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Coastal Desk

Oil & Gas Agency Solicits Public Comments On Offshore Lease Sale

Tegan Wendland
Sierra Club member, Harold Schoeffler, said he wants BOEM to work more closely with states during the federal offshore lease sale.

A federal agency that oversees offshore leasing wants input on the environmental impacts of drilling in the Gulf. The Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, or BOEM, is one of two government agencies that regulate the offshore industry. It held a meeting in New Orleans Thursday as part of its role of leasing drilling rights throughout the Gulf.

The turnout was low, with just a handful of environmental advocates joining BOEM staff as they presented their environmental impact plan and asked for input.

The sale involves about 46 million acres in the central Gulf of Mexico. The public comment period for Central Planning Area 247 ends on September 16.

Sierra Club member, Harold Schoeffler, wants BOEM to work more closely with the state throughout the process in order to prevent things like sewage dumping by offshore vessels and the construction of additional canals through fragile marshes.

“This has an enormous impact on the state and the country... it’s somewhat surprising that we don’t have representatives from the governor’s office, representatives from the communities that are directly involved — like New Orleans, like Houma — and the port directors from Port Fourchon and the port of Iberia," Schoeffler said.

Schoeffler was surprised more people did not turn out to voice their concerns, “I would think that the people directly dealing with issues would be here to resolve the things that are problematic to them that relate to oil and gas: the pipelines, and the ports and the vessels and the water they need, the fuel they need and the roads you have to use.”

Tershara Matthews, with BOEM’s Superior Environment Assessment sections, said input from people like Schoeffler has been instrumental during past lease sales.

“We are going to work closely with the states through our coastal zone management program and have a consultation with the states about his concerns with the pipelines and produced and discharged waste,” said Matthews.

Officials say it is unclear how low oil prices may impact the sale, but interest was low during a sale in the western Gulf last month.

Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Coypu Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. 

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