Beach News


Beach News is a courtesy service provided by the Carteret County Shore Protection Office that furnishes on-line news relevant to the beaches of North Carolina with special emphasis to Carteret County.  Please visit if you wish to be added to or removed from the "Beach News" distribution list.   Recent "Beach News" is provided below.

BEACH NEWS for 2018 has been redesigned, restructured, and remodeled

Hurricane Florence - Preliminary Assessment
for Bogue Banks Oceanfront (9/16/18)

Before/After Slideshow (updated 9/21/18)

Hurricane damage is minimal for Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island 

Norfolk company's flood sensors could help save people, property

Coastal Management offers Emergency CAMA General Permit for hurricane recovery, tips for speeding up permit process 

NOAA – Post Hurricane Florence Aerial imagery 

Corps of Engineers face potentially eroded beaches and new shoals after Hurricane Florence

Myrtle Beach Renourishment Project on Hold 

Shore protection office gears up to measure impacts of Florence 

Sea-level rise is here. North Carolina needs to act

PUBLIC NOTICE (Marsh Sill General Permit) - The general permit authorizes the construction, maintenance and repair of marsh sills for shoreline stabilization along eroding shorelines within waters located within the 20 coastal counties of North Carolina and subject to regulatory jurisdiction of the Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers.  
Proposed general permit:

NTB Aldermen to discuss New River dredging plans

Would iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse be underwater now if it wasn’t moved 20 years ago?

New Beach Access Walkways in Avon are Designed to Stand up to Storms – And They’re Working

Bids under budget for port dredge, work to start early next year 

Two iconic Outer Banks lighthouse sites face floods as erosion gnaws sand around them 

Failure to launch: Currituck still seeking Corps' OK for dredging
Is pumping more sand onto NC beaches causing deadly currents?

Rising Seas: Park Managers Are Taking Heed 

Dredging Projects Underway At The Crystal Coast

Cape Point reopens after nesting birds finish raising young

Shore Protection Office Newsletter (as presented to the Island Review)
State of the Beach (2018) 

A Charleston sand bar once home to 4,000 birds is gone, but $1.5M could bring it back 
Mason Inlet and the cost of (inlet) stability

Panel OKs release of money for nourishment project 

Why lawyers say SC should stop the controversial seawall being built on Sea Pines beach

Dredging ongoing in Bulkhead, ACE set to touch up Bogue Inlet next 

New OBX dredge set to keep Oregon Inlet open like it was "intended" and boost economy 

State Ports studying practicality of deepening Cape Fear River channel to as much as 55 feet 

Appointees bring experience to N.C. coastal commission

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
August 27, 2018; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

County brainstorms on flooding issues 
Navy defends asking Congress for leeway to kill marine mammals
Courtney Columbus, E&E News, August 22, 2018
A marine mammals provision in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which President Trump signed into law earlier this month, has drawn criticism from some conservation groups but the administration insists it's sound policy.
The change enables the Navy permits to unintentionally harm or kill a certain number of marine mammals during its military readiness activities to last seven years instead of five. Extending the permits means less frequent environmental reviews are required.  Groups including the Sierra Club and Oceana have slammed the provision for undermining the Marine Mammal Protection Act. But NOAA says it won't cause harm because the agency will still apply the same stringency to evaluating such "take" permits.  "We do not believe the provision will affect marine wildlife, including whales. The agency would be required to conduct the same analyses and make the same determinations prior to issuing any incidental take regulations as it does now," Jolie Harrison, chief of the permits and conservation division at NOAA Fisheries' Office of Protected Resources, said in a statement.
The Navy also says it doesn't foresee the provision causing harm. "The Navy does not expect that this change will have a negative impact to the level of protection afforded marine mammals under the MMPA," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Christina Sears said in an email, adding that the Navy and NOAA meet annually to discuss current permits and they can be changed at any point.  It currently takes the Navy about four years to complete the process, she said. The extension outlined in the NDAA will "provide workload and manpower efficiencies," she said. And it might also lead to long-term cost savings.  The Department of Defense asked for the change, submitting a legislative proposal that led to the provision in the NDAA. The Navy and NOAA had spent several years working on ways to streamline this permitting process, Sears said.  The Navy's use of underwater sonar and explosives can harm marine mammals, explained Lara Levison, senior federal policy director at environmental group Oceana. More time between reviews could lead to less precise information about the Navy's planned activities and how they might affect the animals, she said.
"And then, of course, ocean conditions are changing quite significantly and unpredictably due to climate change and temperature changes and pH changes in the ocean, so that's a wild card that really calls out for more frequent analysis rather than less frequent analysis," Levison said.  Also, because it's difficult to study marine mammals in the wild, scientists don't always notice immediately when a population starts to decline, Levison said. The endangered North Atlantic population of right whales started declining in 2010, but scientists didn't confirm the change until 2017, even though these whales are relatively well-studied compared with other species, she added.  Last month, before the NDAA conference report was released, more than 100 House Democrats signed a letter calling for the removal of the marine mammal language and a controversial sage grouse provision. The grouse language, which would have prevented the grouse and the lesser prairie chicken from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, didn't make it into the final version.  The Navy recently estimated that during a five-year cycle, its activities would kill more than 250 whales and other marine mammals, inflict permanent harm on 3,000, and cause more than 30 million disruptions to foraging and other vital behavior, according to the Democrats' letter. The data is from a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis based on the Navy's most recent completed round of environmental reviews.  But Rear Adm. Kevin Slates, then chief of the Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, wrote in a 2013 blog post that the service's environmental impact statements assume a worst-case scenario and overestimate how much its activities will harm marine mammals.  "The reality is the impact of Navy training and testing activity on marine mammals is likely to be significantly less than what our permit requests capture," he wrote.  Those estimates also don't include the impact of steps the Navy takes to mitigate harm, he added.  Retired Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, who served as assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment from 2013 until 2017, supports the marine mammals rider and calls the current five-year timeline "very, very inefficient."  McGinn said Navy personnel aim to "be conservative in our numbers and overestimate the potential number of takes, because we don't want to get anybody into trouble for exceeding what realistically is a more valid take number. So it tends to be, I would call it, take inflation."

With private partner aboard, Dare on course to build a dredge 

Clues remain from South Carolina’s former beach communities, victims of shoreline change

Can We Outbuild Future Coastal Flooding? 

NC beach homes and coast are ‘doomed’ and residents need to get out, scientist says 

Once prized and profitable, beachfront real estate can now be a losing proposition

Corps to dredge Bulkhead Channel

Whatever happened to . . . NC Ports $4.5 billion, 600-acre ‘megaport’ project in Brunswick County?

Community discusses tackling sea level rise 

Barge capsizes off Surfside Beach, U.S. Coast Guard responds

Port of Wilmington to study deepening shipping channel 

Wilmington Port Looks to Lure Bigger Ships 

Town, wind, calmer seas flatten curious cliff on section of beach 

Water Intrusion in the Chesapeake Bay Region: Is It Caused by Climate-Induced Sea Level Rise? 

A Look Back: Holden Beach’s (Un)Done Deal 

Waterways Commission Tackles Hatteras Inlet, Rodanthe Harbor, and Avon Harbor at August Meeting 

Property owners of Freeman Park land propose easement swap with town

Dare Moving Ahead on Inlet Dredge Plan 

Brunswick County to fund Lockwood Folly dredging; Oak Island has opportunity for sand 

Draft EA Released on Offshore Sand Surveys 

Environmentalists challenge Hilton Head sea wall, ask state to halt construction

Federal proposal would ban Hereford Inlet from being used for beach replenishment 

All Set for the Grand Strand Beach Renourishment Project

Sardinia sand thieves face fines of up to €3,000

Lockwoods Folly dredging project would provide Oak Island with much needed sand 

Why the city hasn't done emergency dredging of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach

Army Corps dredge heading to Rudee Inlet as shoaling robs marinas of business

How FEMA’s new flood zones could impact property values, land use 

Private Hilton Head seawalls must be regulated by what is best for community as a whole  

Parris Island, Charleston Coast Guard threatened by rising seas, global warming

His ‘slice of heaven’ is disappearing: How sea level rise threatens the Grand Strand

‘Rising’ Exhibit Documents Coastal Change

Our Opinion: North Carolina's coastal erosion needs attention

Test Case for Oceanfront Development Risks (Riggings Part 2 of 2) 

‘Mini cliffs’ at Folly Beach are actually a normal part of renourishment 
Sea level rise requires planning 

PUBLIC NOTICE – Wilmington Port Proposes to Increase Channel Depth, Meeting

New Rule Latest Effort to Save The Riggings (Part 1 of 2)

After a close call, Virginia Beach orders emergency dredging at Rudee Inlet 

Storms washed away sand from these Grand Strand beaches. This is how SC is fixing it 

Senator Richard Burr could hold up federal beach renourishment funding 
Swiss Re, Security First team up on Florida flood cover

Topsail Beach Board Upholds Building Permit

Carolina Beach will discuss Freeman Park land acquisition in closed-door meeting

‘Water, water everywhere’ and it’s rising 

South Carolina homeowners keep trying to build sea walls. Can the state keep up? 

Beaches: Goldfinch will lead review of management act (SC) 

PUBLIC COMMENT OPEN – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat

Agencies and Lawmakers Seek ESA Reform

What’s next for Brunswick’s Lockwood Folly Inlet? 

Sea level rise has already sunk Carolinas beach property values — by $1.6 billion, study finds

Analysis: A Cry for a Life Preserver 

Cooper Appoints CRC, Other Board Members 

State coastal agency accepting proposals for coastal planning and management grants 

NC close to buying fragile Sunset Beach land to stop resort plans 

Beaufort (SC) eyes multimillion-dollar plan to fight flooding. But will it work?

