Environmental Policy News

BOEM Announces Proposed Rule to Increase Protection of Marine Archaeological Resources

In order to better protect shipwrecks and other cultural resources on the seabed from harm due to offshore energy activities, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is proposing regulatory changes to its marine archaeology reporting requirements for activities proposed on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

“These changes are necessary to ensure that lessees, operators, and BOEM have the information necessary to proactively identify marine archaeological resources,” said Dr. James Kendall, Gulf of Mexico Regional Director. “By improving our reporting requirements, we can increase the likelihood of identifying these important resources before they are inadvertently damaged by an OCS operator and help ensure compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.”

Currently, lessees and operators are only required to submit a marine archaeological report for oil and gas exploration and development plans if they are surveying an area that a BOEM regional director believes may contain an archaeological resource.

After evaluating over 40 years of empirical evidence collected by and for the oil and gas industry, academic institutions, and state and federal agencies, BOEM has determined that previously undiscovered archaeological resources may be present in any part of the OCS, regardless of the lack of any historical or predictive modeling evidence.

Therefore, the proposed changes require archaeological reports for all areas where a lessee or operator is proposing oil and gas exploration and development activities on the OCS. The proposed changes will also update the procedure for continuing operations when the archaeological report suggests that a resource may be present and what to do if an unanticipated archaeological resource is discovered during operations.

A notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comment will publish in the Federal Register on February 15, 2023 for a 60-day comment period ending on April 17, 2023.

To submit comments, go to https://www.regulations.gov. In the entry titled, “Enter Keyword or ID,” enter BOEM-2023-0012 then click “search.” Follow the instructions to submit public comments and view supporting and related materials available for this rulemaking.


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