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Soundings Archive

NMFS Preparing New EIS for Oil and Gas Operations in the Cukchi and Beaufort
On February 8, 2010, the U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service published notice in the Federal Register of NMFS' intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for oil and gas activities in waters off the coast of Alaska. This EIS will analyze the environmental impacts of issuing Incidental Take Authorizations pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to the oil and gas industry. The ITAs are for the taking of marine mammals incidental to offshore exploration activities (e.g., seismic surveys and exploratory drilling) in Federal and state waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska.

All comments, written statements, and questions regarding the scoping process and preparation of the EIS must be received by NMFS no later than April 9, 2010.

On April 6, 2007, NMFS and MMS published a Notice of Availability for a Draft Programmatic EIS and a schedule of public hearings (72 FR 17117) to assess the impacts of the U.S. Minerals Management Service's issuance of permits and authorizations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act for the oil and gas industry's conduct of seismic surveys in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This DPEIS also assesses the impacts of NMFS' authorizations under the MMPA to incidentally harass marine mammals while oil and gas companies conduct those surveys. According to NMFS' February 8th notice:

    "new information (e.g., scientific study results, changes in projections of level of activity) has become available that alters the scope, range of possible alternatives, and analyses in the DPEIS. Therefore, MMS and NMFS filed a Notice of Withdrawal of the DPEIS on October 28, 2009 (74 FR 55539) and announced our decision to begin a new NEPA process."
Also according to NMFS' February 8th notice:
    "this EIS would:

    (1) Assess the environmental impacts to the physical, biological, cultural, economic, and social resources from deep-penetration, two- dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) streamer and ocean bottom cable surveys (hereafter referred to as seismic surveys) and shallow hazard and site clearance surveys;

    (2) Assess the environmental impacts to the physical, biological, cultural, economic, and social resources from open water offshore exploratory drilling operations during the open water season in order for the industry to drill priority exploration drill sites on MMS OCS leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Also, as part of this EIS, NMFS will analyze the effects of obtaining geotechnical data for pre- feasibility analyses of shallow sub-sea sediments as part of its proposed exploratory drilling operations; and

    (3) Assess whether alternatives developed would allow for the implementation of a long-term planning process pursuant to section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA through the development and implementation of regulations that would be in place for 5 year time periods."
  • Click here to read NMFS' Federal Register notice

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