November 25, 2009
Ocean Policy Task Force
c/o The Honorable Nancy Sutley
Council on Environmental Quality
722 Jackson Place
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Chairwoman Sutley:
The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the American Petroleum Institute
(API), the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), the Independent
Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the US Oil & Gas Association (USOGA), and
the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) are pleased to submit
comments to the President’s Ocean Policy Task Force (OPTF) as it seeks to better
understand the challenges and opportunities offered by a system of Marine Spatial Planning
Our eight national trade associations represent thousands of companies, both majors and
independents, engaged in all sectors of the U.S. energy industry, including exploration,
production, refining, distribution, marketing, equipment manufacture and supply, and other
diverse offshore support services. Either directly or indirectly, we are all working to
explore for and produce energy resources from the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)
in an environmentally sensitive manner. As such, our memberships represent a wide range
of viewpoints on this matter.
In the Presidential Memorandum of June 12, 2009 that set the OPTF in motion, the
President clearly called for an approach that “addresses conservation, economic activity,
user conflict and sustainable uses of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources…” It is our
belief that the governance systems developed for offshore oil and gas activity touch on all
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of those characteristics and offer a model from which to draw in creating any MSP
Importance of economic uses of the oceans
First and foremost, referring back to the President’s own order that economic activity be a
central factor in ocean governance, we encourage the OPTF to pointedly and clearly state
that any MSP effort will include economic uses of the ocean in the balance that is to be
sought among competing interests.
The economic uses of the oceans are of significant importance to the country. Consider
that the OCS currently is producing 27% of the entire U.S. oil production and
approximately 15% of domestic natural gas production. According to a recent study, oil
and natural gas resources in former or current OCS moratoria areas could generate $1.3
trillion in additional federal, state, and local government revenue, and over 76,000 jobs.
These will be family-supporting jobs. Oil and gas exploration and production wages
averaged $93,575 per year, according to 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics data -- over twice
the average annual pay of $44,458 across all U.S. industries.
The United States’ OCS is conservatively estimated by the Minerals Management Service
(MMS) to hold undiscovered technically recoverable resources of over 419 trillion cubic
feet of natural gas and 86 billion barrels of oil. That’s estimated to be enough natural gas
to heat 100 million homes for 60 years, and enough oil to drive 85 million cars for 35 years
or to replace current Persian Gulf imports for almost 60 years.
Such a significant economic contributor to the wealth and energy security of the nation
must be considered an equal partner with other economic and environmental considerations
when MSP is developed.
Offshore oil & gas programs offer a solid model for MSP
Additionally, OPTF should look to the conclusions of the U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy Final Report as it considers a decision-making structure to develop MSP processes.
On page 356, the Ocean Commission exhorts that “the scope and comprehensiveness of the
OCS oil and gas program can be a model for the management of a wide variety of offshore
activities.” With over fifty years of experience in conducting forward-looking multiple-use
planning, the agencies and companies involved in offshore oil and gas production have
perhaps the most extensive experience in the type of activities that any MSP program will
entail. We strongly encourage the OPTF to look at the offshore oil and gas leasing
program as a model for broader MSP. This is a model that works.
Governing principles for MSP
Any system of marine spatial planning ought to characterized by the following
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- Forward-looking: The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the Department of
the Interior to develop a forward-looking five-year leasing plan that anticipates where it
makes the most sense to allow for oil and natural gas development offshore. A similar
planning structure for MSP would allow for periodic review of all the relevant data,
along with calculated determinations of where and when certain activities might best
occur, but would be up for review on a regular basis.
- Adaptive: Adaptability is equally important for any planning process. The Bureau of
Land Management’s Resource Management Plans have become stale, frequently going
for decades without revision. Such a pitfall would be disastrous if it became the norm
for offshore management. Instead, the system should build in certain triggers that will
mandate the review of an existing decision. Such triggers might be include select
periods of time (such as in the 5-year oil and gas leasing program) or when
technological advances transcend a certain threshold (such as if electric transmission
technologies develop that will allow wind turbines to move farther from shore, opening
new areas for that technology’s deployment).
One specific example of where such adaptability is necessary arises from the current
lack of scientific data about the location and scope of offshore oil and natural gas
resources. Moratoria and restrictions on exploring for these resources off of 85% of the
nation’s coasts for more than two decades means that current resource assessments are
based on old data gathered by less sophisticated technologies. Therefore, any system of
marine spatial planning must acknowledge that there exists a vast amount of
information yet to be gathered before any conclusive decisions can be made about
where it is and is not appropriate to drill for energy offshore.
- Comprehensive: Any MSP system must account for the economic uses of the oceans
along with conservation goals, and offer equal opportunity to all sectors (traditional
energy, renewable energy, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, cruises,
commercial shipping, telecommunications, aquaculture, etc.) to make their needs and
- Efficient: MSP must not simply result in the creation of additional layers of regulatory
bureaucracy. Any additional review panels or permitting processes should be offset by
the dissolution of existing permits rendered obsolete by the new system. The goal is to
improve the system and make the functioning of government both more effective and
Additionally, the MSP system must recognize the primacy of existing legal authorities.
Introducing new decision-making apparatuses that override the regulatory and statutory
authorities currently delegated to specific agencies will only result in confusion,
lawsuits and logjams.
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Our six national trade associations welcome this opportunity to provide comments on the
Administration’s efforts to develop a system of marine spatial planning. We stand ready to
participate as this discussion moves into the next stages and hope that you will continue to
call on us as a resource and a partner in this effort.
Tom Fry, NOIA Doug Morris, API
Barry Russell, IPAA Alby Modiano, USOGA
Chip Gill, IAGC Brian Petty, IADC