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  • Deepwater Drilling Gets Tougher, Time to Get NEPA Right

    The Department of Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) announced that blanket environmental exemptions, such as the one granted to BP, will not be given until “it undertakes a comprehensive review of its National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process and the use of categorical exclusions for exploration and drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.” The government should use this time to enact smarter regulations, not unnecessary regulations that make it too costly for projects to move forward.

    The NEPA process was originally set up to increase productive activities but at the same time address environmental concerns. But over the years it has evolved into a burdensome procedure and a political tool for environmental activists to stop projects built on federal land. Unfortunately, NEPA has evolved into an onerous and costly process that slows progress on critical public and private activities.

    Now, most any major federal action—including the sale of offshore drilling leases—technically requires a detailed environmental impact analysis as part of the NEPA process before they are permitted. This can take years to fulfill, and the process is subject to litigation. For instance, it takes federal construction projects, such as those funded by the stimulus plan, an average of 4.4 years to complete a NEPA review and, consequently, the billions of dollars in infrastructure spending passed in the stimulus bill will not be spent until years after the economy has already recovered.

    This onerous process has led to exemptions for projects that are deemed to pose little environmental risk. In fact, the Department of Interior (DOI) designed categorical exclusions for this very reason. As noted by DOI: “Categorical exclusions are actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and for which neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required. The categorical exclusion process was established to reduce the amount of unnecessary paperwork and delay associated with NEPA compliance.”

    This should be a sign to create a more efficient NEPA process, not to deny future NEPA waivers or add needless regulatory constraints. As currently applied, NEPA is too wide-reaching and onerous, which results in the need to waive its provisions. In drilling alone, 28 percent of all drilling permit applicants received similar waivers between 2006 and 2008. NEPA’s pervasive application makes it highly burdensome and difficult to follow, which drives the need for waivers. As waivers become the norm, they become easier to attain—even when perhaps they should be denied.

    Typically when federal agencies say they are taking a “new approach” toward rules and regulations, it’s not a good thing, especially with the direction in which this Administration is moving. Here’s a chance for them to get something right.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Deepwater Drilling Gets Tougher, Time to Get NEPA Right

    1. Lloyd Scallan (New Orleans area) says:

      Has the HF not recognized that anything connected with fossel fuels will be prevented by Obama! This NEPA is just the old MMS under a new name. Their entire focus is to follow Obama instructions to end all offshore drilling to appease the radical, left environmentalist groups that put Obama is in the White House. Like everything else that comes out of this administration, lies and deceptions are the means they use to continue their destruction of our America.

    2. Norm Klevens says:

      Only the companies, like GE, who donate to Obama and democrat party will gain entry to the market. Everything is for sale or withheld by the regime with its leader, Imam Obama. If we do not literally take back our country this November, we will lose it to the types that can say -"if you disagree with me, I will have the FBI investigate you" as the Speaker of the House said today. [whether she can do that or not; she is of the mindset that she can] Meanwhile we will pay an exorbitant price for energy, while oil and gas sit under ANWR and under the sea in the gulf ready for the taking. 80% of us are being ruled by 20% including the environmental wackos, Obama's base. There are more Conservatives and Republicans as well as the Independents, than there are in the Left. We all need to turn out and vote.

    3. Lynn Bryant DeSpain says:

      Obamaism and his followers are run on a foundation of created lies. Oil is not a fossil fuel, and this has been known for many generations, going back to the time of the Genius creator of the Periodic Table, when he called the oil man who first called oil a fossil fuel, "An Idiot."

      The same holds true for Man being the major cause of any Global Warming , or anything that Man does having any effect on Global Warming, or Global Cooling. We are just not that powerful!

      As for oil, we more than enough to meet all of America's need for at least a hundred years, right on our own land, with no need to drill off shore, and if any leaks were to occur, they would be far easier to contain and clean up!

      We have more than enough Natural Gas, wich is a by-product of oil, to last a couple of centuries, and is even easier to use as it needs very little refining to get to the cunsumer.

      We just need to allow, through tax incentives, and use of Federal and State Lands, one hell of a lot more refineries to be built! We currently have less than half of the refineries in America now than we did in the 1960's. That is one very big reason why the cost of gas is so high!

      We need to elect people who will hire people, and of both of those sets expect the upmost sincere honesty to admit when they are wrong! Admit their mistakes, instead of adding to them and confounding and confusing them. People to be just like those they represent and say,"Hey, we made a mistake, we admit it, and we will fix it."