Residents asking feds to investigate Charleston for failure to protect against flood risks 

Editorial: Of course Charleston tourism and flooding are related

Carolina Beach Council Votes To Resume Lake Dredging Project 

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas 

Turtles, eagles and other SC species at risk under Trump plan to re-do endangered species act

Trump admin proposes regulatory overhaul
Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter, Thursday, July 19, 2018
The Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries today unveiled what some bill as the most significant changes to Endangered Species Act regulations in several decades.  Consultations with other agencies would be streamlined. There would be a tighter definition of "foreseeable future," crucial in ESA decisions. Critical habitats could shrink, and threatened species would no longer automatically receive the same protections as endangered species.  Taken together, the proposed rule changes would more closely align the two agencies that share responsibility for the ESA and address some common complaints aired by critics of the 1973 law.    First, though, the reform ideas will ignite a debate that's likely to grow heated.  "One thing we [have] heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate," Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said in a statement.  He said changes should "produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people."
Some environmentalists were preparing to take to the ramparts.  "These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today."
Others offered initial nuance.  "Although some conservationists might characterize the entire rulemaking as simply another Trump administration effort to undercut conservation, we think that a closer look will reveal both advantages and concerns from a conservation perspective," Jake Li, director for biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center, said prior to the release.  Today's release follows months of study, and comes as Congress continues to struggle with ESA legislation. Unlike the bills now afloat on Capitol Hill, the administrative changes can be accomplished through a departmental regulatory process that includes a public comment period (E&E Daily, July 18).
The proposed regulatory changes are both technical and consequential. One, for instance, bears the deceptively dull title of "elimination of blanket 4(d) rule" (E&E News PM, April 4).  The ESA prohibits the "take" of species designated as endangered, while Section 4(d) of the law allows the agency to establish special regulations for threatened species. In 1978, FWS used this authority to extend the prohibition of take to all threatened species. This is known as the "blanket 4(d) rule."  Take covers a wide range of actions, including those that "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect" a threatened or endangered species. This blanket 4(d) rule for threatened species can be modified by a species-specific 4(d) rule.  Conservatives and private-property advocates have previously sought to scale back the blanket 4(d) rule, which they say erases what should be a meaningful distinction between threatened and endangered species. The proposal would cover only future listings.  "Some of our regulations were promulgated back in 1986, and frankly, a great deal has been learned by the agencies administering the act and by the public," Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters today.
Another change would establish that the "foreseeable future" definition used in making ESA listing decisions extends only so far as officials "can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable."  A potentially key change involves critical habitats, which are areas important for recovery of a species. Sometimes an area can be considered important for recovery even when it is not currently occupied by the species in question.  Under the new proposal, FWS and NOAA Fisheries will designate unoccupied critical habitat only when the occupied areas are inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species or if inclusion of unoccupied areas would yield certain other specified benefits.  In some "rare" cases, officials say, there may be no critical habitat designated.  "The changes ... are designed to bring additional clarity and consistency to the implementation of the act across our agencies, and we look forward to additional feedback from the public," said Chris Oliver, NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries.  The proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register and subject to a 60-day public comment period.  "I think we'll hear from people who think that it's great," Bernhardt said, "and we'll hear from people that think it's crazy, and from people who are in between."

County seeks grant for Lockwood Folly Inlet dredging

Southport, State Ports Authority to share cost of design for lower Cape Fear erosion control project

Pawleys Island: Town will join Corps beach project

Murrells Inlet: Dredging funds among list of vetoes 

Initial Results After Buxton Beach Nourishment Survey Find that Shoreline is Adapting Quickly 

Why 1,400 acres of pristine beach near Grand Strand could be left untouched 

State auditor to probe Manteo dredging project 

The Endangered Species Act is Itself Endangered

Loud backlash, quiet support for offshore plan in key races
Pamela King, Kellie Lunney and Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News reporters, July 17, 2018
When East Coast voters cast their ballots in the congressional races this fall, there's one sensitive energy issue that may be on their minds.  Competitors in several races for House and Senate seats in Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia and other states are letting voters know where they stand on the Trump administration's proposal to allow oil and gas leasing in nearly all the U.S. outer continental shelf (Greenwire, Jan. 4). The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposal — expected to be finalized next year — would replace an Obama-era plan that closed all areas but the Gulf of Mexico and a section of Alaska's Cook Inlet to offshore oil and gas development.  Most governors along the East and West coasts were outraged by the proposal. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has since hinted that several states with limited resource potential would likely be excluded from the plan. But he seems interested in exploring a Mid-Atlantic gas play, and Florida's western waters are known to hold oil potential (Energywire, April 16).  Zinke controversially pledged to exclude Florida's waters from new offshore drilling just days after BOEM released the draft five-year plan. It remains unclear whether he will walk back that exemption in later versions of the document.  As in the gubernatorial races, congressional candidates on both sides of the political aisle have taken stances against offshore drilling in their states' waters (Energywire, May 29). But some GOP contenders have said they would support new exploration and production under the right circumstances.  Republicans who oppose offshore drilling must do more than simply say they are against it, said Craig Auster, political action committee director for the League of Conservation Voters.  "What are they doing to stop their president and his Department of Interior from doing this?" he said.  Here's a look at where contenders for House and Senate seats in several East Coast races stand on offshore drilling:
In the Florida Senate race, the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and his challenger, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, are both opposed to drilling off the coast of the Sunshine State.  Auster said LCV recently did an event with Nelson in Tampa to highlight "his strong record" on the environment. On offshore drilling, "you have one who is against it [Nelson], and one [Scott] who has flip-flopped on it," said Auster. Scott's opposition sparked Zinke's now-infamous January tweet saying that Florida was "off the table" when it comes to offshore oil and gas drilling.  But Auster said Scott is "trying to greenwash his environmental record by saying he's against" offshore drilling.  Florida's congressional Republicans and Democrats consistently have opposed efforts to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the state's Atlantic seaboard to oil and gas drilling. The eastern Gulf is under a drilling moratorium that expires in 2022.  But that doesn't mean Florida's congressional representatives are dead set against opening any area that's currently off-limits, said House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).  "They're more reasonable than that," said Bishop, who has met with members of the Florida delegation periodically to discuss the issue. "But there are some areas that should remain off limits, and I will agree to that."  The Pentagon warned in a recent report that additional drilling in the eastern Gulf could hinder military testing and training.  "If there is an area that is essential to the military's need — and that's the military carve-out — that's going to be designated by the military, then I'll obviously be listening to that. And we're going to take that very seriously," he said.
Georgia is a key state largely because Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not taken a formal position on the issue other than to say he's passed along concerns to the congressional delegation.  This leaves plenty of opportunity for environmentalists to press elected officials for an exemption and those pushing for an "all of the above" energy strategy to advocate for exploration off the Peach State's coast.  Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter (R) pressed BOEM to hold one of its informational sessions along Georgia's coast, arguing it was necessary for federal regulators to make their case for offshore drilling to the residents and businesses that are actually there.  That didn't happen — the BOEM meeting was near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — and Carter remains firm in his support for exploring offshore energy development but doing so while protecting the coast.  "Any energy exploration must be done in a way that does not harm our beautiful coastline. I am committed to working to ensure a positive relationship between increasing our energy independence and protecting our beautiful coasts, marine life, and industries," he said in a statement to E&E News.  Democrat Lisa Ring, who's seeking Carter's seat in the House, sums up her energy position succinctly on her campaign website: "No drilling. Period."  Like Carter, Georgia Rep. Karen Handel (R) also took a cautionary approach.  "We need to aggressively pursue all available energy solutions. However, in doing so, we must take into consideration the environmental impact as well as the fact that Georgia's coast is home to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay," Handel said.  She's calling for a full assessment of potential impacts of drilling offshore before any additional steps are taken.  Handel's Democratic opponent will be selected in a runoff election later this month.  The Consumer Energy Alliance as ramped up its campaign to educate elected officials on the importance of a broad energy policy that will include offshore drilling. It says the United States needs enough energy options to ensure the nation isn't reliant on foreign sources.  This will add jobs, boost economic development and keep prices low at the pump and in the home, the group argues.  Its Campaign for America's Energy won't stop at the elections, but reaching out to new elected officials is a focus.  "We want to make sure they are using science and data," not emotion, said Kevin Doyle, executive director of CEA in Florida, in an interview.  Doyle and CEA's Southeast Executive Director Tim Page visited the Georgia Chamber of Commerce as part of their rounds. Page explained that they were doing their best to emphasize the fact that many people don't pay attention to what type of fuel makes up their electricity bill — but that customers sometimes have to make a choice between paying that bill and getting prescription medicine.  "This touches everybody," Page said.  The two were headed to walk the halls of the Georgia State Capitol to continue with their message — one that Doyle described as energy agnostic.  "But we feel we have to say 'yes' to everything," he said.
South Carolina
After losing the endorsement of several other South Carolina Republicans due to her stance on offshore drilling, Katie Arrington swung back.  "I support the repeal of Barack Obama's arbitrary restrictions on domestic energy exploration," the GOP candidate, who beat incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary, wrote in a June 19 statement. "I do not support drilling for oil off of South Carolina's coast."  At least five Republican coastal mayors have opted to back Arrington's Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham, instead, according to recent reporting by the Charleston Post and Courier(Energywire, June 21).  In her statement, Arrington sought to clarify that while she supports expanding the U.S. offshore drilling program, she doesn't want to bring the industry to her home state.  "I am not opposed to studying the issue, but we didn't have an oil industry in our state before the Obama ban, and we won't have one after the Obama ban," she said.  South Carolina's other coastal district, which includes Myrtle Beach, appears to rest safely in the hands of an offshore drilling opponent, no matter who wins the election.  Incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Rice last month joined Gov. Henry McMaster (R) and two other members of South Carolina's congressional delegation in a letter to Zinke opposing their state's inclusion in the offshore plan.  "Our environment is our most precious asset — we must safeguard our natural resources and the communities supported by our coastline," Rice said in a June statement. "I will continue to do everything in my power to protect and grow our coastal economy."
North Carolina
Opposition to the Trump administration's offshore drilling plan is a centerpiece in Democrat Kyle Horton's quest to unseat Rep. David Rouzer (R) as representative of the Tar Heel State's southern coast.  "My family tragically lost someone we love in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and now the Trump Administration is expanding drilling & obliterating safety protections for workers," Horton tweeted on Jan. 4, the day BOEM released its draft five-year plan.  "In Congress, I'll stand up to those attempts," she continued in a second tweet. "While my opponent puts oil & gas interests ahead of our health, I'll fight for you."  Rouzer has said he would support leasing in the Atlantic Ocean, as long as drillers adhere to the strictest safety precautions and conduct their activities at least 30 miles off the coast.  In the race to represent the barrier island communities that make up North Carolina's Outer Banks, Walter Jones runs unopposed.  The Republican congressman has backed legislation that would block Interior from leasing any part of the Mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf to oil and gas developers. Earlier this year, Jones called on BOEM to hold a public meeting on the federal drilling proposal not only in the state's capital, but also in a coastal town.  "It is vitally important for the federal government to receive the input of citizens who stand to be most impacted by this proposal," he wrote in a Jan. 25 letter to BOEM. "Therefore, I respectfully encourage you to grant the county's request for a public meeting in Dare County."  Farther inland, other North Carolina congressional candidates are making their opposition known.  The state's 9th District is gearing up for a heated contest between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris, who beat out incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) in the primary.  McCready, a solar energy entrepreneur, views conservation as a "moral imperative," which won him the endorsement of the North Carolina LCV.  "Dan McCready knows protecting the environment and the economy must go hand in hand, he lives it in his daily life," Carrie Clark, North Carolina's LCV executive director, said in a March 14 statement. "Dan understands that we must protect our coast from the potential harm of offshore drilling, and fight to make sure we have clean drinking water for our children and future generations."  Energy hasn't been a focal point of Harris' platform, but the Baptist pastor has aligned himself with many of the Trump administration's priorities, such as building a border wall.
The issue of offshore drilling is surfacing in the House race in Virginia's 2nd District, which includes Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk and Hampton.   Republican Rep. Scott Taylor told The Washington Post in January that he was opposed to oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of his state. His challenger, Democrat Elaine Luria, whom LCV has endorsed, also opposes offshore drilling.  So where is Luria's advantage?  "There's room for her to talk about his evolving stance on it," Auster said of Taylor, who didn't take a public position on the issue until the Trump administration unveiled its proposal to open more than 90 percent of federal waters to potential oil and gas drilling.  Incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine has openly supported offshore drilling in the past, but he changed his stance after joining Hillary Clinton's ticket in the 2016 presidential race, according to a PolitiFact analysis.  "Virginia is well-positioned to be a national leader in offshore energy exploration," Kaine said in a 2013 statement after teaming with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on legislation to promote energy production on Virginia's portion of the outer continental shelf.  Kaine had a different view by the time the Trump administration proposed to expand offshore drilling into Virginia's waters.  "Drilling would threaten our defense assets in Hampton Roads, and Virginians living near the coast tell me they don't want it," he said in January. "A small business owner on the Virginia Beach boardwalk asked me to imagine what a BP-like oil spill would do to summer tourism.  "It's not worth the risk."  Prince William County official Corey Stewart, Kaine's Republican opponent in the Senate race, includes fossil fuels — as well as solar, nuclear and wind — in his platform to increase U.S. energy independence.  "With massive advances in safety technology over the past decade, I strongly support offshore oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic along with the high-paying jobs, energy independence and increased tax revenues these projects will bring," Stewart said in a statement to E&E News.  One former Virginia lawmaker is encouraging the delegation to stay open to the state's offshore energy potential.  "They are exploring offshore all over the world," Jim Webb, co-chairman of the American Petroleum Institute's Explore Offshore coalition and a former Democratic senator, said in an interview with The Hill. "Our technology is good, safety procedures I think have vastly improved, so let's take a look at what's out there."

