Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) on Tuesday issued a draft environmental review on 11 proposed oil and natural gas sales that are scheduled for the Gulf of Mexico over the next six years.
The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) takes a close look at the environmental effects of five proposed lease sales for the Central Gulf and six proposed sales for the Western Gulf. All of the Gulf lease sales are included in the five-year Outer Continental Leasing plan for 2007-2012.
Unlike the environmental reviews that are issued by FERC, the MMS in its DEIS and final environmental impact statement (FEIS), which is due out in March 2007, does not make general conclusions on whether or not the proposed lease sales are environmentally sound, said MMS spokesman Eileen Angelico in New Orleans. That finding is made by the Interior secretary in his "record of decision" on whether the lease sales should proceed, she noted. Angelico said the "record of decision" would come out approximately 60 to 90 days after the FEIS.
The schedule calls for proposed Lease Sale 204 (Western Gulf) and 205 (Central Gulf) to be held in 2007; Lease Sale 207 (Western Gulf) and 206 (Central) in 2008; Lease Sale 208 (Central) and 210 (Western) in 2009; Lease Sale 213 (Central) and 215 (Western) in 2010; Lease Sale 216 (Central) and 218 (Western) in 2011; and Lease Sale 222 (Central) in 2012.
The notice of availability of the DEIS, which was published in the Federal Register, opened a 45-day comment period on the DEIS that ends Jan. 2, 2007. MMS is seeking comments from federal, state and local government agencies, as well as the public. The preferred method for commenting is electronically using MMS' new Public Connect online commenting system at https://ocsconnect.mms.gov. Comments may also be submitted electronically to the MMS e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, five public hearings will be held to give parties an opportunity to comment on the DEIS. The hearings are scheduled for Houston, TX, and Mobile, AL, on Dec. 5; New Orleans, LA and Panama City Beach, FL, on Dec. 6; and Larose, LA, on Dec. 7. Oral and written statements will be taken at the hearings.
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