→ EPA proposed withdrawal of 2014 Proposed Determination for Pebble Mine deposit area

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‘The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and Region 10 Regional Administrator are requesting public comment on this proposal to withdraw the EPA Region 10 July 2014 Proposed Determination. The 2014 Determination would have restricted the use of certain waters in the [Bristol Bay watershed] in southwest Alaska as disposal sites for dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit, a copper-, gold-, and molybdenum-bearing ore body. The EPA agreed to initiate this proposed withdrawal process as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, whose subsidiaries own the mineral claims to the Pebble deposit. The EPA is accepting comments from the public on the rationale for the proposed withdrawal.’ The EPA is specifically asking for comment on (1) 'whether to withdraw the July 2014 Proposed Determination at this time for reasons provided' in the Federal Register; and (2) 'if a final withdrawal decision is made following this comment period, whether the Administrator should review and reconsider the withdrawal decision.'

→ Redefining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act

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In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army published the Clean Water Rule: Definition of `Waters of the United States' (short summary of primary impacts here). The agencies now propose to replace the 2015 definition of 'waters of the United States,' and reinstate the definition of 'waters of the United States' that 'existed prior to the 2015 rule, to reflect the current legal regime under which the agencies are operating.' This is in compliance with the February 28, 2017 Executive Order: Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the `Waters of the United States' Rule. Changing the definition of 'waters of the United States' changes the waters which fall under the provisions of the Clean Water Act. 

 

*The EPA released a pre-publication of a notice extending the comment period for this proposed rule from August 28th, 2017, to September 27th, 2017. 

→ Intent to prepare Environmental Impact Statement for establishment of subsistence harvest catch limits for bowhead whales

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The National Marine Fisheries Service is announcing its 'intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement... in order to assess the impacts of issuing annual catch limits for the subsistence harvest of bowhead whales by Alaska Natives from 2019 onward.' A notice of aboriginal subsistence whale hunting catch limits and any limitations on such hunting is published annually in the Federal Register. Annual catch limits are based on IWC Scientific Committee advice on the sustainability of proposed catch limits using a population model. The subsistence hunt itself is directly managed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating the official scoping period for the above Environmental Impact Statement; public comments submitted during the scoping period will 'help identify issues and alternatives to be considered.' 

→ Proposed revision to 1990 Listing and Priority Guidelines for endangered and threatened species

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to revise the (1) Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities, and (2) Recovery Plans contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. The need for revision has arisen through NMFS' application of the 1990 procedures, which contain vague definitions and lack sufficient detail regarding factors that should be considered when evaluating threats and recovery potential. NMFS reports that these revisions will better prioritize limited agency resources to advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species guided by the immediacy of the species' overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major threats, and certainty that management or protective actions can be implemented successfully. Revisions include increasing the number of species priority numbers from 12 to 24, and introducing general principles for prioritizing recovery plan development and implementation. 

* The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a notice on June 30, 2017 which extended the comment period from June 30, 2017 to August 28, 2017. 

→ 90-day finding from petition to list 10 species of giant clams as threatened or endangered

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that a petition to list ten species of giant clam as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act presented substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted for seven of the ten giant clam species (Hippopus hippopus, H. porcellanus, Tridacna costata, T. derasa, T. gigas, T. squamosa, and T. tevoroa). The petition also requested that critical habitat be designated for the Tridacninae species that occur in US waters. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, NMFS will initiate status reviews of these seven giant clam species. To ensure that the status reviews are comprehensive, NMFS is soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding these species. 

→ Proposed Endangered Listing Determination for the Taiwanese Humpback Dolphin

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed a "comprehensive status review under the Endangered Species Act for the Taiwanese humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis taiwanensis) in response to a petition from Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, and WildEarth Guardians to list the species. Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the draft status review report (Whittaker and Young, 2017), and taking into consideration insufficient efforts being made to protect the species," the National Marine Fisheries Service "has determined that the Taiwanese humpback dolphin has a high risk of extinction throughout its range and warrants listing as an endangered species."

→ Take of Marine Mammals Incidental to Restoration of Pier 62, Seattle Waterfront

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The National Marine Fisheries Service 'has received a request from the Seattle Department of Transportation for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to pile driving activities for the restoration of Pier 62, Seattle Waterfront, Elliot Bay in Seattle, Washington. The primary potential impacts to marine mammal habitat are associated with elevated sound levels produced by pile driving and removal associated with marine mammal prey species. Construction will also have temporary effects on salmonids and other fish species in the project area due to disturbance, turbidity, noise, and the potential resuspension of contaminants.' The National Marine Fisheries Service is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization for the specified activities.