With State Funding, Is Bird Island Fight Over? 

When it comes to beach building, Oak Island thinking big 

State auditors to interview Manteo officials about dredging project

Bubbling beaches? South Carolina oceanfront septics cause stink

Why ESA bills will never go extinct
Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter, July 16, 2018
The perpetually simmering Endangered Species Act debate will heat up again tomorrow, when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee airs a wide-ranging draft bill that has sparked both acclaim and controversy even before being formally introduced.  "When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), adding that his draft legislation will "increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process."  Barrasso's 36-page draft bill bears the simple, noninflammatory title of the "Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018."  The details, though, have mobilized most of the customary ESA antagonists who have been locking horns in the 45 years since Congress wrote the law (Greenwire, July 2).  Draft bill supporters include the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, California's large Westlands Water District and the hunting aficionados with Safari Club International.  Opponents, so far, include the Defenders of Wildlife.
"Senator Barrasso's proposed legislation has far more to do with pleasing the Western Governors' Association and industries that oppose wildlife conservation than helping endangered species," declared Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.  Clark cited the proposal's "heavy-handed preference for states" and its "imposition of arbitrary, conflicting and immensely burdensome procedural requirements," among other alleged problems.  All agree the path ahead will get rocky, and it could take several routes. Soon, for instance, the Interior Department will be releasing its own long-awaited proposals for administrative changes.  "Western Governors acknowledge that any congressional effort to amend the ESA will be complicated and spark diverse opinions," the Western Governors' Association's leaders wrote, adding that "each governor reserves judgment on whether to continue supporting this bill as it moves through the legislative process."  Overall, the draft Senate bill would impose some tighter ESA deadlines, block some judicial reviews, require greater transparency and mandate endangered species priority setting.  The draft also would defer judicial review of a delisting decision until the expiration of the monitoring period for the species. This could be a long time, as post-delisting monitoring typically lasts for at least five years.
Other provisions simply call for more ESA-related information to be made public, albeit in some hot-button areas.
Endangered species litigation, for instance, is a frequent target of conservative critics, and the draft bills call for annual reports on ESA litigation expenses, including the hourly fees paid to private lawyers for conservation groups and others.
The measure, however, does not go as far as a House bill, H.R. 3131, that would impose a cap on ESA-related attorneys' fees.  The stricter House proposal is part of a larger package of nine ESA bills championed by the 79-member Congressional Western Caucus. Eventually, House and Senate members will have to reconcile their differences and persuade leaders to provide precious floor time amid a busy election-year schedule (E&E Daily, July 13).  In a noteworthy move that could make federal staff members think twice when interacting with their state counterparts, the Senate proposal would require annual "state feedback on the performance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its employees within their respective borders."  State clout would also be amplified by a requirement that "the number of federal representatives on a [species] recovery team shall not exceed the number of state and local representatives."

Rodanthe Harbor, Hatteras Harbor Dredging Discussed at Waterways Commission Meeting

Damaged Pipe Complicates Dredging Job | Coastal Review Online

Pawleys Island: Federal funds alter plans for beach project 

ESA is '8-track law in Spotify world' 
Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter, July 13, 2018
Western Republican lawmakers yesterday rolled out a wide-ranging legislative package to overhaul the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act, which they said has morphed into a financial and regulatory burden on farmers, ranchers and loggers without adequately protecting wildlife.  "Everyone here agrees with the premise that we should make all reasonable effort to protect species facing extinction" as a result of human activity, Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, chairman of the 79-member Congressional Western Caucus, said during a hearing on the suite of bills he dubbed the "Western Caucus Endangered Species Act Modernization Package."  But Gosar, who is leading the reform effort, said the "legislative intention" of the 1973 landmark conservation law has strayed significantly from the "on-the-ground reality" of how the federal government has implemented it, resulting in what critics of the law say is a 3 percent species recovery rate in its nearly 50-year history.   The ESA has become too restrictive and overly litigious, said those who want to update it. For instance, the protection of species and habitat has threatened healthy and sustainable forests, making them vulnerable to wildfire, said Arkansas Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman. "It's an eight-track law in a Spotify world," Westerman said.
Other caucus members agreed.  "The Endangered Species Act is the most inept program in the federal government," House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, a former chairman of the Western Caucus, said in a press conference after the hearing.  "It's a wonderful goal, but it doesn't have an idea of what its goals are," said the Utah Republican. "Or when it can actually be successful, which is why the Endangered Species Act has to be reformed if it's going to do anything for the species."  Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving House member and chairman emeritus of the Natural Resources Committee, was his typically colorful self in describing his view of the ESA.  "As the one person in the Congress, the only one, that voted for the [original] Endangered Species Act, please beat me with a whip," the Alaska Republican said during the hearing. Young said that at the time of the ESA's passage, members were told it was to save "leopards," not wildlife like "mussels and snails and turtles."  Among other things, the nine-bill bundle from the Western Caucus would alter the delisting designation process, tighten the petition process to reduce the backlog, cap attorneys' fees at $125 per hour for ESA lawsuits, and increase the role of state and local governments in the petition and listing processes.  It also calls for making the scientific data using in listing and delisting decisions more readily available to the public.  The bills boast several sponsors — all members of the Western Caucus — underscoring a legislative strategy built partly on strength in numbers. While many of the sponsors are from the West, there are a few from east of the Mississippi River as well.  Gosar touted the package as bipartisan, but so far just one Democrat, Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, has signed onto it.  "The timing for this is just perfect for this actually, I believe, because what we've seen is finally science has caught up with the myth and the emotion that really has been involved with the drafting of the original Endangered Species Act," said Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson, whose district comprises public land in Pennsylvania, including the Allegheny National Forest.  Thompson, who called his district the "eastern frontier of the Western Caucus," said any success the ESA has achieved over the years has been the result of voluntary conservation agreements rather than through the efforts of the Fish and Wildlife Service.  One of the measures in the package, sponsored by Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, would codify and clarify such voluntary efforts with state and local stakeholders such as species recovery and habitat reserve agreements, to encourage their greater use.

