 
any Atlantic OCS applications within the area analyzed within the PEIS 
that are received within the foreseeable future. Possible alternatives 
for analysis may represent a range of levels of activities from 
unrestricted to no seismic and could address the following, although 
this list is not exhaustive:

Levels of Activity

    Number, scale/size, location, and duration of seismic activities;
    Number, scale/size, location, and duration of associated support 
activities (vessel, aircraft, shore); and
    The degree to which those activities can overlap in space and time.


    Exclusion zones based on received levels of sounds;
    Exclusion zones based on presence of specific biological factors in 
combination with received levels of sound; and
    Limitations on certain combinations of activities in specific 
temporal/spatial circumstances. The MMS invites other Federal agencies 
and State, Tribal, and local governments to consider becoming 
cooperating agencies in the preparation of the PEIS. Following the 
guidelines from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), 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 and note that an agency's role in the environmental 
analysis neither enlarges nor diminishes the final decisionmaking 
authority of any other agency involved in the NEPA process. Upon 
request, MMS will provide potential 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 the 
availability of pre-decisional information. The MMS anticipates this 
summary will form the basis for a Memorandum of Agreement between MMS 
and each cooperating agency. Agencies should also consider the 
``Factors for Determining Cooperating Agency Status'' in Attachment 1 
to CEQ's January 30, 2002, Memorandum for the Heads of Federal 
Agencies: Cooperating Agencies in Implementing the Procedural 
Requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. A copy of this 
document is available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagenciesmemorandum.html and http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagencymemofactors.html.
    The MMS, as the lead agency, will not provide financial assistance 
to cooperating agencies. Even if an organization is not an official 
cooperating agency, opportunities exist to provide information and 
comments to MMS during the normal public input phases of the NEPA/PEIS 
process. If further information about cooperating agencies is needed, 
please contact Mr. Gary Goeke at (504) 736-3233.

    Authority: The MMS has the authority under the Outer Continental 
Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA, as amended; 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356, (2007)) and 
its implementing regulations at 30 CFR 251 to issue prelease permits 
for the collection of G&G data. These regulations discuss the types 
of G&G activities that require a permit, the instructions for filing 
a permit, and the obligations and rights under a permit. This notice 
is published pursuant to the regulations (40 CFR 1501.7) 
implementing the provisions of NEPA.
    Background: Scoping is the initial step in the NEPA process. The 
MMS plans to fully comply with all pertinent laws, rules, and 
regulations and will allow the public an adequate opportunity to 
participate in the NEPA process, including scoping meetings and public 
comment periods.
    The PEIS will evaluate environmental impacts of G&G activities in 
the area analyzed by the PEIS on the Mid- and South Atlantic OCS 
subject to MMS regulatory authority that may be proposed over several 
years. MMS has decided at this time not to move forward with scoping 
and a PEIS for the Northern Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning 
areas. In addition, the PEIS would serve as a reference document to 
implement the ``tiering'' objective detailed in NEPA's implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1502.20), allowing that future site-specific 
environmental assessments (SEA's) may reference appropriate sections of 
this PEIS to reduce reiteration of issues and effects, allowing 
analyses to focus on specific issues and effects related to a 
particular G&G activity. The proposed G&G activities include, but are 
not limited to, seismic surveys, sidescan-sonar surveys, 
electromagnetic surveys, geological and geochemical sampling, and 
remote sensing. These activities could support siting needs for 
renewable energy projects, oil and gas operations, and research for 
sand deposits. The MMS, to date, has received approximately 11 proposed 
applications for various types of G&G activity on the Atlantic OCS. 
Information on the details of these proposals and their scope can be 
found at http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/offshore/atlocs/gandg.html. The 

[[Page 16833]]

will be completed prior to authorizing any new, large-scale G&G 
activities on the Atlantic OCS. In the interim, MMS may still consider 
small-scale, limited permit requests, but only if a NEPA environmental 
assessment is conducted and finds there is no potential for significant 
impacts from that specific proposed activity or that the cumulative 
nature of a collection of smaller, limited surveys would not result in 
significant impacts under NEPA.
    More information on G&G activities can be found on pages 13-15 of 
MMS's Leasing Oil and Natural Gas Resources: Outer Continental Shelf 
(see http://www.mms.gov/ld/PDFs/GreenBook-LeasingDocument.pdf) and 
MMS's Geological and Geophysical Exploration for Mineral Resources on 
the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf: Final Programmatic 
Environmental Assessment (see http://www.gomr.mms.gov/PDFs/2004/2004-054.pdf).
    Comments: In lieu of participation in the scoping meetings listed 
above, all interested parties, including Federal, State, and local 
government agencies and the general public, may submit written comments 
on the scope of the PEIS, significant issues that should be addressed, 
alternatives that should be considered, and the types of G&G activities 
and geographical areas of interest on the Mid- and South Atlantic OCS. 
Comments made during the initial 2009 scoping period will still be 
considered and need not be resubmitted.

    Dated: March 30, 2010.
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum,
Director, Minerals Management Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-7581 Filed 4-1-10; 8:45 am]