[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 20 (Tuesday, January 31, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4813-4815]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-2031]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-9624-7]


Proposed Reissuance of the NPDES General Permits for Oil and Gas 
Exploration Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf and Contiguous 
State Waters in the Beaufort Sea and on the Outer Continental Shelf in 
the Chukchi Sea

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of proposed reissuance of general permits.

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SUMMARY: EPA Region 10 proposes to reissue the National Pollutant 
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permits for Oil and Gas 
Exploration Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf and Contiguous 
State Waters in the Beaufort Sea (Permit No. AKG-28-2100) and on the 
Outer Continental Shelf in the Chukchi Sea (Permit No. AKG-28-8100). As 
proposed, the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits would authorize 
thirteen types of discharges from facilities engaged in field 
exploration and drilling activities under the Offshore Subcategory of 
the Oil and Gas Extraction Point Source Category (40 CFR Part 425, 
Subpart A), as authorized by Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA or 
``the Act''), 33 U.S.C. 1342. State Certification of Beaufort General 
Permit: Section 401 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. 1341, requires EPA to seek a 
certification from the State of Alaska that the conditions of the 
Beaufort general permit are stringent enough to comply with State water 
quality standards. EPA obtained a draft certification from the Alaska 
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on January 10, 2012. EPA 
intends to seek a final certification from DEC prior to issuing the 
final Beaufort general permit. When the State issues a final 
certification, it may impose more stringent conditions than what is 
proposed in the Beaufort general permit to ensure compliance with State 
water quality standards. EPA would then be required to include the more 
stringent conditions from the State certification in the permit 
pursuant to Section 401(d) of the Act, 33 U.S.C. 1341(d). This is also 
notice of the draft CWA Section 401 certification provided by the State 
of Alaska.

DATES: Comments. The public comment period for the draft Beaufort and 
Chukchi general permits will be from the date of publication of this 
Notice until March 30, 2012. Comments must be received or post-marked 
by no later than midnight Pacific Standard Time on March 30, 2012.
    Public Hearings. EPA will hold public hearings on March 13, 2012, 
in Barrow, Alaska, at the Inupiat Heritage Center, and March 15, 2012, 
in Anchorage, Alaska, at the Z. J. Loussac Library. Both hearings will 
begin at 6 p.m. and will continue until all testimony is heard or 10 
p.m., whichever is earlier. Additionally, EPA will hold two hearings 
via teleconferences on March 16, 2012, at the following times: 10 a.m.-
1 p.m., and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Alaska Standard Time. See SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for additional information.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods. EPA 
will consider all comments received during the public comment period 
prior to making its final decision.
    Mail: Send paper copies to Hanh Shaw, Office of Water and 
Watersheds, Mail Stop OWW-130, 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 
98101-3140.
    Email: Send electronic copies to [email protected].
    Fax: Fax copies to the attention of Hanh Shaw at (206) 553-0165.
    Hand Delivery/Courier: Deliver copies to Hanh Shaw, Office of Water 
and Watersheds, Mail Stop OWW-130, 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, 
WA 98101-3140. Call (206) 553-1200 before delivery to verify business 
hours.
    Viewing and/or Obtaining Copies of Documents. A copy of the draft 
Beaufort and Chukchi general permits, the fact sheet that fully 
explains the proposal, and a copy of the State's draft certification 
for the Beaufort general permit, may be obtained by contacting EPA at 1 
(800) 424-4372. Copies of the documents are also available for viewing 
and downloading at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/npdes+permits/arctic-gp See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for other 
document viewing locations.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Hanh Shaw, Office of Water and 
Watersheds, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Mail Stop 
OWW-130, 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101-3140, (206) 553-
0171, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The currently expired Arctic NPDES General 
Permit, No. AKG-28-0000 (Arctic GP),

[[Page 4814]]