Who pays?
The hearing featured witnesses from groups including the Western Energy Alliance, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Association of Home Builders.  Stefanie Smallhouse, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau, shared a more personal story of her family's experience with the Endangered Species Act.  Smallhouse, whose family has been farming and ranching "in the same footprint" for more than 130 years, said her property has more than 120 species identified as threatened or endangered and "several layers of critical habitat."  She said the designations are made in "a blanket fashion" and that she was "100 percent" sure that there is "no scientific information available to show that those species do occur on our property, have occurred on our property or ever will occur on our property," criticizing what she called a lack of transparency.  "Who bears the cost of the recovery of these species?" Smallhouse asked rhetorically during the hearing, citing out-of-pocket costs borne by "a handful of ranchers" in Arizona to avoid interactions with the Mexican gray wolf, an endangered species.  "All of the people who want to see those wolves live in the city and don't have to live with the wolves themselves," she said, adding that the ESA feels like "a weapon" that is being used against her heritage, business and family.  Thompson said reforming the ESA shouldn't just be a concern of Western states or rural communities. The legislation "should get the support of every one of the 435 members of Congress," he said, especially those who represent large metropolitan regions. "Large urban areas, as I like to say, without a robust rural economy, folks in the cities are going to wake up cold, dark and hungry."
Vigorous fight ahead
Environmental groups came out strong yesterday against the Western Caucus legislative package, saying the ESA has demonstrated a more than 90 percent species recovery rate in the United States.  "Our most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction is once again under attack in the House of Representatives," said Nora Apter, legislative advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  "The false pretense of 'modernizing' a law that has kept 99 percent of species under its care from going extinct is a dirty strategy for gutting a law for greed. The Endangered Species Act works, and any effort to weaken it will be fought vigorously," Apter said.  The League of Conservation Voters, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife had similar messages for the Western Caucus.  "Today's extinction package of anti-wildlife legislation just shows how out of touch these politicians are with an overwhelming majority of Americans who want to save grizzly bears, manatees, wolves and other endangered wildlife," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.  "The Congressional Western Caucus should put effort into providing resources the ESA badly needs to save species instead of trying to destroy this highly successful law," Clark said.  Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement that the ESA already allows for the flexibility Republicans said they are seeking and requires stakeholders at all levels to work together to prevent species' extinction.  He said that listing species under the ESA only happens "after state management has proved insufficient" to protect habitat and wildlife.  "Republicans in Congress are scamming the public as a favor for their corporate supporters, not making serious policy, and there's no reason it should advance any further," Grijalva said.  "To judge by their actions rather than their words, the only things they see when they look at the natural world is dollars that aren't in their pockets yet. They don't seem to care how many endangered species have to die for them to build one more mine, dig one more oil well or install one more pipeline. They have sacrificed every other value we hold dear in the pursuit of a quick buck, and they're doing a poor job of hiding it," the Democrat said.
In the Senate
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso is circulating his own ESA reform bill in the upper chamber and plans to have a hearing on it next week.  The Wyoming Republican's measure would expand states' authority in writing species recovery goals, habitat objectives and other criteria for delisting or downlisting at-risk animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act (Greenwire, July 2).  It's not a straight companion bill to the Western Caucus package, though. "They are different approaches," said Jeff Small, executive director of the Congressional Western Caucus and senior adviser to Gosar.  The House effort is more comprehensive than the Senate version, said Small, praising the Barrasso bill and adding that they are "supportive" of all efforts to modernize the ESA.

Rodanthe home damaged, uninhabitable as Tropical Storm Chris batters Outer Banks 

Be careful on Outer Banks beach, rescuers warn — a house is crumbling into the ocean 

Erosion closes Carolina Beach public access point 

With seas rising, coastal resort abandons plan for controversial seawall (SC)

FEMA zoning changes approved in Carolina Beach, more properties added to 100-year floodplain 

Congress Must Extend and Reform the National Flood Insurance Program

Countdown begins as flood program stalls in Congress
Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter, July 11, 2018

Owners of federally insured flood zone properties have plenty to be nervous about this summer.  As hurricane season heats up, threatening thousands of coastal properties with storm surges, homeowners should also mark July 31 as a day of reckoning.  That's when the National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire unless lawmakers extend it for a seventh consecutive time since the end of fiscal 2017. In this polarized Congress, there are no guarantees that the cash-strapped program will get another reprieve.  At least two Senate bills have been introduced to extend the program through January, but neither has gained traction. Some experts suggest NFIP could get a shorter extension — perhaps three months — so that reform-minded GOP lawmakers can act before November's elections.  Or the program could lapse, placing billions of dollars of real estate at risk.
"It's not going to be easy, but as a general rule the party that's in power wants to act on these things while they still have the gavel," said R.J. Lehmann, director of finance, insurance and trade policy for the R Street Institute and a member of the NFIP-focused SmarterSafer coalition.  Yet as the deadline looms, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has direct oversight of NFIP, has not taken up legislation to reauthorize the program. Meanwhile, a House measure that passed last November that included key reforms to the program has not been acted on by the Senate.  The House reforms, embedded in the "21st Century Flood Reform Act," include provisions to bring more private companies into the flood insurance market, reduce costs associated with payouts to repetitive-loss properties and improve flood mapping to allow for more accurate assessments of at-risk properties. The House also embraced a schedule of premium increases for some properties but would also impose a cap on annual premium increases and surcharges.  Meanwhile, a six-month extension of NFIP, drafted by Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (R), was included in the Senate version of the farm bill (H.R. 2), which passed the chamber on June 28. But it's not certain a farm bill will pass the House this year or whether the NFIP provision would remain as the bill moves through a conference committee. As a backup, Kennedy also introduced stand-alone legislation (S. 3128) to extend NFIP through January 2019.
"In the absence of reauthorizing legislation, the National Flood Insurance Program will lapse, in the middle of hurricane season, leaving more than five million American families and businesses vulnerable," Kennedy said in a statement. "We can't allow the program to expire, and this may be the shortest way home. My colleagues shouldn't play politics with the NFIP. It's central to the stability and vitality of the American economy, whether you live in Plaquemines Parish or the Missouri floodplain."  Lehmann of R Street said the most likely scenario before July 31 is the passage of another extension. It might last six months, as Kennedy proposed, or through October. That would give Congress another opportunity to make changes to the program.  But advocacy groups such as the SmarterSafer coalition, which has sought NFIP reforms for years, argue that another short-term extension does not provide homeowners with the long-term certainty they need to make decisions about properties that are at risk of flooding.
"Continuous short-term extensions do not provide the certainty or the reforms the program needs," the coalition, comprising conservation groups, taxpayer advocates, insurance companies and housing advocates, said in a letter sent yesterday to Republican and Democratic Senate leaders.  While holders of existing flood insurance policies would be less affected by a temporary NFIP expiration, even a short lapse in the program could wreak havoc on the real estate industry and delay the closure of thousands of new mortgages, according to banking experts.  In addition to these risks, among the most persistent problems facing NFIP is a chronic shortage of cash to pay future claims and cover administrative costs for the program.  Revenue from premiums has long failed to cover the program's costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency last year used up all of its congressional borrowing authority, set at $30.4 billion, to pay for damages caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. FEMA estimates that those storms alone caused nearly $10 billion in NFIP-insured property losses.  In response to the financial crisis, Congress last October voted to cancel $16 billion of NFIP's outstanding debt to the Treasury to help keep the program solvent. Yet even with the debt forgiveness, FEMA borrowed an additional $6.1 billion in November to meet NFIP costs and projected future payouts associated with last year's record hurricane season.
As of the first quarter of 2018, NFIP was $20.5 billion in debt and is expected to pay $375 million in interest during the current fiscal year, according to FEMA estimates. Roy Wright, the agency's deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation, made clear in a recent report that under current conditions, NFIP "as currently designed ... cannot repay this debt."  Democrats, such as Rep. Maxine Waters of California, have also implored Congress to take proactive steps to help stabilize NFIP, though liberals have criticized the recent House reform bill as imposing excessive burdens on existing policyholders, including the poor and elderly.  "While Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria may be a distant memory for some, the road to recovery is just beginning for many in this country, and we are still learning about the depths of despair in Puerto Rico with no signs of leadership from the Trump administration," Waters said last month.  Meanwhile, a new Congressional Research Service analysis determined that increasing private-sector participation in writing flood policies "could transfer more flood risk from policyholders to the private insurance sector, as opposed to transferring the risk to the federal government through the NFIP."  In 2017, privately written policies accounted for roughly 15 percent of the flood insurance marketplace, according to experts, a substantial increase from 2016 but still far short of what reformers are seeking.  "There's obviously a lot of risk out there that needs to be insured, and the federal government alone isn't going to be able to do it," Lehmann said.

Pawleys Island: Two has two questions on beach project, owners have more

Digging deep: Carolina Beach may resume lake dredging 

SC lawmakers fail to reach deal on using tourism-related taxes to fund flooding projects

Senator Barrasso Continues Efforts to Modernize the Endangered Species Act 

Keep Your Paws Off: Three Ways Congress is Preying on Endangered Species Protections 

Panel Proposes Redrawn Inlet Hazard Areas 

Bill addresses The Riggings’ sandbags 

Video: A look at Kill Devil Hills beach a year after nourishment 

This Seaside Community Is Getting Swallowed by the Ocean

Engineers nix proposal for Bogue Banks nourishment

Beach renourishment protects homes, tourism, but the pace and costs are accelerating (SC)

Carolina Beach looking to dump lake dredging debris near federal LORAN Station property

Higher fees, land purchases planned for Freeman Park

Wrights/ville Beach budget boosts beach sand fund, raises water & sewer rates

Sand from Wilmington Harbor dredging has reached Oak Island Pier, work continues west 

Officials OK emergency dredge to open Atlantic Harbor

State coastal commission’s science panel to meet June 29 in Wilmington

U.S. House proposal re-ignites offshore drilling fight 

FEMA has new floodplain maps. Here are the changes expected in Southeastern NC

Nags Head OKs borrowing $37.5 million for 2019 beach work

Rising Seas Threaten $4 Billion in NC Property 

Editorial: Sea-level rise: Tiny numbers add up to big problems 

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
June 25, 2018; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

After Years of Efforts, Salvo Day Use Cemetery's Protective Barrier is Complete 

Salvo Cemetery Gets Bulkhead, Rock Barrier

VIDEO: Upgrading Wilmington District’s Dredger Merritt

Carolina Beach’s Board of Adjustment deals blow to Freeman Beach LLC., affirms town’s action

Got an idea to combat flooding? A Norfolk nonprofit might have some money for you. 

