The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Thursday said it was seeking comments on the appropriate use of categorical exclusions (CE) with respect to the development of oil and natural gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The awarding of CEs came under fierce attack on Capitol Hill when the Minerals Management Service, the predecessor to the Interior Department's BOEMRE, gave BP plc's lease at Deepwater Horizon a CE from the National Environmental Policy Act just days before the rig exploded and sank off the southern coast of Louisiana.

Under a CE, Interior can waive certain environmental reviews -- thus shortening the overall review process -- associated with obtaining permits for offshore drilling.

During the period in which BOEMRE will conduct its comprehensive review, Director Michael R. Bromwich has directed the agency to restrict its use of CEs for offshore oil and gas development to activities involving limited environmental risk (see GPI Daily, Aug. 17). Producers say limiting the use of CEs would require more extensive environmental reviews for deepwater projects and could delay development and job creation.

The BOEMRE is soliciting comments from the public as well as federal, state and local government agencies on the appropriate use of BOEMRE's CEs and suggested revisions. It also has asked them to highlight issues that the agency should address during the review.

Comments are due by Nov. 8. Written comments can be submitted to James F. Bennett, Chief of Environmental Assessment Branch, Environmental Division (MS 4042), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Headquarters, 381 Elden St., Herndon, VA 20170. The submission should be labeled "Comments on the Review of Categorical Exclusions for Outer Continental Shelf Decisions."

Or comments can be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov. In the entry titled "Enter Keyword or ID," enter docket ID BOEM-2010-0036, then click search.

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