Yesterday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in cooperation with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), and pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), released its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential environmental effects of proposed geological and geophysical (“G&G”) survey activities on the southern and mid-Atlantic US Outer Continental Shelf, a step toward allowing offshore oil and gas drilling in the area.

The statement examines G&G survey activities for three program areas, oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine minerals, for possible activity levels projected between 2012 and 2020 and identifies broadly applicable measures governing any such activities. The statement also considers potential impacts on different types of resources (such as marine mammals, fish, and cultural resources) and the cumulative effects from G&G and other human activities in these areas and establishes a framework for mandatory environmental reviews for site-specific actions. Potential surveys will be limited by protective mitigation measures and safeguards to reduce or eliminate potential impact to marine life, including requirements to avoid vessel strikes, physical separation of simultaneous seismic air gun surveys and passive acoustic monitoring to improve detection and thereby reduce potential harm to marine life prior to or during such surveys.

A copy of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is available here.