Coastal Changes OK’d In Whirlwind Session

State budget includes $5M in beach nourishment funds 

Cooper opposes latest federal proposal on offshore drilling 

In South Carolina, public beach access is one thing; nearby parking is quite another 

Seawalls 'destroy' the beach, experts say. So how did one in Sea Pines get approved? 

5 Hilton Head residents are building a private sea wall, but who will maintain the sand nearby? 

'Like a hurricane might have just come through': Dunes Club beach access shut down

Pawleys Island: With bids in hand, town needs to decide how much sand it can afford

New Flood Gauge in Rodanthe Being Installed to Help Determine Flooding Impacts

Sea level rise study shows Charleston area one of the riskiest places to live in Southeast 

Thousands of NC, SC homes totaling billions could be flooded in the years ahead, study finds

848 Hampton Roads homes could be underwater by 2030, scientists say 

Board Of Adjustment Rules In Freeman Park Property Owner Appeal 

Freeman Park property owners appealing town’s removal of fencing

Letter: Save Folly Beach 

Charleston District Awards Myrtle Beach Storm Damage Reduction Project Contract 

Pawleys Island: Bids put beach work on track for fall start 

Florida has spent more than $100 million pouring more sand onto beaches in the past three years. Is it time to wave a white flag? 

House Republicans propose financial penalties for states that block offshore drilling

Waterways Commission Starts to Plan Ahead for Late Summer / Fall Dredging 

Owner stands to lose occupancy permit for 25-bedroom house

Caswell, Oak Island beach nourishment project moving west at rapid pace

Dredging, potential sand issue pose challenge to Oak Island's sea turtle protectors 

Carolina Beach now has beach flooring, thanks to Ocean Cure

Sun setting on Charleston's notorious 'sunny day' flooding spots

An uninhabited island off the coast of North Carolina is for sale

Judge sides with NCDOT, environmental groups on Rodanthe bridge 

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit blocking new Rodanthe bridge 

N & O: Her 24-bedroom Outer Banks house is finally complete. But will she have to move it?

Spectrum News: Oak Island Beach Renourishment Effort Underway

For $4 million, this island off Pender County could be yours

Croatan Beach erosion could slow down with changes to Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach says 

Damaged Lost Colony replica ship, stuck in treacherous harbor, will be saved

Down East cemetery receives erosion aid 

Folly Beach building moratorium issues may foreshadow future of S.C. coast

Shore Protection Office Newsletter (as presented to the Island Review)
2018 Hurricane Season Preview – Uncertainty Rules the Day 

NEW - Record of Decision for the Final National Flood Insurance Program Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement 
Executive Summary -

Sand begins to flow onto Oak Island beaches as part of channel-deeming project 

Budget Plan Funds Dredge, GenX Studies

Senate approves budget with $15 million for Dare dredge

Boston Harbor barrier "doesn't make sense"

Dare, town push for emergency Manteo channel dredging

Murrells Inlet channel voters oppose dredging project tax increase 

Our coastal cemeteries are falling into the sea 

Delayed seismic testing decision puts energy industry at odds with Trump administration  

County Commissioners Approve Funding For Carolina Beach And Kure Beach Renourishment Project

Sand projects threaten sea turtle nests on 2 Brunswick beaches 

Beach, water access challenges along the Cape Fear coast

Water Resources Development Act passes, securing funding for beach renourishment

South Carolina's nesting shorebirds face increased threat as beach season approaches 

Bill to Consolidate Endangered Species Act Oversight Advances Out of Committee 

Hurricane Irma damaged local beaches. Here's how much it will take to fix them 

Dare County named one of the country’s best restored beaches 

Budget Process Underway, Draws Criticism

NEWS RELEASE - BOEM Extends Comment Period for Providing Feedback on Agency’s Proposed Path Forward for Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic 

State coastal commission’s science panel to meet May 24 in Wilmington 

Cape Point closed to ORVs for first time in nearly two years 

Additional $29M will fully fund Grand Strand beach renourishment

Del Mar takes another look at rising sea level and unpopular 'planned retreat'

Pawleys Island: For beach work, ’when’ will weigh with ‘how much’

Residents concerned about the future of a small cemetery (Sea Level, NC) 

Hatteras Inlet’s Navigable Condition and Emergency Ferry Channel Covered at Waterways Commission Meeting

Dare asks state lawmakers to fund purchase of hopper dredge 

New Efforts Underway to Save the Salvo Cemetery 

Virginia Beach official: Keeping lower taxes could affect ability to prepare for sea-level rise
Charleston port needs feds to make good on harbor deepening money

Beach nourishment could receive 1-time funding this year 

Cooper’s Budget Plan Funds Conservation 

High court sides with Currituck in $39.1M Swan Beach suit 

A softer approach, living shorelines as an alternative to a hardened coast (3 of 3) 

3 days vs. 3 months? Regulatory structure makes it tougher protect wetlands (2 of 3) 

What does it mean that our shoreline is ‘hardening?’ It’s not good (1 of 3)

Deal would limit Hunting Island beach renourishment plans. It may still end up in court 

Pawleys Island: State ends beach retreat policy, but owners still prepared 

Navy put a fence in the ocean at Virginia Beach's North End; now it's falling apart

Bald Head Island voters overwhelmingly approve borrowing to shore-up rock groin, beach 

Bald Head voters approve $6M beach referendum 

USFWS Guidance Clarifies Trigger for ESA Incidental Take Permits Tied to Habitat Modification 

Renowned expert on shorelines weighs in on ‘beach cliffs’

Scientists warn against losing a crucial research ship: The National Science Foundation ‘has betrayed us’

Beach Renourishment Project Could Cause Problems For Sea Turtle Nesting

Beach nourishment tops meeting about New Hanover coastal issues

Towns discuss beach renourishment with shrinking federal funding

Nags Head sticks with plan to wait a year for re-nourishment 

Nags Head opts for 2019 nourishment project 

Bald Head residents to vote on $6 million beach referendum 

‘Sunny day flooding’ worsens at NC beaches — a sign sea rise is decades too soon, studies say

Death of rare sea turtle off Hilton Head coast could lead to changes, SCDNR says

Erosion unearths bones on New York’s island of the dead's-island-of-the-dead

Seasonal cliffs cropping up at some Southeastern NC beaches 

Wilmington Harbor dredging project under way; shipping and beaches both will benefit 

America’s Last-Ditch Climate Strategy of Retreat Isn’t Going So Well 

Beaufort Hears Public Concerns Over Harbor

Croatan Beach residents blame city for beach's partial disappearance 

Some Sea Pines residents are concerned this private seawall will cause more flooding

The State of the World’s Beaches 

Gulf states want more revenue: 'The cap should be lifted'
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2018
With their coastline damaged by the oil and gas industry, a delegation of Louisianans asked a House Natural Resources panel yesterday to give their state a greater share of the federal government's energy revenues.  Former Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu told the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources that four Gulf states — Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama — should get 50 percent of the revenue.  Currently, the four states are eligible for 37.5 percent of the energy receipts, with total payments capped at $375 million per year.  "All of us believe the cap should be lifted," said Landrieu, now a senior policy adviser with Van Ness Feldman LLP, a Washington, D.C., law firm.
The panel revived a fight over how to best divide oil and gas revenues, with Gulf state lawmakers increasingly worried that Congress may once again try to divert the money to other uses.  Congress created the revenue-sharing program in 2006, reasoning that the Gulf states bear the most environmental risks from energy development and deserve the highest share of the revenue.  At the same time, Congress directed that 12.5 percent of the proceeds be reserved for the federal government's Land and Water Conservation Fund, with the money used to pay for state programs.
The Trump administration is now eyeing new energy revenues to pay for its proposed public lands infrastructure fund. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan could raise $18 billion over 10 years to pay for maintenance projects at national parks, wildlife refuges and Indian schools.  Four Louisianans testified before the subcommittee, including John Barry, a former board member with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority in New Orleans, who called revenue sharing "absolutely essential and absolutely justified."  Barry said that roughly 2,000 miles of the state's coastline has been destroyed and that the oil and gas industry has failed to help fix the damage.  Louisiana officials said they deserve more help from the federal government because the entire nation benefits from the energy produced off its coast.  As proof, they noted that southern Louisiana's coastline brings 1.5 million barrels of crude oil to market every day, making the state the epicenter of the oil and gas production in the Gulf.  And they said that of the $3.8 billion in offshore revenues paid in 2017, $3 billion came from the Central Gulf of Mexico planning area.
"Today, the people of Louisiana's gift to the country is affordable domestic energy through its service of the oil and gas industry," said Reggie Dupre Jr., executive director of the Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District in Houma, La.  Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California, the panel's ranking member, said the Gulf state region should be cracking down on the industry instead of supporting it and looking at it mainly as a jobs and economic issue.  "This is like allowing an arsonist to continue to burn down your neighborhood because you have a thriving business selling matches and oil-soaked rags," he said.  Lowenthal also said he'd be "far more sympathetic ... if Gulf Coast politicians would support those of us on the West Coast and those of us from the East Coast in our efforts to keep offshore drilling away from our shores."  Landrieu dismissed the idea of the state or its parishes ever suing the oil and gas industry to recover damages.  "It would be like asking Florida to sue the cruise line industry, asking Las Vegas to sue the casino industry, asking New York City to sue the finance industry," she said.