      No more Progressives. No more Liberal Entitlements. Just our Constitution and our Republic

    4. Scott Sysum, White P says:

      You state:

      The NEPA process was originally set up to increase productive activities but at the same time address environmental concerns. But over the years it has evolved into a burdensome procedure and a political tool for environmental activists to stop projects built on federal land. Unfortunately, NEPA has evolved into an onerous and costly process that slows progress on critical public and private activities.

      NEPA

      It is a disclosure law. It does not preclude the federal action as designed, just requires a disclosure of the consequences of the federal action.

      It does not apply to state or local action unless they require a federal permit or federal approval

      Requires agency and public participation in planning process

      Requires disclosure about the federal action or project to the public and the federal decision maker

      Requires a discussion of a reasonable range of alternatives to the project and the environmental effects for each of the reasonable alternatives.

      You state

      This onerous process has led to exemptions for projects that are deemed to pose little environmental risk. In fact, the Department of Interior (DOI) designed categorical exclusions for this very reason.

      “Categorical exclusions are actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and for which neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.

      It is a poroblem with NEPA on how to address accidents, terrorist attacks or acts of god, but it it is in its intent to address the environmetal consequences of the proposed action. The gulf coast oil exploration has had little effects prior to the Macondo prospect spill, but the analysis under NEPA belittled the consequences.

      We now know better, we should now plan acordingly.

      You state:

      As currently applied, NEPA is too wide-reaching and onerous, which results in the need to waive its provisions. In drilling alone, 28 percent of all drilling permit applicants received similar waivers between 2006 and 2008. NEPA’s pervasive application makes it highly burdensome and difficult to follow, which drives the need for waivers. As waivers become the norm, they become easier to attain—even when perhaps they should be denied.

      I suggest NEPA as applied is not onerous yet it is wide reaching, as it should be. It is a disclosure statute that requires the decision makers, federal govt, to consider the enevironmental consequences of the actions that it has governace over.

      It is is not onerous, it is not exclusive, it does not forbid any action of a state, local govt or private citizen. It is a disclosure statute, it has no proscribitive or restrictivtie requirements other than the basic requiremnt to tell us what you are going to do, what are the environmental impacts of the project, and what alternatives ways to execute that project are avaliable that might reduce any environmentaol impacts.

      v/r

      Scott Sysum

    5. Chales Stahl Environ says:

      NEPA or National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law by then President Nixon, an umbrella act that for 30 years was never implemented by most federal agencies. Along with Clean Water and Air acts, RCRA & CERCLA, ESA directed by USFWS, NFMA via USFS, and wetlands protections under section 404 of CWA as administered by COE, or nuclear cleanup by DOE, and FERC for energy regs, or SEC for banks, and FAA for airlines…well, I think you get the acroneemic picture! Everywhere we turn our economy is surrounded by your tax spending, rules & regulations. Why? Well some think having a 50% chance of landing is not a good idea, nor a 5 year old flying a 747, much less a group terrorist that brought our economy to a stop. By the way, the latter option was thanks to airline industry not providing decent security nor ICE tracking a watch list. At Heritage we call it tax payer subsidiies, others just pork barrell politics or in response to most military contracts, a necessity.

      Let's take DOE- Dept of Energy- they're responsible for cleanup of our nuclear waste sites from 12,000 war heads made years ago. In 2008 DOE(you&ME) paid some $$1.3 Billion to 600 plus families near Paducah, Ky. They were dads and moms that worked at the DOE Paducah envrichment plant, brought home toxi plutonium and uranium from a bomb plant that killed them and passed unknown genetic anomolies on to thier kids.

      If you're interested in the need for laws or the nightmares with pre-NEPA regs, you might want to take notes. Kentucky was chosen for it's cheap-poor labor pool, close to cheap TVA(fed subsidy) power. These rural folks sholved highly toxic yellow cake uranium from rail cars sent via a plant in Wyoming, into the Paducah enrichment facility. I'll get to Wyoming in a minute. No one told them it was toxic, or would effect thier lives or thier grandkids(never saw grandchildren). No one wore resperators or coveralls, they just wore the toxins home. They all died; 10-12 years of exsposure and never 'saw' a dime until just two years ago.

      In Wyoming, I recently worked near a toxic site that enriched the uranium ore into 5% yellow cake, that was shipped to Paducah, Oakridge, Savanah River, Fernell, OH., Rocky Flats, CO… The area is called the Sweetwater River uranium mining area, near Casper, Wy. The area still leaks Ur into the river, toxins the cattel and fish pickup, pass on to humans. But under NEPA and a short 50 page EA, the Energy Dept asked and got the Uranium human exsposure limits increased by 10,000 fold for those drinking water from the Sweetwater. Why you ask? Well due to dollar costs to clean up uranium spread over 100+ square miles. You might think this bizarre, but my drinking water in Florida comes from a 10,000 plus well and is just one picocurie south of EPA toxic standards(picocuries are gamma radiation from uranium ores). Funny thing is that's allowed under FEDERAL Clean Water Drinking regs. They can't clean it up because that'd increase costs, my water bill not my cancer bill.

