Environmental Policy News

BOEM Seeks Comment on Proposed Rule for Sand, Gravel, and Shell

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has released proposed regulations that would provide additional clarity and certainty for its Marine Minerals Program regarding negotiated, non-competitive leases for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resources such as sand, gravel and shell.

The proposed rule describes the negotiated, non-competitive agreement process for qualifying projects, and codifies new and existing procedures for using OCS sand, gravel and shell resources for shore protection, beach restoration or coastal wetlands restoration projects undertaken by federal, state and local governments. It also addresses the use of OCS resources for construction projects authorized or funded by the federal government.

BOEM is seeking public comment on the proposal, which is available at www.regulations.gov, during a 60-day period beginning with publication of the rule in the Federal Register on 22 March 2016.

The proposal would create a new part in the Code of Federal Regulations (30 CFR 583) that addresses negotiated non-competitive leases for marine minerals other than oil, gas and sulphur on the OCS. To comment, or to review comments, go to www.regulations.gov and enter “Negotiated Noncompetitive Leasing for the Use of Sand, Gravel and Shell Resources on the Outer Continental Shelf” in the search field or BOEM-2010-0041, and the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1010-AD90.

The proposed rule would not materially change existing requirements for negotiated agreements to use these minerals in coastal restoration and construction projects, does not affect OCS oil or gas resources, and should not impose additional compliance obligations or costs upon the regulated entities. The rule does not apply to competitive leasing of minerals, such as sand for private or commercial use or commodity minerals such as gold.

The rule details the requirements for requesting a negotiated agreement for qualifying projects, including technical information on the potential sand borrow site and environmental evaluations and consultations with Federal agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, on potential impacts from the project. The proposed rule also addresses BOEM’s review procedures for processing requests, the process and timelines for requesting lease modifications, and defines commonly used terms.

BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program is critical for the long-term success and cost-effectiveness of many shore protection, beach nourishment, and coastal habitat restoration projects along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts. Coastal erosion is a serious challenge affecting energy, defense, and public infrastructure, as well as tourism, which is important to state and local economies. Adding crucial sand, gravel or shell resources helps maintain a healthy coastal ecosystem.

To date, BOEM has executed 48 leases to provide OCS sand resources for coastal restoration projects in seven states (New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana), conveying more than 112 million cubic yards of material that has restored more than 269 miles of coastline. BOEM has established strong and effective partnerships, including those with state geological surveys and environmental agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Defense.

The Secretary of the Interior was authorized to negotiate non-competitive agreements for the use of these marine minerals for coastal restoration by an Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act amendment in 1994. Since then, BOEM has exercised its statutory authority over these resources through written guidelines, without the benefit of implementing regulations.

Comments may also be mailed or hand-carried to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; attention: Office of Policy, Regulation and Analysis, 45600 Woodland Road, VAM-BOEM DIR, Sterling, Virginia, 20166. Comments must be received within 60 days after publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. Comments will be made publicly available. BOEM will evaluate any comments it receives on the proposed rule, address them as necessary, and then start the process for the final rule.

For comments or questions on procedural issues, contact Loren Thompson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Office of Policy, Regulation and Analysis at (202) 208-5890. For questions on technical issues, contact Jeffrey Reidenauer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Branch Chief, Marine Minerals Program at (703) 787-1851.

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