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BOEM releases for comment draft EIS on G&G survey activities to develop energy resources in Mid- and South Atlantic

The US Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has released for public comment the draft Atlantic Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Activities Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The PEIS describes and evaluates the potential environmental impacts of G&G survey activities in Federal waters of the Mid- and South Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and adjacent State waters for three program areas (oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine minerals) during the 2012-2020 time period.

The Programmatic EIS evaluates impacts to Atlantic resources that could occur as a result of G&G activities and identifies mitigation and monitoring measures to avoid, reduce, or minimize impacts.

A variety of G&G techniques are used to characterize the shallow and deep structure of the shelf, slope, and deepwater ocean environments. Geological and geophysical surveys are conducted to (1) obtain data for hydrocarbon exploration and production; (2) aid in siting renewable energy structures; (3) locate potential sand and gravel resources; (4) identify possible seafloor or shallow depth geologic hazards; and (5)locate potential archaeological resources and potential hard bottom habitats for avoidance.

The selection of a specific technique or suite of techniques is driven by data needs and the target of interest. The following types of G&G activities are included in this Programmatic EIS:

  • various types of deep penetration seismic airgun surveys used almost exclusively for oil and gas exploration and development;

  • other types of surveys and sampling activities used only in support of oil and gas exploration and development, including electromagnetic surveys, deep stratigraphic and shallow test drilling, and various remote sensing methods;

  • high-resolution geophysical (HRG) surveys used in all three program areas to detect geohazards, archaeological resources, and certain types of benthic communities; and

  • geological and geotechnical bottom sampling used in all three program areas to assess the suitability of seafloor sediments for supporting structures (e.g., platforms, pipelines, cables, wind turbines) or to evaluate the quantity and quality of sand for beach nourishment projects.

This milestone advances BOEM’s regionally-tailored approach to Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration and development, consistent with the Proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (earlier post), which stresses the importance of better understanding resource potential in the Mid- and South Atlantic. The draft PEIS assesses proposed geological and geophysical (G&G) activities, including seismic and other offshore surveys, in the Mid- and South-Atlantic planning areas.

BOEM also uses G&G information to fulfill its statutory responsibilities to oversee the safety of offshore operations, support environmental impact analyses and protect the environment, ensure receipt of fair market value for leased federal lands, and conserve oil and gas resources.

Public meetings to receive comments are scheduled in Jacksonville, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C; Norfolk, Va; Wilmington, N.C.; Annapolis, Md.; Wilmington, Del; and Atlantic City, N.J., to allow the public to comment on the draft PEIS and assist BOEM in developing the final PEIS.

Resources

  • Atlantic Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Activities Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS)

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