The Fighting Has Begun Over Who Owns Land Drowned by Climate Change 
Issues with emergency dune have FWS, WRC officials asking that turtle nests be relocated

N. Topsail Removes More Rocks From Beach 

Isle of Palms gets $1.3 million federal grant to restore sand taken by Tropical Storm Irma 

Date set for Murrells Inlet channel dredging vote

Charleston leaders look at pausing development in flood-prone parts of Johns Island

Virginia Beach leaders won’t allow 32 homes in a flood-prone part of the city 

Charleston OKs another big development in a Johns Island floodplain 

Tons of explosives, chemical weapons dumped offshore South Carolina

To dredge or not to dredge? That is the question for Carolina Beach 

Army Corps to host public scoping meeting on Wrightsville Beach coastal storm risk management 

EDITORIAL: Holden Beach makes rock-solid decision

As seas rise, SC legislators move to derail tighter limits on coastal development 

South Carolina legislators pass compromise beach 'setback' rules

How we got here: Recent activity at Freeman Park is 10 years in the making 

Holden Beach Says ‘No’ to Terminal Groin 

Holden Beach ends pursuit of a terminal groin 

S.C. Supreme Court denies wall for development road on Capt. Sam's Spit on Kiawah

Pawleys Island: Town beach work will start in the fall

Crab Bank to silt in Shem Creek? Town of Mount Pleasant is worried 

Hurricane Harvey: Dutch-Texan research shows most fatalities occurred outside flood zones

Lawmakers float bipartisan bill to improve risk mapping
Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter, April 18, 2018
A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers is pushing legislation intended to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency better assess flooding risks through enhanced mapping.  Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) are backing the "Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act" in their chamber. House sponsors include Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and John Culberson (R-Texas).  "From coast to coast, urban flooding has a unique and powerful ability to wreak havoc in our communities, leaving constituents feeling helpless in the aftermath," Quigley said in a statement.
"Whether it results in property damage, severe economic challenges, health and safety risks, or all of the above, residents are often unaware of the dangers they face during these extreme weather events," he said.  "In order to help cities, like Chicago, better defend themselves against flooding disasters, our bipartisan legislation will equip them with the research and resources they need to proactively plan ahead."  The legislation provides grant funding for a series of pilot programs that would help cities invest in new flood mapping technologies. It would also aim to help communities develop improved communications tools, urban designs and flood mitigation policies.  Once the pilot programs expired, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Congress could use the information gathered to better understand best practices that could be applied to FEMA's national flood mapping program.
"It is past time for the federal government to take a more proactive approach in addressing the underlying risk affecting flood prone communities like the ones in my home state of Florida," Rubio said in a statement.  "By equipping local communities with the knowledge and resources necessary to accurately assess flood risk, this legislation will help homeowners better protect against future flooding and economic hardships."  Flooding from the spate of devastating 2017 hurricanes occurred outside of FEMA-identified flood zones in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other affected regions.  A recent study found FEMA flood maps vastly underestimate the current risk of flooding. Almost 41 million Americans, more than three times the current estimate, could face 100-year flooding, said the study.  "We need to upgrade the information we use to plan our flood mitigation strategies and improve coordination at all levels of government," Culberson said in a statement. "This is another step forward to improve Houston's preparedness and every other community across the nation."  In Illinois, the General Assembly conducted a study in 2015 that found that over 90 percent of urban flooding damage claims from 2007 to 2014 in that state were outside the floodplain.  "For many homes in urban areas, just a few inches of rain can cause thousands of dollars in damages," Durbin said in a statement.  "And the truth of the matter is, we don't have much data on the flood risk from the kind of weather that turns our cities streets, businesses, and homes into a flooded mess, let alone the information we need on how we might better prepare for these catastrophes in the future," he said.  "This legislation will remedy that by helping local governments understand the scope of the problem and develop solutions. With storms growing stronger and more common year after year, we need to gain a better understanding of flooding in our cities."  Roy Wright, FEMA's deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation, has set up a "moonshot" goal of doubling the amount of flood insurance coverage in the United States by 2023.

Brunswick County, Carolina Beach residents to receive increased flood insurance discounts

PUBLIC NOTICE - All interested parties are hereby advised that the Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) is extending the commenting period on the permit application request made by the Town of Holden Beach for the Town’s plan to implement a shoreline protection project along the east end of the island, which consist of the construction of a terminal groin along the Lockwood Folly Inlet, in Brunswick County, North Carolina. This notice amends our March 15, 2018 Public Notice seeking comments on the Town’s permit request and extends that notice’s commenting period to May 4, 2018. 

Piecing together Zinke's 5-year-plan puzzle
Pamela King, E&E News reporter, April 16, 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has offered a handful of clues about how his department could pare down a contentious plan to lease 90 percent of federal waters for oil and gas development.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to release a second draft of its 2019-2024 offshore leasing plan this fall. Zinke last week suggested the document could exclude portions of the outer continental shelf containing smaller known volumes of oil and gas (Energywire, April 12).  "Rather than looking at 94 percent taken off, I said, 'Let's do a zero-based budget, and let's put everything on, and let's have a discussion in America about priorities and about oil and gas,'" Zinke told a panel of House appropriators last week. He was comparing his department's proposal to the Obama administration's 2017-2022 leasing program, which included only Alaska's Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Mexico.  While low oil prices and expensive infrastructure have dampened demand for new ocean drilling, industry interests have advocated for as much offshore access as possible so companies can freely determine whether to expand their subsea operations.  "The U.S. has blindly ignored potential offshore energy resources for many decades," said Christopher Guith, senior vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute. "The Chamber is hopeful the current offshore leasing process will reverse that trend and enable the owners of these resources, the American people, to see what energy assets we have available offshore."  If offshore acreage is removed from a draft of a five-year plan, it cannot be reintroduced in the final version of the program. BOEM is expected to release its final 2019-2024 strategy early next year.  Critics of the Trump administration's offshore proposal have tried to pin down the details on which parts of the ocean Interior and BOEM officials will place off-limits to drilling.  "Piecing together all the various statements from Secretary Zinke is dizzying," said Diane Hoskins, campaign director for Oceana. "His department's official proposal included opening nearly all U.S. waters. His subsequent press statements suggest otherwise.  
"Which is it?"  Capitol Hill Democrats have summoned Zinke to explain his seemingly contradictory statements on Florida's exemption from the five-year plan. It's unclear whether GOP committee leadership will schedule a hearing.  Just days after BOEM unveiled the 2019-2024 draft proposed plan, the Interior secretary traveled to Florida, shook hands with state Gov. Rick Scott (R) in the Tallahassee airport and tweeted that new oil and gas activity off the Sunshine State coast was "off the table."  The tweet, which noted that "local voice matters," incited the outrage of coastal governors, lawmakers and residents who felt opposition to offshore drilling near their states had been ignored.  Zinke has tried to soften his statement by saying Florida does not have an exemption but maintains that new oil and gas platforms will not be permitted in the state's waters.  He has not specified which waters — leaving the door open for possible activity in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is under moratorium until 2022.
Scant resources
While Zinke has declined to commit to block offshore drilling in other states, the Interior secretary has attempted to assure members of Congress — both Republican and Democrat — that their dissent will be reflected in his agency's final offshore program.  During public remarks this spring, Zinke said he has "marked down" the entire West Coast and nearly all the Eastern Seaboard as opposed to the BOEM proposal.  He has told lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington and Oregon that there are no significant oil and gas resources off of their coasts.  Zinke's statements align with BOEM resource estimates, which show that most offshore energy potential in the Lower 48 lies in the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and the Mid-Atlantic (see inset map).  The International Association of Geophysical Contractors has pushed for access to new offshore tracts in the hope that seismic testing would reveal new pockets of undiscovered hydrocarbons (Energywire, Feb. 9).
The stretch of ocean spanning from Delaware to North Carolina is thought to be relatively light on oil but potentially rich in natural gas, according to BOEM calculations.  In recent public appearances, Zinke has touted the Mid-Atlantic as a prospective gas play.  Former President Obama noticed the region's energy potential, too. The first draft of the 2017-2022 program, released in 2015, included all of the Mid-Atlantic planning area and a section of the South Atlantic.  Obama's Interior dropped those regions from its second draft of the plan.  "We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic Coast," then-Secretary Sally Jewell said in a March 2016 statement.  At the time, industry analysts regarded the move as a "near non-event," since most companies had no plans to stray far from established operations in the Gulf of Mexico (Energywire, March 16, 2016).  Drillers are still sticking close to existing Gulf assets, Zinke acknowledged after tepid industry response to a March lease sale Interior had billed as its "largest ever."  That's likely because it costs millions of dollars to construct a new offshore rig. Instead, oil seekers are focusing their attention on onshore assets, which are much less expensive to tap.

