Archive for the ‘BOEMRE’ Category

All of the Above? NRDC Wants None of It

Photo by NOAA's National Ocean Service. Some rights reserved.

Quick on the heels of an upbeat Department of the Interior Press Release came an equal-and-opposite reaction from the National Resources Defense Council.

The commentary focused on a recently released Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement from DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that evaluates potential significant environmental effects of multiple geological and geophysical “G&G” activities in support of oil and gas exploration and development, renewable energy, and marine minerals in the Mid- and South Atlantic. All part of Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, according to the DOI, which called these steps “critical,” and the PEIS “a milestone […] consistent with the Proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017.”

But the NRDC sees it differently. The same G&G processes that might be used to “understand the extent, properties and geography of hydrocarbon resources, as well as the potential to site renewable energy structures and locate marine mineral resources like sand and gravel” – such as seismic air guns – are apparently “equivalent to blasting dynamite in a neighborhood every 10-12 seconds for weeks or months on end,” according to the NRDC, and “can cause hearing damage and death to marine mammals like endangered North Atlantic right whales that calve off the coasts of Georgia and Florida.”

Feel strongly one way or the other? The public may submit written comments by email to ggeis@boem.gov.

More Trouble for “Polar Bear Guy”

Photo by Loozrboy. Some rights reserved.

Wildlife researcher Charles Monnett (or “Polar Bear Guy,” as my boss calls him) has had a pretty crappy couple of months, from what we can tell.

In late July he was placed on administrative leave from his job at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), where he was researching – surprise! – polar bears.

Monnett originally made a name for himself with the publication of his 2006 paper that delved into polar bear mortality as a result of “extended open-water swimming” in the Arctic, presumably triggered by global warming and subsequent melting ice. The sad story of the dead bears was highlighted in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

However, now he’s making headlines for being the subject of what many are calling a witch hunt. Originally, the reason he was put on leave by BOEMRE wasn’t made public, but there’s been plenty of speculation. According to Fast Company, “[m]any environmentalists and scientists suspect that this kind of ‘aggressive’ house-cleaning includes silencing voices from within that may hinder fossil fuel exploitation in the Arctic.”

A recent letter made available to NPR gives BOEMRE’s side of the story – whether or not you choose to believe it. Apparently Monnett admitted to assisting another scientist “in preparing that scientist’s proposal for a government contract…[and] then served as chairman of a committee that reviewed that proposal.” Reports are conflicting on who thinks this is a standard practice, and who thinks this is “highly inappropriate.”

Paula Dinerstein, senior counsel at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), has been providing legal assistance to Monnett and has recently filed a complaint “of scientific and scholarly misconduct” against BOEMRE for their treatment of Monnett.

BOEMRE Recusals Show Substantial Agency-Industry Coziness

Photo by currybet. Some rights reserved.

Some diligent FOIA handiwork by the Associated Press has dug up quantitative confirmation of the ties between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation (BOEMRE) – the federal agency that regulates offshore energy development – and the companies doing the developing.

The AP obtained forms submitted by employees of BOEMRE requesting recusal from duty because of conflicts of interest or previous employment. Under policy instituted in August of last year, employees of BOEMRE are required to request such recusal from “any inspection or other official duty that relates to a designated operator, contract operator, or drilling contractor who employs a member of the district employee’s family or personal friend of the District employee[.]” Additionally, BOEMRE employees are not allowed to “perform any official duties” involving a former employer “who is a designated operator, contract operator, or drilling contractor” within two years of their last employment by that employer.

And who might these operators or contractors be, to whom BOEMRE has been romantically linked? The AP is reporting major names like Chevron, Shell and BP. Big surprise.

Also unsurprising? There’s nothing related to this story to be found on the BOEMRE website – not in their Newsroom, not on their Ethics page, and not on their FOIA page. But perhaps the sudden spotlight could prompt more transparency and stricter ethics rules going forward – a recent offshore drilling safety bill (currently stalled in the Senate) includes proposed amendments to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1355) with explicit “Conflicts of Interest” provisions.

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