      Federal regulations are everywhere and why? Well everytime I turn around somebody like Bernie Madoff just hates to follow rules…after 4 mega-yaughts you'd think he'd have enough, but he didn't! So while we spend $40 Billion a year on cleanup at varioius fed bomb facilities, 50+ years after we developed the bomb, you might ask, what went wrong? Well we just failed to look down the road and see the big picture. Ask the 3 million folks that had to move after Chernobyl and they'll tell you that was a big ooops. At Hanford we have 40 plus tanks of bubbling toxic brew and after 20 years, they're still bubbling away. On NEPA costs, it has become 'burdensome' there is no mistake. Most NEPA documents really are a waste of time and money- even I'll grant you that one. But not because the systme could work, but because the feds are into skirting the law over dollars and budgets. The MMS is classic after the oil spill.

      Take MMS at the DOI, that'd be the Mineral Mgmt. Service under the Interior Dept. and their NEPA EIS done for the recent oil lease/drilling accident…it was done by Bush Admin folks in Denver back in 2008. It cost several millions and took several years; bottom line is they're maybe an increased risk of drilling in 6000 foot of water (dah). By the way, in Europe they outlawed blow out preventers- because they fail more than they work at that depth. Solution- an expensive releif well(s) that NEPA never reviewed. Now, how about the costs to condo owners, renters, real estate collapse, fishermen, BP…> OH, MMS, that'd be the same office that had prostitutes, free tickets, games and kick backs paid for by BP and other oil'gas provocutures' of the economy. But we buy the product and ergo we are all in the franchise ownership for the problems. But what about NEPA and the feds?

      I worked for the US Forest Service for 10+ years- we/they failed to follow NEPA requirement for spotted owls and other ancient forest critters. We got sued and we lost. Why you ask: A newlly appointed Reagan judge agreed we'd been overcutting timber and shut the whole thing down. Why? Because Congress via Weyerhauser had put a small number of 6 Billion board feet of logging for Oregon and WA states into the Appropriations Bill, mandating us to cut 3x more timber than we should.. Not suprisingly, Weyco shipped thier logs to Japan, bought your timber at discount and then put 90% of their mill competitors out of business in 30 years. Well if you followed the law under NFMA and NEPA, you could selectively log and not clear cut, but no the timber folk said it was too costly..and lost the bet. (oh, price of lumber is about the same as 20 years ago).

      NEPA was and can still be a common sense approach to 100 years of enviro nightmares. To be honest, the application by most feds is a waste of tax dollars, a paper chase of EAs that waste time and money. But in other areas over time CWA, and CairActs have made progress. In 1905, my grandfather Stahl left Pittsburg for Florida for clean air..you see he was a runner for a 'wire service' called Western Union. Riding a bike and due to pollution from Carnegie's steel mills he never got over his chronic black lung disease. We needed steel but we also need our lungs, hence the Clean Air Act has reduced lung diseases and related illness by $34 billion a year in medical costs. It also created a huge brown belt of closed mills,from Detroit to Ohio, costing thousands of jobs.

      And while we still make bombs, we handle plutonuium as a toxic waste, like 2-4-d that ruined my liver and now I take insulin ($430/mo)to control blood sugar.

      We outlawed lead in gasoline(to control knocks) because inner city kids did and still have poor brain development, even 40 years lead was banned from paint. Once you assess the long-term costs of stupidity, and that's exactly what it is, you then pass into the world of lawyers, litigation and finally rules, laws & acts. We don't have slaves nor children working Henry Ford's car factories and 2-4d was outlawed, but ask the folks at Times beach that were forced to move due to dioxin on their lawns.

      You see, I'm not your typical consultant, just your non'typical taxpayer that hates to see a story without much data…sort of skin deep writing that only allows for 2 columns or 1000 words. I teach NEPA to excutives that generally start to yawn on fed regulations: until I tell the story of the oil company that spent $$6 million on one NEPA chapter, just the Native American part of gas line right of way that the engineer refused to move. Well, two years later natgas was at $16/thousand cubic feet, up from $3 after Katrina shut down the wells in the Gulf. The firm lost an estimated $$30 Billion in gas sales because a 20 mile detour(that would cost about $6million) was too much…oops. You see, NEPA can save you time and MONEY, which in our Heritage economic world, can save and makes or breaks a firms bottom line….NEPA is a tool, use it or loose it!

      Oh yeah, you can not fix STUPID!

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