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MMS Delays Implementing New Fees Rule, Sets New Procedures for Comments on Five-Year Plan

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is delaying implementation until Jan. 1, 2006 of a final rule that had been due to go into effect Monday, Sept. 26. The rule will adjust some existing fees and implement several new fees for services the agency currently provides to the offshore oil and gas industry.

The final rule requires MMS to develop additional procedures that will be provided to the oil and gas industry in the form of a Notice to Lessees. However, the MMS Gulf of Mexico Regional Office in New Orleans, the primary office responsible for developing those procedures, has been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.

Additionally, many of the lessees and operators that will need to make changes in their own procedures to comply with the rule, have their own problems with Katrina's aftermath and may not be able to make the required changes until normal operations resume. "The delay will provide relief to the government and the oil and gas industry as they recover from this disaster."

Also as a result of Hurricane Katrina, the MMS has announced a new procedure for receiving comments on its proposed new five-year outer continental shelf (OCS) leasing plan. The New Orleans office houses computers operating Public Connect, its Internet-based public commenting system. Employees now are assessing the damage to the system by Katrina, and it is not known yet how long it will take to restore it.

MMS had made a call for comments on Aug. 24 on its preparation of a new five-year plan for 2007-2012 and an accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Originally comments were to be filed through e-mail or Public Connect. Since the Internet system is down, MMS asks that comments be submitted by mail to: 5-Year Program Manager, Minerals Management Service (MS-4010), 381 Elden Street, Herndon, VA 20170 ; or by e-mail to fiveyreiscomments@mms.gov. E-mail regarding any aspect of the five-year leasing program besides its supporting EIS should be sent to fiveyrplcomments@mms.gov. Related maps and fact sheets are available at the 5-Year Program web site.

Comments previously submitted through Public Connect now are inaccessible and should be re-submitted to the e-mail or regular mail addresses above. Comments are due by Oct. 11, 2005.

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