was issued by EPA on June 26, 2006. The Arctic GP expired on June 26, 
2011 (71 FR 30405). EPA proposes to replace the Arctic GP with two 
general permits, the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits, renumbered 
as AKG-28-2100 and AKG-28-8100, respectively. The Arctic GP will remain 
in effect for those operators that obtained authorization to discharge 
before the permit expired. Those operators must apply for and obtain 
coverage under the applicable Beaufort or Chukchi general permit when 
it is reissued. EPA proposes to make the following major changes to the 
reissued permits:
    (1) Remove the Hope and Norton Basins from the areas of coverage 
since they are not on the Bureau of Energy Management's (BOEM) current 
2012-2017 leasing plan.
    (2) Eliminate the authorization to discharge non-aqueous drilling 
fluids and associated drill cuttings (i.e., only discharges of water-
based drilling fluids and cuttings are authorized);
    (3) Eliminate the authorization to discharge test fluids;
    (4) Expand the Notice of Intent (NOI) requirements;
    (5) Expand the scope of the environmental monitoring program (EMP) 
and require it to be implemented at every drilling site for four phases 
of exploration activity;
    (6) Impose additional EMP requirements if water-based drilling 
fluids and drill cuttings are authorized to be discharged by EPA;
    (7) Increase the chemical additive inventory and reporting 
requirement for all discharges, including limitations on chemical 
additive concentrations;
    (8) Prohibit all discharges to waters that are 5-meters deep or 
less;
    (9) Limit drilling to 5 wells per lease block, except upon the 
EPA's review and authorization for discharges from the additional 
wells;
    (10) Prohibit the discharge of water-based drilling fluids and 
drill cuttings during active bowhead whale hunts in the Beaufort Sea, 
unless EPA authorizes the discharge after review of the operator's 
evaluation of the feasibility of drilling facility storage capacity and 
land-based disposal alternatives;
    (11) Require an alternatives analysis before authorization is 
granted for discharge of water-based drilling fluids and drill 
cuttings, sanitary, and domestic wastes to stable ice in the Beaufort 
Sea area of coverage;
    (12) Require screening of certain waste streams for toxicity and 
conduct whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing if those waste streams 
exceed a volume discharge threshold and if chemicals are added to the 
system, or if an initial toxicity screen shows potential toxicity;
    (13) Include cooling water intake structure requirements; and
    (14) Include electronic Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) 
requirements.
    The Beaufort and Chukchi general permits contain conditions and 
limitations that conform to the Offshore Subcategory of the Oil and Gas 
Extraction Point Source Effluent Limitations Guidelines, as well as 
additional requirements that ensure the discharges will not cause 
unreasonable degradation of the marine environment, as required by 
section 403(c) of the Clean Water Act (i.e., the Ocean Discharge 
Evaluation Criteria), 33 U.S.C. 1343(c).
    Public Hearing Locations and Information. The locations, 
teleconference information, and general agenda for the hearings are:
    (1) March 13, 2012, Inupiat Heritage Center, 5421 North Star 
Street, Barrow, AK 99723; Teleconference number 1-(866) 299-3188, code 
2065536524; 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Open House; 6 p.m.- 7 p.m. Presentation; 7 
p.m.-10 p.m. Testimony.
    (2) March 15, 2012, Z.J. Loussac Library, 3600 Denali Street, 
Anchorage, AK 99503; 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Open House; 6 p.m.-7 p.m. 
Presentation; 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Testimony.
    (3) March 16, 2012; Teleconference number 1-(866) 299-3188, code 
2065536524; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m.
    Public Hearing Procedures. Public hearings will be conducted in 
accordance with 40 CFR 124.12 and will provide interested persons with 
the opportunity to give written and/or oral comments for the official 
record. The following procedures will be used at the public hearings:
    (1) The presiding officer shall conduct the hearing in a manner 
which will allow all interested persons wishing to make oral statements 
an opportunity to do so (however, the presiding officer may inform 
attendees of any time limits during the opening statement of the 
hearing);
    (2) Any person may submit written statements or documents for the 
hearing record;
    (3) The presiding officer may, in his or her discretion, exclude 
oral testimony if such testimony is overly repetitious of previous 
testimony or is not relevant to the Beaufort and Chukchi general 
permits;
    (4) The transcripts of the hearings, together with copies of all 
submitted statements and documents, shall become a part of the record 
submitted to the Director of the Office of Water and Watersheds;
    (5) The hearing record shall be left open until the deadline for 
receipt of comments, specified at the beginning of this Notice, to 
allow any person enough time to submit additional written statements or 
to present views or evidence tending to rebut or support testimony 
presented at the public hearing;
    (6) Hearing statements may be provided orally or in written format. 
Commenters providing oral testimony are encouraged to provide written 
statements to ensure accuracy of the record and for use of EPA and 
other interested persons. Persons wishing to make oral testimony 
supporting their written comments are encouraged to give a summary of 
their points rather than reading lengthy written comments verbatim into 
the record.
    All comments related to the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits 
received by EPA Region 10 by the deadline for receipt of comments, or 
presented at the public hearing, will be considered by EPA before 
taking final action on the general permits.
    Document Viewing Locations. The documents may also be viewed at the 
following locations:
    (1) EPA Region 10 Library, Park Place Building, 1200 6th Avenue, 
Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101; (206) 553-1289.
    (2) EPA Region 10, Alaska Operations Office, 222 W 7th Avenue, 
19, Room 537, Anchorage, AK 99513; (907) 271-5083.
    (3) DEC Anchorage office, 555 Cordova Street, Anchorage, AK 99501; 
(907) 269-7235.
    (4) Z.J. Loussac Public Library, 3600 Denali Street, Anchorage, AK 
99503; (907) 343-2975.
    (5) North Slope Borough School District Library/Media Center, Pouch 
169, 829 Aivak Street, Barrow, AK 99723; (907) 852-5311.
    EPA's current administrative records for the proposal are available 
for review at the EPA Region 10 Office, Park Place Building, 1200 6th 
Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday 
through Friday. Contact Hanh Shaw at [email protected] or (206) 553-
0171.
    Oil Spill Requirements. Section 311 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. 1321, 
prohibits the discharge of oil and hazardous materials in harmful 
quantities. Discharges authorized under the Beaufort and Chukchi 
general permits are excluded from the provisions of CWA Section 311, 33 
U.S.C. 1321. However, the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits will not 
preclude the institution of legal action, or relieve the permittees 
from