Dredge McFarland Finishing the Morehead City Dredging Project 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces receipt of (94) proposals for beneficial use of dredged materials pilot projects

NTB continues sandbag discussions 

More Funding Needed for Carteret County Dredging Projects

New Release - Jones Asks Corps for More Dredging Resources in Carteret County

Public Weighs In on Holden Beach Groin Plan 
What’s Carolina Beach offering Freeman Park LLCs for properties? Their assessed values

N. Topsail Board Refuses Revetment Contract 

Lockwood Folly Inlet in best shape in a decade following recent dredging, corps says

Interior's Zinke sees 'little' demand for new U.S. offshore drilling 

'It's a buyer's market, right?'
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News reporter, April 9, 2018
Is a rebound in offshore drilling just around the corner?  It could happen if oil prices stay high enough. But the oil and gas industry's aggressive cost cutting and cheap offshore drilling rig day rates make exploration possible at more modest crude prices. And with governments increasingly in aggressive competition to woo a smaller number of deepwater-capable firms, the stars are increasingly aligned in favor of ocean energy explorers.  If major oil companies are poised to spend more on deepwater exploration, as they say they are, then the market should soon see more deals completed with offshore rig contractors, said Wood Mackenzie senior corporate research analyst Ruaraidh Montgomery.  "It's a buyer's market, right?" he said. "Rig companies really took a battering during the downturn. Rig rates are still suppressed due to oversupply, so yes, if you've got the balance sheet to chase after deepwater opportunities, then now is the time."  He and others admit that, up to now, those buyers have been slow to enter the market, even though it's been in their favor for a while.
Drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico is way down and could stay there for a while. The U.S. offshore rig count stood at 12 on Friday, unchanged from the previous week, according to data compiled by Baker Hughes, a GE company.  Overseas, some jurisdictions are experiencing an uptick in activity, but globally, offshore drilling was still trending down at the beginning of this year.  "The international offshore rig count for March 2018 was 185, down 9 from the 194 counted in February 2018, and down 12 from the 197 counted in March 2017," said a report from Baker Hughes.  Government regulators eager to lure more rigs to their waters are voicing some frustration, as well. Last week, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged that the industry's response to his department's aggressive new Gulf-wide lease sales was "modest at best" (E&E News PM, April 6).
But other governments are having more luck, especially Brazil, which just hosted an auction of offshore drilling rights that surprised to the upside. The sale was notable, as analysts said it marked the return of Chevron Corp. to future deepwater exploration. Industry giant Exxon Mobil Corp. also went in big on the Brazil lease sale, nabbing eight deepwater blocks, six of which it will operate.  Brazil has an advantage in the international competition for offshore drillers, as it controls what is arguably the world's most prospective offshore oil mega-field, the pre-salt play. That's what Exxon Mobil was after in late March. "This acreage in Brazil's pre-salt play will provide excellent opportunities to deploy our deepwater expertise," ExxonMobil Exploration Co. President Stephen Greenlee said in a release.
Montgomery pointed out that all the necessary conditions are in place for a global revival in offshore drilling.  Oil prices, though not at $100 a barrel anymore, are nevertheless strong enough to support expanded offshore drilling.  International Brent crude futures contracts were trading at almost $67 per barrel at the end of last week. Some explorers, including Statoil ASA, have adjusted since the crude price downturn to ensure that offshore drilling can be done at $40 per barrel.  Drilling rig contractors are slowing regaining their composure after taking a beating in the crude price collapse, but they are still forced to contract their crews and vessels out at much lower rates. This will continue to be the case, as there remains significant overcapacity in the offshore drilling rig fleet.  Montgomery also noted that the downturn pushed many oil companies out of deepwater — or out of the oil business altogether. The companies remaining have less competition for leases, making it easier for them to win their bids.
And there are more governments than ever opening up offshore acreage for leasing. In the Western Hemisphere, Mexico, Guyana, Suriname and Colombia have all recently joined the United States and Canada in the offshore leasing fray. New West African nations have entered the market. And Lebanon is the newest entrant to the offshore energy exploration club.  These governments have rolled out the red carpet for the oil industry. The downturn "forced countries to compete with each other," Montgomery said. "So there's obviously many countries that have prospective offshore acreage, but they're competing for capital; they're competing for investment."  "And what you have post-downturn is a smaller pool of deepwater companies, a smaller pool of companies that might be willing to chase after these prospects, because it is high-risk exploration," he added. "That's forcing countries to be very aggressive in opening up their acreage to these companies and setting the terms right, the fiscal terms and regulatory environment." Just how much is offshore drilling activity likely to perk up in the months to come?
"In 2018, globally offshore exploration wells spuds are expected to increase 46 percent to 218 after decreasing from 321 in 2014 to 149 in 2017," said Mangesh Hirve, managing director at 1Derrick, in an email. "North Sea/Europe and Africa have the most planned offshore [exploration and appraisal] activity in 2018."  New well spudding in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico may actually decline this year, Hirve said. In Mexico, activity will only increase. And projections by U.S. government analysts of steadily rising oil production from the U.S. Gulf over the next few years point to a resurgence there in 2019, if not sooner.  But even if all 2018 activity is lower in the U.S. Gulf, this year, the world as a whole will witness a surge in offshore drilling, 1Derrick's data predicts.  "If you do want to go out and explore, now is the time to do it, because rig rates are so low," said Montgomery. "If you can get one of those deepwater high-spec drilling rigs and you lock it in on a long-term contract, then you are in a great position to explore, hopefully make discoveries, appraisals of discoveries, and then move forward with development."

Hunting Island's beach is getting a facelift. These objections are setting it back 

PUBLIC NOTICE - BOEM Seeks Input on Path Forward for Future Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic 

Pamlico Sound ferries return to normal schedules today 

Hyde County Adopts Derelict Vessel Rule 

Freeman Park land owner files appeal 

Board hears case for offshore drilling 

CRC to Continue Sandbag Rules Discussion

Could big changes in ESA be afoot?
Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter, April 4, 2018
The Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly floated to the White House a technical but potentially far-reaching change in Endangered Species Act protections.  In a move discovered by irate environmentalists, FWS officials appear to have raised the possibility of eliminating a long-standing rule that effectively grants threatened species the same level of protection as endangered species.  The proposed "Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule" was submitted Monday for review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Though the proposed text has not yet been made public, environmentalists warn of dire possibilities.  "I would call this the biggest regulatory rollback in the history of the Endangered Species Act," Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview.  FWS says it is moving prudently, along with other federal agencies.
"NOAA Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service are working to develop regulations that improve our implementation of the ESA so that it is clear, unambiguous, consistent and flexible to the greatest extent possible, and encourages collaborative conservation from a broad range of partners," FWS spokesman Gavin Shire said in a statement today.  The ESA prohibits the "take" of species designated as endangered, while Section 4(d) of the law allows the agency to establish special regulations for threatened species. In 1978, FWS used this authority to extend the prohibition of take to all threatened species. This is known as the "blanket 4(d) rule."  Take covers a wide range of actions, including those that "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect" a threatened or endangered species. This blanket 4(d) rule for threatened species can be modified by a species-specific 4(d) rule.  Conservatives and private-property advocates have previously sought to scale back the blanket 4(d) rule, with the Pacific Legal Foundation filing a petition in August 2016 on behalf of the Washington Cattlemen's Association.  "That regulation erodes the distinction between endangered and threatened species," the petition stated, adding that it "creates an incentive for litigation."  The petition was co-authored by Damien Schiff, whom President Trump unsuccessfully later tried to add to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.  Upward of 300 species are currently listed as threatened, including the southern sea otters, northern spotted owls, piping plovers, red knots, Yosemite toads, delta smelt, Santa Catalina Island foxes and gopher tortoises.
Any potential rule change, though, might take several forms; for instance, it might apply only to future listings.
"Any proposed changes will go through a full and transparent public review process that provides ample opportunity for interested parties to provide input that we will consider to help us ensure these regulations are effective in furthering the ESA's ultimate goal — recovery of our most imperiled species to the point they no longer need federal protection," Shire said.

Public access to private beaches to be affected by new Florida law 

Public Meeting on Beaufort Harbor Management Set for April 24

Board Search for Ways to Deal with Derelict Boats

FINAL - Morehead City Harbor Federal Navigation Project Navigation Corridor EA and FONSI 
Description - The focus of the Environmental Assessment (EA) is the establishment of a navigation corridor within the westward section of the ‘Cutoff’ and ‘Range A’ reaches of the Morehead City Harbor Federal Navigation Channel within Beaufort Inlet. The Wilmington District would not maintain the entire widened area, but would follow natural deep water to dredge a channel of the same width as the existing authorization (varying from 600-800 feet in width) within this wider corridor. The exact location of the channel would move over time within this wider corridor to take advantage of naturally-occurring deep water. The establishment of a navigation corridor would not result in a new permanent channel alignment; however, it would provide flexibility and cost savings in maintaining the Morehead City Harbor federal navigation channel.

PUBLIC NOTICE - The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from The Town of Topsail Beach, seeking Department of the Army (DA) authorization to modify an existing DA permit, to conduct new and maintenance dredging within the waters of New Topsail Inlet, Banks Channel, Topsail Creek, and Banks Channel Connector, place beach compatible dredged material along 4.56 miles of oceanfront shoreline, and construct a new primary dune along the project boundary, associated with the Topsail Beach 30-year Management Plan project, at Topsail Beach, in Pender County, North Carolina.

Virginia Beach is $1 million short for Chesapeake Beach sand replenishment

Video: Extreme shoaling on the Oregon Inlet ocean bar

Ferry Division Adapts Schedule Due to Dredging Concerns on Hatteras Route 

Ferry schedule adjusted for emergency dredging 

Board Of Adjustment To Hear Freeman Park Property Owner Appeal 

Navy ships, oil rigs may have to coexist off South Carolina, but what about marine life?

Charleston gets a visit from the real flood control experts, but can the Dutch really help here? 

