Deepwater Drilling Gets Good Marks from MMS
Routine drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico's deepwater
pose little threat to the environment or human health, and, in
fact, play a significant role in the socioeconomic status of its
port communities. That's the conclusion of a new report by the
Minerals and Management Service (MMS) of the U.S. Department of
Interior, which published its conclusions for a projected 10-year
period on deepwater operations between 1998-2007.
Because Gulf of Mexico deepwater oil and gas operations are
rapidly accelerating, MMS decided to take a closer look at the
long-term environmental and human health effects of oil and gas
exploration, development and production operations for the next
decade. Overall, MMS paints a favorable picture of deepwater
activities, and makes no mention for additional regulation that
would affect exploration and production activities there.
Except in the case of oil spills, which MMS concluded were rare,
deepwater activities are "unlikely to have long-term adverse
effects" on marine life, It also found that by using regulatory
mechanisms already in place, including the National Environmental
Policy Act, potential drilling operations would face no further
The MMS's "Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Operations and Activities:
Environmental Assessment" found few lethal effects are expected
from future deepwater drilling. However, MMS did find that stress
and the possible change in distribution of marine life may have
already altered the lifestyles of some marine mammals and
In practice, the actual effects on fisheries and the fishing
industry is "inconsequential and likely unnoticeable." In fact, the
report concluded that the socioeconomic effects of deepwater
activities are overall positive, including a strong and stable
workforce and expanded onshore opportunities in Texas and
Only one area in the report seemed to call for possible changes.
Potential effects of sound from seismic surveys, even marine
surveys, were found by MMS to be insignificant. However, MMS has
commissioned a separate environmental assessment on this to
determine whether environmental impact studies should be routinely
required for this type of work.
To obtain free copies of the environmental assessment (MMS
publication 2000-001), contact MMS, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region,
Public Information Office (MS 5034), 1201 Elmwood Park Blvd., New
Orleans, LA 70123-2304. The publication also is available for
downloading on the MMS website at www.gomr.mms.gov.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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