[[Page 4815]]

any responsibilities, liabilities, or penalties for other unauthorized 
discharges of oil and hazardous materials, which are covered by Section 
311.
    Endangered Species Act. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, requires federal agencies to consult with 
the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS) if their actions have the potential to either 
beneficially or adversely affect any threatened or endangered species. 
EPA has determined that the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits are 
not likely to adversely affect any threatened or endangered species. 
EPA has initiated consultation with NMFS and USFWS to meet its 
obligations under the ESA. Biological Evaluations (BE) and the fact 
sheet for the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits were submitted to 
NMFS and USFWS for review and concurrence during the public comment 
period. EPA will obtain a determination from NMFS and USFWS before 
reissuing the final permits.
    Essential Fish Habitat. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act requires EPA to consult with NMFS when a proposed 
discharge has the potential to adversely affect an Essential Fish 
Habitat (EFH). EPA is consulting with NMFS to ensure that the 
discharges authorized by the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits are 
not likely to adversely affect an EFH or associated species.
    Coastal Zone Management Act. As of July 1, 2011, there is no longer 
a Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) program in Alaska. Consequently, 
federal agencies are no longer required to provide the State of Alaska 
with CZMA consistency determinations.
    Annex V of MARPOL (73/78 and 33 CFR 155.73). Under Annex V of 
MARPOL, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has issued final regulations under 
33 CFR 151.73 to control the disposal of garbage and domestic wastes 
from fixed or floating drilling facilities involved in the exploration 
of oil and gas resources. These regulations also apply to drilling 
facilities located in navigable waters of the U.S. or within the 200 
mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The Beaufort and Chukchi general permits 
prohibit the discharge of garbage.
    Executive Order 12866. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
exempts this action from the review requirements of Executive Order 
12866 pursuant to Section 6 of that order.
    Paperwork Reduction Act. EPA has reviewed the requirements imposed 
on regulated facilities in the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits and 
find them consistent with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.
    Regulatory Flexibility Act. Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., a federal agency must prepare an initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis ``for any proposed rule'' for which the 
agency ``is required by section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act 
(APA), or any other law, to publish general notice of proposed 
rulemaking.'' The RFA exempts from this requirement any rule that the 
issuing agency certifies ``will not, if promulgated, have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.'' EPA has 
concluded that NPDES general permits are permits, not rulemakings, 
under the APA and thus not subject to APA rulemaking requirements or 
the FRA. Notwithstanding that general permits are not subject to the 
RFA, EPA has determined that the Beaufort and Chukchi general permits 
will not have significant impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. This determination is based on the fact that the regulated 
companies are not classified as small businesses under the Small 
Business Administration regulations established at 49 FR 5023 et seq. 
(February 9, 1984). These facilities are classified as Major Group 13--
Oil as Gas Extraction SIC 1311 Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas.

    Authority: This action is taken under the authority of Section 
402 of the Clean Water Act as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1342. I hereby 
provide public notice of the draft Beaufort and Chukchi general 
permit in accordance with 40 CFR 124.10.

    Dated: January 23, 2012.
Michael A. Bussell,
Director, Office of Water and Watersheds, Region 10.
[FR Doc. 2012-2031 Filed 1-30-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6560-50-P