In 1973, the U.S. Department of the Interior established an Environmental Studies Program (ESP) to support the department’s offshore oil and gas leasing program, which was conduced by the Bureau of Land Management until 1982, by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) until 2011, and by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) since 2011. The ESP’s statutory authorization comes from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 and the Outer Continental Lands Act as amended in 1978. Section 20 of OCSLA authorizes the ESP and establishes three goals for the program:
- to establish the information needed for assessment and management of environmental impacts on the human, marine, and coastal environments of the OCS and the potentially affected coastal areas;
- to predict impacts on the marine biota which may result from chronic, low-level pollution or large spills associated with OCS production, from drilling fluids and cuttings discharges, pipeline emplacement, or onshore facilities; and
- to monitor human, marine, and coastal environments to provide time series and data trend information for identification of significant changes in the quality and productivity of these environments, and to identify the causes of these changes.
Since the mid-1970s, the ESP has commissioned and published hundreds of studies that fall within three main disciplinary categories: 1) Marine Biology; 2) Physical Oceanography; and 3) Socioeconomics. It has funded more than $1 billion in research. Technical studies of more than 1,200 environmental research projects and 3,400 research reports are available online through the Environmental Studies Program Information System (ESPIS). Since 2000, I have been involved with three MMS/BOEM funded socioeconomic studies for the agency’s Gulf of Mexico Region. Descriptions of these studies can be found in the sidebar menu attached to this page.
During 2005-2011, I also served as a member of the Outer Continental Shelf Advisory Committee, which advises the Director of BOEM and the Secretary of the Interior on the scientific quality and value for decision-making of the ESP.