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Preparation of an Environmental Assessment for Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Lease Sale 196 in the Western Gulf of Mexico (2005)

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Minerals Management Service, Interior.


Preparation of an environmental assessment.


The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is issuing this notice to advise the public, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., that MMS intends to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas Lease Sale 196 in the Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM) (Lease Sale 196) scheduled for August 2005. The MMS is issuing this notice to facilitate public involvement. The preparation of this EA is the first step in the decision process for Lease Sale Start Printed Page 3063196. The proposal and alternatives for Lease Sale 196 were identified by the MMS Director in January 2002 following the Call for Information and Nominations/Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and were analyzed in the Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sales: 2003-2007; Central Planning Area Sales 185, 190, 194, 198, and 201; Western Planning Area Sales 187, 192, 196, and 200—Final Environmental Impact Statement; Volumes I and II (Multisale EIS, OCS EIS/EA MMS 2002-052). This EA will reexamine the potential environmental effects of the proposed action (the offering of all available unleased acreage in the Western Planning Area (WPA)) and its alternatives (the proposed action excluding the unleased blocks near biologically sensitive topographic features, and no action) based on any new information regarding potential impacts and issues that were not available at the time the Multisale EIS was prepared.

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Mr. Dennis Chew, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, MS 5410, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394. You may also contact Mr. Chew by telephone at (504) 736-2793.

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In November 2002, MMS prepared a Multisale EIS that addressed nine proposed Federal actions that offer for lease areas on the GOM OCS that may contain economically recoverable oil and gas resources. Federal regulations allow for several related or similar proposals to be analyzed in one EIS (40 CFR 1502.4). Since each proposed lease sale and its projected activities are very similar each year for each planning area, a single EIS was prepared for the nine Central Planning Area (CPA) and WPA lease sales scheduled in the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program: 2002-2007 (the 5-Year Program). Under the 5-Year Program, five annual areawide lease sales are scheduled for the CPA (Lease Sales 185, 190, 194, 198, and 201) and five annual areawide lease sales are scheduled for the WPA (Lease Sales 184, 187, 192, 196, and 200). Lease Sale 184 was not addressed in the Multisale EIS; a separate EA was prepared for that proposal. The Multisale EIS addressed CPA Lease Sales 185, 190, 194, 198, and 201 scheduled for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively, and WPA Lease Sales 187, 192, 196, and 200 scheduled for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Although the Multisale EIS addresses nine proposed lease sales, at the completion of the EIS process, decisions were made only for proposed CPA Lease Sale 185 and proposed WPA Lease Sale 187. In the year prior to each subsequent proposed lease sale, an additional NEPA review will be conducted to address any new information relevant to that proposed action. After completion of the EA, MMS will determine whether to prepare a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or a Supplemental EIS. The MMS will then prepare and send Consistency Determinations (CD's) to the affected States to determine whether Lease Sale 196 is consistent with their federally-approved State coastal zone management programs. Finally, MMS will solicit comments via the Proposed Notice of Sale (PNOS) from the governors of the affected States on the size, timing, and location of Lease Sale 196. The tentative schedule for the pre-lease decision process for Lease Sale 196 is as follows: EA FONSI or Supplemental EIS decision, March 2005; CD's sent to affected States, March 2005; PNOS sent to governors of the affected States, March 2005; Final Notice of Sale published in the Federal Register, July 2005; and Lease Sale 196, August 2005.

Public Comments: Interested parties are requested to send within 30 days of this Notice's publication comments regarding any new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA. Comments may be submitted in one of the following three ways:

1. Comments may be submitted using MMS's new Public Connect on-line commenting system at This is the preferred method for commenting. From the Public Connect “Welcome” screen, search for “WPA Lease Sale 196 EA” or select it from the “Projects Open for Comment” menu.

2. Written comments may be enclosed in an envelope labeled “Comments on WPA Lease Sale 196 EA” and mailed (or hand carried) to the Regional Supervisor, Leasing and Environment (MS 5410), Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394.

3. Comments may be sent to the MMS e-mail address:

To obtain single copies of the Multisale EIS, you may contact the Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, Attention: Public Information Office (MS 5034), 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, Room 114, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394 (1-800-200-GULF). You may also view the Multisale EIS or check the list of libraries that have copies of the Multisale EIS on the MMS Web site at

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Dated: November 22, 2004.

Chris C. Oynes,

Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region.

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[FR Doc. 05-1013 Filed 1-18-05; 8:45 am]