[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 224 (Wednesday, November 22, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 55502-55503]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-25104]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

[Docket No. 160413330-6330-01]
RIN 0648-BF99


Delay of Discharge Requirements for U.S. Coast Guard Activities 
in Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries

AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean 
Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce (DOC).

ACTION: Final rule; notification of delay of effectiveness for 
discharge requirements with regard to U.S. Coast Guard activities.

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SUMMARY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 
expanded the boundaries of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine 
Sanctuary (now renamed Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary or 
GFNMS) and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) to an area 
north and west of their previous boundaries with a final rule published 
on March 12, 2015. The final rule entered into effect on June 9, 2015. 
At that time, NOAA postponed, with regard to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) 
activities, the effectiveness of the discharge requirements for six 
months in the regulations for both sanctuaries in the newly added 
areas. Since then, NOAA published four documents to extend the 
postponement of the discharge requirements to provide adequate time for 
completion of an environmental assessment, and subsequent rulemaking 
regarding USCG activities, as appropriate. The current extension would 
end on December 9, 2017. This document, published concurrently with a 
proposed rule to address discharges by the USCG and an environmental 
assessment, will extend the postponement of the discharge requirements 
for USCG activities in the expansion areas of GFNMS and CBNMS for one 
year beyond the end of the current extension to provide adequate time 
for completion, if appropriate, of a final environmental assessment and 
final rule. This extension will end on December 9, 2018, or 30 days 
after publication of a final rule, whichever comes first.

DATES: The effectiveness for the discharge requirements in both CBNMS 
and GFNMS expansion areas with regard to USCG activities is December 9, 
2018.

ADDRESSES: Copies of documents relating to the expansion, including the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), final management plans, 
and the final rule published on March 12, 2015, can be viewed or 
downloaded at https://farallones.noaa.gov/manage/expansion_cbgf.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Brown, Greater Farallones 
National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent, at Maria.Brown@noaa.gov or 
415-561-6622.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    On March 12, 2015, NOAA expanded the boundaries of Gulf of the 
Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (now renamed Greater Farallones 
National Marine Sanctuary or GFNMS) and Cordell Bank National Marine 
Sanctuary (CBNMS) to an area north and west of their previous 
boundaries with a final rule (80 FR 13078). The final rule entered into 
effect on June 9, 2015 (80 FR 34047). In the course of the rulemaking 
to expand GFNMS and

[[Page 55503]]

CBNMS, NOAA learned from U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that the discharge 
regulations had the potential to impair the operations of USCG vessels 
and aircraft conducting law enforcement and on-water training exercises 
in GFNMS and CBNMS expansion areas. The USCG supports national marine 
sanctuary management by providing routine surveillance and dedicated 
law enforcement of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) and 
sanctuary regulations. To ensure that the March 12, 2015, rule did not 
undermine USCG's ability to perform its duties, at that time, NOAA 
postponed the effectiveness of the discharge requirements in both 
sanctuaries' regulations with regard to USCG activities in the 
expansion areas for six months. Four additional six-month postponements 
of the effectiveness of the discharge requirements were published in 
the Federal Register on December 1, 2015 (80 FR 74985), May 31, 2016 
(81 FR 34268), December 6, 2016 (81 FR 87803), and June 7, 2017 (82 FR 
26339) to provide adequate time for completion of an environmental 
assessment and to determine NOAA's next steps. Without further NOAA 
action, the discharge regulations will become effective, with regard to 
USCG activities, on December 9, 2017.
    However, NOAA is currently considering whether, among other things, 
to exempt certain USCG activities in sanctuary regulations and is 
concurrently publishing a proposed rule and draft environmental 
analysis to seek comment on the potential exemption. NOAA is therefore 
postponing the effectiveness of the discharge requirements in the 
expansion areas of both sanctuaries with regard to USCG activities for 
one year until December 9, 2018, or 30 days after publication of a 
final rule, whichever comes first, to provide adequate time for 
completion of a final environmental assessment and final rule, as 
appropriate. The proposed rule and related environmental analysis 
associated with this action will give the public, other federal 
agencies, and interested stakeholders an opportunity to comment on 
various alternatives that are being considered.

II. Classification

A. National Environmental Policy Act

    NOAA previously conducted an environmental analysis under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as part of the rulemaking 
process leading to the expansion of CBNMS and GFNMS, which addressed 
regulations regarding the discharge of any matter or material in the 
sanctuaries. Potential environmental impacts of the decision to 
postpone effectiveness are sufficiently encompassed within the impacts 
analysis of the environmental baseline and the no action alternative 
presented in that analysis. Should NOAA decide to amend the regulations 
governing discharges for USGS activities in CBNMS and GFNMS, any 
additional environmental analysis required under NEPA would be prepared 
and released for public comment.

B. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Impact

    This action has been determined to be not significant under 
Executive Order 12866.

C. Executive Order 13771: Regulatory Reform

    This action is not expected to be an Executive Order 13771 
regulatory action because this action is not significant under 
Executive Order 12866.

D. Administrative Procedure Act

    The Assistant Administrator of National Ocean Service (NOS) finds 
good cause pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive the notice and 
comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because 
this action is administrative in nature. This action postpones the 
effectiveness of the discharge requirements in the regulations for 
CBNMS and GFNMS in the areas added to the sanctuaries' boundaries in 
2015, that underwent notice and comment review, with regard to USCG 
activities for one year to provide adequate time for public scoping, 
completion of an environmental assessment, and concurrent rulemaking on 
how to address the USCG activities, as appropriate. The substance of 
the underlying regulations currently remains unchanged. Therefore, 
providing notice and opportunity for public comment under the APA would 
serve no useful purpose. For the reasons above, the Assistant 
Administrator also finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 
30-day delay in effectiveness and make this action effective 
immediately upon publication.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.

    Dated: November 14, 2017.
Nicole R. LeBoeuf,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone 
Management, National Ocean Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-25104 Filed 11-21-17; 8:45 am]
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