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THE LAW LIBRARY
JAN 2 2 1997
UNIV. OF VIRGINIA
Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas
Final Environmental Impact Statement
U.S. Department of the Interior
Area of Potential Impact: Offshore marine environment and coastal counties of Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Responsible Agency: U.S. Department of the Interior
Minerals Management Service
381 Elden Street Herndon, VA 20170-4817
This environmental impact statement analyzes the effects of the adoption of a schedule of lease sales indicating, as precisely as possible, the size, timing, and location of leasing activities, consistent with the requirements of Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Land Act, 43 U.S.C. $1344, for the period of mid-1997 through mid-2002. The proposed action is a plan to offer areas of the Federal OCS for lease for oil and natural gas exploration and development. This document analyzes the potential consequences of a five-year leasing program which would schedule 16 sales in 8 of the 26 OCS planning areas. Three alternatives which would modify this schedule of sales, and one alternative which would schedule no sales have also been analyzed.
Hypothetical scenarios were developed indicating the level of routine exploration and development activities and accidental events (such as oil spills) which might result if the plan is adopted and areas are actually leased and explored, and economically recoverable resources were discovered and produced. The impacts to the environmental resources represent the aggregation of all the potential changes which might result from these routine activities or accidental events.
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SCOPE OF THE ANALYSIS The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program describes the environmental impacts that could result from the sale of oil and natural gas leases on the OCS during the period from 1997 to 2002. The oil and gas resources produced as a result of this program would partially offset projected U.S. needs to import oil from foreign countries and would help to reduce the international trade deficit
. Monies received from lease bonuses, rents, and gas and oil production royalties are disbursed into the Federal treasury and into two special funds that were established to support land and water conservation and historic preservation activities.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (USDOI) proposes 16 lease sales in 8 of the OCS planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska during the period 1997 - 2002. No lease sales are proposed on the East or West Coast. A decision to adopt the program proposal is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development. Rather, the proposed program establishes a schedule that the USDOI will use as a basis for considering where and when leasing might be appropriate over a 5-year period.
Alternatives to the Proposal
Four alternatives to the proposal (Alternative 1) are evaluated in the EIS. Each alternative represents a variation of the proposal with respect to the size, timing, and location of possible future leasing proposals.
No Action (Alternative 2). Conduct no OCS lease sales during the period 1997-2002. The analysis for this alternative considers how OCS oil and gas might be replaced and describes the potential environmental effects of obtaining those replacements.
Slow the Pace of Leasing (Alternative 3). Hold 11 sales in 8 OCS planning areas. This analysis
Exclude Some Areas (Alternative 4). Hold 14 or 15 sales in 5 OCS planning areas. This analysis considers the potential effects of having annual sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas, an option to hold no sale in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, or to schedule one sale in the Eastern Gulf with coastal blocks excluded, two sales in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area (one a focused sale, the other a larger sale with two options for excluding blocks), and one sale each in the Chukchi Sea and Cook Inlet Planning Areas.
Lease Additional Areas (Alternative 5). In addition to the sales proposed in Alternative 1, this alternative would consider leasing additional deepwater areas in one or two sales in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area and a sale of approximately 223 tracts in the mid-Atlantic Planning Area.