→ National Marine Fisheries Service streamlining regulatory processes and reducing regulatory burden

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A series of recent Executive Orders aimed at eliminating, improving and streamlining current regulations and associated regulatory processes have been issued in 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, seeks public input on identifying existing regulations that: (1) eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation; (2) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; (3) impose costs that exceed benefits; (4) create a serious inconsistency or interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies; (5) are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001; and/or (6) derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified. Comments are specifically requested on existing processes and regulations under the following statutes, among others: Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

→ Request for comments and information on the preparation of the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is soliciting information and requesting comments on the preparation of a new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024. This 2019-2024 Program will replace the current 2017-2022 Program, which was approved on January 17, 2017. The initiation of a new National OCS Program development process at this time is a key aspect of the implementation of President Donald J. Trump's America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. The National OCS Program sets forth the proposed schedule of lease sales for the subsequent five-year period, and enables the Federal Government, States, industry, and other interested parties to begin planning for the later steps in the leasing process. Comments are specifically requested on the following, among others: (1) National energy needs for 2019 to 2024; (2) equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks among the various planning areas; (3) other uses of the sea and seabed, including commercial and recreational fisheries, navigation, etc.; and (4) relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of the different planning areas and/or a specific section(s) of a given OCS planning area. The full list of requested information can be found here

→ Review of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments

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Pursuant to Executive Order 13795 - Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, signed on April 28, 2017 - the Department of Commerce is conducting a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments since April 28, 2007. This Notice identifies 11 National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments subject to the review and invites comments to inform the review. This notice of review is separate from the review of marine and terrestrial National Monuments under Executive Order 13792, and includes the following 6 additional National Marine Sanctuaries: Thunder Bay, American Samoa, Monterey Bay, Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Channel Islands.

 

 

*The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association formally reopened the comment period on this document for an additional 15 days, beginning on July 31, 2017. The original comment period closed on July 26, 2017.

→ Permits for marine mammal take during seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) received five requests for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting deep penetration seismic surveys for hydrocarbon exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The applicants are companies that provide services, such as geophysical data acquisition, to the oil and gas industry. Upon review of the five requests, NMFS submitted questions, comments, and requests for additional information to the individual applicant companies; the resulting revised versions of the applications were determined by NMFS to be adequate and complete. In accordance to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NMFS is now requesting comments on its proposal to authorize incidental take of marine mammals to these companies for geophysical surveys.

*As of July 5, 2017, NMFS granted comment period extension requests. Comments will now be accepted through July 21, 2017.* 

→ Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation

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The Bureau of Reclamation intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation. This Environmental Impact Statement will evaluate the reintroduction of endangered (federally-listed) winter-run Chinook salmon and potentially spring-run Chinook salmon to their historical habitats in tributaries above Shasta Dam. The Bureau of Reclamation is looking for suggestions and information on the scope of alternatives and issues to be addressed in the full Environmental Impact Statement, and to identify important issues raised by the public related to the development and implementation of the reintroduction. 

→ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) seeks public comment to assist the review of NMFS' August 2016 Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing. This is pursuant to Executive Order 13795, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, which directs the secretary of Commerce to "take all steps permitted by law to rescind or revise that guidance, if appropriate.” The Technical Guidance compiles, interprets, and synthesizes scientific literature, to produce updated thresholds for assessing the effects of underwater sound on marine mammal hearing. The document is intended for use by NMFS analysts and managers and other relevant user groups and stakeholders, including other Federal agencies, when seeking to determine whether and how their activities are expected to result in hearing impacts to marine mammals via acoustic exposure. NMFS is particularly looking for comments regarding new peer-reviewed scientific literature, as well as recommendations for implementation. 

→ Review of Marine National Monuments

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This is the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Executive Order 13792 directs the Secretary of the Interior to review five Marine National Monuments designated or expanded under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The list of monuments being reviewed can be found in the Federal Register text (use link below). Among other provisions, Section 1 of the Executive Order states that designations should reflect the Act’s “requirements and original objectives” and “appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.”  One consideration of the Department of the Interior is whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest."

→ Proposed incidental harassment authorization for Pacific walruses and polar bears in Alaska

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service received a request from Quintillion Subsea Operation, LLC, to authorize the incidental taking by harassment of small numbers of Pacific walruses and polar bears from July 1 to November 15, 2017. The applicant has requested this authorization for its planned fiber optic cable-laying activities. The area included in the proposed authorization includes Federal waters of the northern Bering, Chukchi, and western portions of the southern Beaufort Seas, the marine waters of the State of Alaska, and coastal land adjacent to Nome, Kotzebue, Point Hope, Wainwright, Utqiagvik - formerly Barrow - and Oliktok Point (explanations of water designations here). The US Fish and Wildlife Service does not anticipate take by injury or death, and so propose authorization for take by harassment only.

→Revision of Critical Habitat Designation for freshwater finfish Santa Ana Sucker

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 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the comment period on their December 9, 2009 proposed revised designation of critical habitat for Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae) under the Endangered Species Act. The comment period will be open for an additional 30 days to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed revised critical habitat designation, the draft economic analysis associated with the proposed critical habitat designation, proposed revisions to proposed critical habitat in one subunit, the considered exclusion of critical habitat in two subunits, and the amended Required Determinations section of the preamble. The USFWS has provided a list of specific information that they are particularly interested in collecting comments on.  There is also an announcement of the location and time of a public hearing to receive public comments on the proposal.

→ Proposed annual northern fur seal subsistence harvest needs for 2017-2019

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provides both summaries of past fur seal harvests by Alaska Natives and “proposes annual estimates of northern fur seal subsistence harvest on the Pribilof Islands for 2017-2019”.