Interior, NOAA agree to offshore energy collaboration

The MOU says that a NOAA official will be involved in decisions related to five-year planning and lease sales, environmental analysis and the review of exploration plans, among other things.

“BOEMRE and NOAA have enjoyed a long and productive relationship, but there is room for improvement.  We can and will broaden and enhance the communication, cooperation and collaboration between our agencies,” BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said Monday.

Under the agreement, BOEMRE and NOAA agreed to collaborate on relevant National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses and other environmental reviews.

BOEMRE also pledged to give NOAA a “meaningful opportunity” to review oil spill response plans submitted by various operators “to ensure that they adequately address living marine resources issues.” NOAA will continue to sit on BOEMRE’s Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, the MOU notes.

When it comes to offshore renewable energy, BOEMRE will invite NOAA to participate in any relevant task forces and environmental reviews.

The agencies will also meet four times a year to discuss issues related to offshore energy development.

The national oil spill commission, in a final report released in January, called for increased coordination between BOEMRE and NOAA on offshore drilling.

The commission’s report says the Interior Department is required to seek comment from NOAA in its decisions, but it is “not required to respond to the comments or accord them any particular weight.”

“NOAA—the nation’s ocean agency with the most expertise in marine science and the management of living marine resources—effectively has the same limited role as the general public in the decisions on selecting where and when to lease portions of the OCS,” the report said.