Department of the Interior
Effective Date: 5/27/04
Series: Environmental Quality Programs
Part 516: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
Chapter 15: Managing the NEPA Process--Minerals Management Service
Originating Office: Minerals Management Service
516 DM 15
15.1 Purpose. This Chapter provides supplementary requirements for implementing provisions of 516 DM 1 through 6 within the Department’s Minerals Management Service. This Chapter is referenced in 516 DM 6.5.
15.2 NEPA Responsibility.
A. The Director/Deputy Director are responsible for NEPA compliance for Minerals Management Service (MMS) activities.
B. The Associate Director for Offshore Minerals Management is responsible for ensuring NEPA compliance for all offshore MMS activities.
C. The Chief, Offshore Environmental Assessment Division (OEAD), is responsible for NEPA-related policy and guidance for MMS activities, including monitoring MMS activities to ensure NEPA compliance, assuring the quality control of MMS environmental documents, and managing the review of non-MMS environmental documents. The office is the focal point for all NEPA matters and information about MMS environmental documents or the NEPA process can be obtained by contacting it or the appropriate Region.
D. The Regional Directors are responsible to the Associate Director for Offshore Minerals Management for overall direction and integration of the NEPA process into their activities and for NEPA compliance in their Regions.
15.3 Guidance to Applicants.
(1) Applicants should make initial contact with the Regional Director of the office where the affected action is located.
(2) Potential applicants may secure from Regional Directors a list or program regulations or other directives/guidance providing advice or requirements for submission of environmental information. The purpose of making these regulations known to potential applicants in advance is to assist them in presenting a detailed, adequate, and accurate description of the proposal and alternatives when they file their application and to minimize the need to request additional information. This is a minimum list, and additional requirements may be identified after detailed review of the formal submission and during scoping.
B. Regulations. The following partial list identifies MMS Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) regulations and other guidance which may apply to a particular application.
(1) Grants of pipeline rights-of-way and related facilities on the OCS (30 CFR Part 256, Subpart N).
(2) Exploration, development and production activities, Environmental Report (30 CFR Part 250, Sec. 250.34-3).
(3) Air quality (30 CFR Part 250, Sec. 250,57).
(4) Geological and geophysical explorations of the OCS (30 CFR Part 251. Sec. 251.6-2(b)).
(5) OCS Pipelines Rights-of-Ways. A Procedure Handbook.
(6) Guidelines for Preparing OCS Environmental Reports.
15.4 Major Actions Normally Requiring an EIS.
A. The following proposals will normally require the preparation of an EIS:
(1) Approval of a 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing program.
(2) Approval of offshore lease sales.
(3) Approval of an offshore oil and gas development and production plan in any area or region of the offshore, other than the central or western Gulf of Mexico, when the plan is declared to be a major Federal action in accordance with section 25(e)(1) of the OCS Lands Act Amendments of 1978.
B. If, for any of these actions, it is proposed not to prepare an EIS, an environmental assessment will be prepared and handled in accordance with Section 1501.4(e)(2).
15.4 Categorical Exclusions. In addition to the actions listed in the Departmental categorical exclusions outlined in Appendix 1 of 516 DM 2, many of which the MMS also performs, the following MMS actions are designated categorical exclusions unless the action qualifies as an exception under Appendix 2 of 516 DM 2:
(1) Inventory, data, and information collection, including the conduct of environmental monitoring and nondestructive research programs.
(2) Actions for which MMS has concurrence or co-approval with another Bureau if the action is a categorical exclusion for that Bureau.
B. Internal Program Initiatives.
(1) All resource evaluation activities including surveying, mapping, and geophysical surveying which do not use solid or liquid explosives.
(2) Collection of geologic data and samples including geologic, paleontologic, mineralogic, geochemical, and geophysical investigations which does not involve drilling beyond 50 feet of consolidated rock or beyond 300 feet of unconsolidated rock, including contracts therefor.
(3) Acquisition of existing geological or geophysical data from otherwise private exploration ventures.
(4) Well logging, digital modeling. inventory of existing wells, and installation of recording devices in wells.
(5) Establishment and installation of any research/monitoring devices.
(6) Test or exploration drilling and downhole testing included in a project previously subject to the NEPA process.
(7) Insignificant revisions to the approved 5-year leasing program.
(8) Prelease planning steps such as the Call for Information and Area Identification.
C. Permit and Regulatory Functions.
(1) Issuance and modification of regulations, Orders, Standards, Notices to Lessees and Operators. Guidelines and field rules for which the impacts are limited to administrative, economic, or technological effects and the environmental impacts are minimal.
(2) Approval of production measurement methods, facilities, and procedures.
(3) Approval of off-lease storage in existing facilities.
(4) Approval of unitization agreements, pooling, or communitization agreements.
(5) Approval of commingling of production.
(6) Approval of suspensions of operations and suspensions of production.
(7) Approval of lease consolidation applications, lease assignments or transfers, operating rights, operating agreements, lease extensions, lease relinquishments, and bond terminations.
(8) Administration decisions and actions and record keeping such as:
(a) Approval of applications for pricing determinations under the Natural Gas Policy Act.
(b) Approval of underground gas storage agreements from a presently or formerly productive reservoir.
(c) Issuance of paying well determinations and participating area approvals.
(d) Issuance of drainage determinations.
(9) Approval of offshore geological and geophysical mineral exploration activities, except when the proposed activity includes the drilling of deep stratigraphic test holes or uses solid or liquid explosives.
(10) Approval of an offshore lease or unit exploration. development/production plan or a Development Operation Coordination Document in the central or western Gulf of Mexico (30 CFR 250.2) except those proposing facilities: (1) In areas of high seismic risk or seismicity, relatively untested deep water, or remote areas, or (2) within the boundary of a proposed or established marine sanctuary, and/or within or near the boundary of a proposed or established wildlife refuge or areas of high biological sensitivity; or (3) in areas of hazardous natural bottom conditions; or (4) utilizing new or unusual technology.
(11) Approval of minor revisions of or minor variances from activities described in an approved offshore exploration or development/production plan, including pipeline applications.
(12) Approval of an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) an offshore oil and gas exploration or development well, when said well and appropriate mitigation measures are described in an approved exploration plan, development plan, production plan, or Development Operations Coordination Document.
(13) Preliminary activities conducted on a lease prior to approval of an exploration or development/production plan or a Development Operations Coordination Plan. These are activities such as geological, geophysical, and other surveys necessary to develop a comprehensive exploration plan, development/production plan, or Development Operations Coordination Plan.
(14) Approval of Sundry Notices and Reports on Wells.
(15) Rights-of-ways, easements, temporary use permits, and any revisions thereto that do not result in a new pipeline corridor to shore.
D. Royalty Functions. All functions of the Associate Director for Royalty Management including, but not limited to, such activities as: approval of royalty payment procedures, including royalty oil contracts; and determinations concerning royalty quantities and values, such as audits, royalty reductions, collection procedures, reporting procedures, and any actions taken with regard to royalty collections (including similar actions relating to net profit and windfall profit taxes).
Replaces 3/18/80 #3511