Benefits Derived from the Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Studies Program Are Questionable

CED-78-93: Published: Jun 1, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 1, 1978.

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The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) environmental studies program was established in 1974 to provide information about the OCS environment which would give federal agencies a basis for making decisions on resource development, predicting the impacts of OCS development, and modifying leasing stipulations and regulations for OCS development.

The program has been costly, exceeding $200 million since its inception, and it may have little effect in minimizing environmental damage during exploration, development, and production in OCS. There is little agreement among federal and state agencies on how the studies can best be used in decisionmaking and what information is needed to assess the environmental impact of OCS development. Research on effects of pollutants is widely dispersed among federal agencies and is not coordinated with overall marine research needs. State agencies are concerned about the lack of data describing coastal and nearshore environments on which to base lease decisions. Uncertainties about information management are exemplified in the Alaska studies program, the largest of the programs. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not provided adequate program guidance to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop the necessary information, and NOAA has not used its resources to develop environmental information effectively.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should: (1) reassess the program for how the studies can best be used in the OCS development decisionmaking process and what information is needed to assess the impact of development; (2) in cooperation with federal and state agencies, develop coordinated plans that identify OCS environmental information needs and focus relevant marine research activities on these needs; and (3) require the Director, BLM, to define specific Alaska program goals, priorities, and research needs, and improve program guidance to NOAA. The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator, NOAA, in line with BLM guidance, to improve the operational design, implementation, and control of the Alaska program, with greater emphasis on long-range research planning, an interdisciplinary approach, integration of research results with Department of the Interior decision points, use of outside expertise, procedures to ensure consideration of previous research, and consideration of users' needs.

    Agency Affected:


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