NOIA Comments on Marine Spatial Planning

 

November 25, 2009

Ocean Policy Task Force

c/o The Honorable Nancy Sutley

Council on Environmental Quality

722 Jackson Place

Washington, DC 20503

 

Submitted via http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans/submit

 

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

(MSP).

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

systems.

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

characteristics:

 

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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

concerns heard.

- 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

more efficient.

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.

Sincerely,

___________________________ ___________________________

Tom Fry, NOIA                                                                   Doug Morris, API

___________________________ ___________________________

Barry Russell, IPAA                                                        Alby Modiano, USOGA

___________________________ ___________________________

Chip Gill, IAGC                                                                    Brian Petty, IADC