and gas production have occurred in two areas of the Federal Outer Continental
Shelf (OCS), the Gulf of Mexico and Southern California. Leasing and
exploration activities have taken place in these areas as well as many other
areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Alaska OCS. The effects of exploration
and development are being addressed through the Minerals Management Service's
(MMS) Environmental Studies Program (ESP). Since 1973, the MMS has funded numerous
studies in each of the four OCS Regions (Alaska, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and
Pacific) to meet information needs on a wide variety of topics
associated with the offshore, coastal, and onshore environment.
Through the ESP's history, MMS has found that information needs are not static.
information often brings forth new technical questions, patterns of OCS
development change, and public concerns change. In spite of changing
information needs, the ESP has accomplished many important things. For
example, early concerns about catastrophic acute effects upon the marine
environment seem unwarranted; and, in most OCS regions, an excellent descriptive
base for future studies has been developed (see National Research Council [NRC]
1983, NRC , NRC , NRC [1992a, 1992b] and NRC ).
MMS has effectively addressed numerous environmental issues associated with
offshore oil and gas development, there still remain concerns which must be
fully addressed. For example, while acute effects appear to be minor and
restricted to the immediate vicinity of development and production, further
understanding of marine environmental processes on the OCS is necessary for a
full understanding of potential chronic and more physically remote effects.
Moreover, as the volume of environmental studies results and data has greatly
increased since 1973, management and dissemination of environmental information
has not kept pace.
ensure that MMS's ESP continues to meet its mandate under the OCS Land Act, it
is essential that the ESP include process oriented studies in addition to
monitoring and descriptive studies in order to increase predictive capabilities
to support management decisions. Studies and research must continue to be
conducted in an impartial, scientific manner. The results of these efforts
should be recognized by the various interest groups, as well as the scientific
community, as unbiased findings of experts. While scientific information
should be accepted regardless of origin of the research, scientific information
collected for leasing, exploration, and development decisions tends to be more
readily accepted by the local and regional populace if the studies are conducted
by well known and scientifically respected local experts and institutions.
Because MMS and the States have distinct, but complimentary, roles in the
process that leads to the lead Federal Agency decisions, scientific information is needed by MMS, and
the State and localities potentially affected by OCS operation. In light
of this, MMS developed a Coastal Marine Institute (CMI) program. Under
this program, MMS takes advantage of highly qualified, scientific expertise
at local levels to:
collect and disseminate environmental information needed for OCS oil and gas
marine minerals decisions;
address local and regional OCS related environmental and resource issues of
mutual interest; and
strengthen the MMS-State partnership in addressing OCS oil and gas and marine
minerals information needs.
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