Review of MMS NEPA Procedures for OCS Oil and Gas Exploration and Development
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a report on August 16, 2010, regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures for environmental reviews by the former Minerals Management Service (MMS), the bureau in the Department of the Interior (DOI) that managed the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). CEQ conducted the review of MMS's NEPA procedures following the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well and drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
The report found that MMS conducted numerous levels of extensive environmental reviews, relying upon the "tiering" process in which prior reviews should be incorporated into subsequent, site-specific analyses. When relying on tiering under NEPA, agencies must ensure that the environmental impacts are sufficiently evaluated and disclosed.
In the report, CEQ offers several recommendations, which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), has committed to using as guideposts as it continues its reform and reorganization activities. The recommendations are intended to promote more robust and transparent implementation of NEPA practices, procedures and policies.
In line with CEQ's effort to engage the public in the NEPA process and the President's Open Government Initiative, a notice of this review was posted in the Federal Register and CEQ solicited public comment on the review process undertaken by CEQ as well as on current MMS NEPA procedures regarding OCS oil and gas exploration and development.