Federal report: High-tide flooding could happen ‘every other day’ by late this century

Students Dig Into Decades of Turtle Data

NTB revetment committee recommends sandbag fix for north end 

'Ted Turner's island' now owned by South Carolina creates challenges, opportunity for public 

Currituck appeals to Trump administration for sound dredging 

Town To Seek Grant Funding For Freeman Park Property Purchase 

Holden Beach Calls ‘Time Out’ on Groin Plan 

NTB to explore terminal groin in New River Inlet 

Lukewarm lease sale tempers 'energy dominance' ambitions
Pamela King and Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News reporters; Thursday, March 22, 2018
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's offshore lease sale yesterday may not have ushered in a new rush of industry bids, but it offered some important indicators as federal officials prepare to revamp oil and gas policies in the U.S. outer continental shelf.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last week said the BOEM auction would serve as a "bellwether" on offshore interest over the next 10 years. He made the remark in response to questioning from lawmakers on his move to open more than 90 percent of federal waters to drilling and to slash royalty rates collected on deepwater production (Greenwire, March 21).  Zinke's BOEM put 14,431 Gulf of Mexico blocks on offer. Just 1 percent attracted bids.  "Today's lease sale is yet another step our nation has taken to achieve economic security and energy dominance," Joe Balash, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said in a statement yesterday. "Today's results will help secure high-paying offshore jobs for rig and platform workers, support staff onshore and related industry jobs, while generating much needed revenue to fund everything from conservation to infrastructure."  Yesterday's sale drew more companies, more bids and more revenue than BOEM's last auction (Greenwire, Aug. 16, 2017).  The increase reflected rising oil prices and restricted global supply — important drivers of industry demand, said Christopher Guith, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute.
"Demand and price are not easily predictable, and the federal government has no business trying to set energy policy based on those predictions," he wrote in an email. "The Department [under President Trump] has instead set a path to providing optionality for industry, which is the best policy for increasing energy security and hedging against the unknowns of five to 10 to 20 years from now."  But yesterday's bid and revenue increases were slight. The tepid response to BOEM's record offering in the Gulf has raised concerns among critics of the agency's proposal to welcome drilling in comparatively untested tracts in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  "Trump is selling off our oceans and selling out coastal communities and marine life to the oil industry," said Kristen Monsell, oceans program litigation director at the Center for Biological Diversity.  Other groups questioned Interior's ability to earn fair market value on energy produced and acreage leased &mash; especially in light of a recommendation by the department's Royalty Policy Committee to cut deepwater royalty rates from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent.  "The auction illustrated the persistent absence of head-to-head bidding," said David Hilzenrath, chief investigative reporter for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). 
"In the absence of competitive bidding, oil companies have little reason to pay competitive prices, and the American people, who own the offshore oil and gas deposits, can't have any confidence that they are being paid fair value."  POGO last month released a report calling on the Trump administration to fix the federal government's "dysfunctional" leasing system — a problem that has plagued both Republican and Democratic administrations, according to the group's analysis (Energywire, Feb. 22).  Over the last 20 years, 76.6 percent of Gulf leases attracted only a single bid, according to POGO's report.  Yesterday, 93 percent of leases went to an uncontested bidder, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.  BOEM collected just $153 per acre leased — well below the $446 per acre that the Center for American Progress would have expected from a successful lease sale, according to number crunching by Senior Fellow Matt Lee-Ashley.  He called the sale "a complete flop."

'Wait and see'
Trade groups and industry experts offered a tempered but optimistic outlook on the lease sale and what the results signal for offshore interest.  "NOIA is encouraged by the results of today's Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale, which show a promising trajectory towards the future," Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in a statement yesterday. "While the bidding activity today reflects improving, yet still lower than desired commodity prices, both the number of bids submitted and the total amount of high bids received are up compared to the August 2017 sale figures."  The sale "reflects the oil and gas industry's improving market conditions and a regulatory environment which is favorable to the safe and responsible development of the vast amount of U.S. offshore natural resources," International Association of Drilling Contractors President Jason McFarland said in a release.  BOEM collected nearly $125 million in high bids yesterday. In comparison, the bureau's August lease sale commanded about $121 million.
Participation in the Gulf lease sales has risen as the oil price has recovered. But while companies have added offshore blocks to their portfolios, they have not followed up with drilling rigs to date. Currently, there are about 13 offshore drilling rigs actively exploring in the U.S. Gulf, according to data by Baker Hughes, a GE company. At the height of the $100-per-barrel oil era, more than 60 rigs were active in the Gulf's waters.  Michael Celata, regional director for BOEM, put a positive spin on yesterday's outcome, though he cautioned that more analysis would be needed to better ascertain what formations are of particular interest to the industry.  "If you look at the last sale, we had 99 bids, and so we had 159 bids for this sale," Celata told reporters after the results were announced. "The high bid bonus was up slightly. What you see is continued consistent investment in the Gulf of Mexico. If you look at the production in the Gulf of Mexico, we're at a record high." The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that crude oil production from the federal Gulf of Mexico will hit a high-water mark this year, reaching at least 1.72 million barrels per day. EIA sees production expanding further to about 1.81 million barrels per day on average in 2019.
Celata also saw signs that BOEM's decision to lower the royalty rate charged on shallow-water oil and gas production was bearing fruit. The agency said it decided to charge less for shallow-water production in light of the mid-2014 oil price crash, which resulted in the bankruptcies of many shallow-water operators.  "In the less-than-200-meters area, last sale I think we had 10 tracts bids on," he said. "This sale we had 43 tracts bid on in the less-than-200-meters water.  "I think you see continued interest, especially in the deep water," he added, "and maybe some renewed interest in the shelf."  Wood Mackenzie researcher William Turner said in a note that the move to lower shallow-water royalties likely helped spur greater interest in shallow-water leasing. Doing the same for all acreage in the Gulf will probably lead to a similar outcome, he said.  Overall, the results from yesterday's bid round suggest the industry is maintaining a position of cautious optimism, Turner said in his commentary.  "Operators appear to still be in a wait and see mentality when it comes to exploration, looking for stability in oil prices," he said. "Meanwhile some patient but dedicated operators are on the brink of cracking the code on ultra-high-pressure developments."

Areas of interest
Industry giant BP PLC, the largest investor in the U.S. Gulf in recent history, showed renewed interest in new leasing and potentially new drilling, something the company has shied away from since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon ocean rig disaster.  BP submitted high bids on a number of blocks in the DeSoto Canyon region of the Gulf. Company spokesman Jason Ryan confirmed that BP was the high bidder on 27 blocks, offering the federal government more than $20 million for them. The purchase of new drilling rights is meant to shore up BP's acreage position in the Gulf, Ryan said in an emailed statement.  "The leases we bid on today support BP's strategy of pursuing future growth opportunities around our four major producing hubs and four non-operated hubs, as well as in the highly prospective acreage position within our existing portfolio," he said.  Celata also made note of BP's ramped-up participation. "I think BP bid on a few more tracts than they have over the past couple of sales, so I think that shows well for the Gulf of Mexico," he said.  BP's big push into the unexplored realms of the DeSoto Canyon caught Turner off guard, as well. "Given lack of hardly any exploration activity in the area, they could be chasing a new play opener," Celata said.  Though supermajor companies like BP showed strong interest and new companies entered the Gulf lease bidding fray, Celata argued that it may be too soon to tell if activity is poised to rebound strongly. Participation is higher than in the previous sale, but more time is needed to see if a trend is apparent, he cautioned.  "The best comparison is directly to the last previous sale, and so I think we see some increased interest in terms of the number of bids," Celata said. "The best way to look at it, I think we really need another sale and then we can look at in on a yearly basis."

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
March 26, 2018; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

Dune Protection Fight Put On Hold … Again 

Shallotte Inlet is shoaling up, but what’s the answer? 

Decision on Nags Head project looms 

Bidding puts beach work out of reach for Nags Head this year 

Migratory birds in South Carolina face new challenges as fate of 100-year-old law unclear

Carolina Beach leaders hope to avoid taking land at Freeman Park, prefer mutual agreement 

After smooth sailing in house, lines face headwinds in Senate (SC) 

A NOAA report says more tidal flooding is coming soon 

Just in time for spring, Wrightsville wraps up beach nourishment 

Carolina Beach moves to take Freeman Park land by eminent domain

Currituck assessing storm damage to beaches 

Towns say beaches performed as expected after nourishment

Council Buys Land At Freeman Park For $500,000; Pursuing Eight Other Parcels 

Gulf Stream emerging as sea level rise "wild card" for Hampton Roads 

PUBLIC NOTICE - The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from the Town of Holden Beach (Town) seeking Department of the Army authorization to discharge fill material into waters of the United States, associated with the construction of a 700-ft-long terminal groin with a 300-ft shore anchorage system and associated long-term beach nourishment component, in order to address erosion and protect infrastructure, roads, homes, beaches, dunes and wildlife habitat in Holden Beach, Brunswick County, North Carolina. 

With Weather Delays, it’s Down to the Wire for Hatteras Inlet Dredging 

VIMS Sea-Level Report Cards

Hampton Roads sea level rise is accelerating, report says 

Public Review Period Open for CBRS Units – Sandy Re-mapping/Expansion for Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, & New Jersey
Project Website - 
Public Notice - 

So long, Shelly Island: Sea reclaims a coastal curiosity 

Lockwood Folly Inlet Dredging Complete 

'An argument is not data' — senators push for royalty study
Pamela King, E&E News reporter, March 14, 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke yesterday faced bipartisan scrutiny over his department's proposal to open vast swaths of new offshore acreage for drilling as it contemplates slashing the rate it charges for production on deepwater leases.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee convened yesterday to hear Zinke's defense of his department's $11.7 billion fiscal 2019 budget proposal.  Between heated exchanges on his travel and decorating practices, Zinke told members of the committee that he is awaiting further analysis on a recommendation by Interior's Royalty Policy Committee to drop all offshore royalty rates from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent.  Current analyses show that government take grows under a higher royalty rate structure, even if production slows (Energywire, March 8).  In response to a line of questioning from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Zinke appeared to indicate that the royalty committee's research could paint a different picture.  "We in Louisiana are concerned because [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act] funding to rebuild our coastline is linked to" royalty revenue, Cassidy said. "And those who get funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund likewise are concerned.  
"Any modeling on that?" he asked.  Zinke responded in the affirmative.  "We do have modeling," he said. "We'll share with you what we have. It's a supply-and-demand model. You lower the royalties, you make it more attractive, production increases, and revenue in some cases can increase."  Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) pushed Zinke to provide the analysis to support his claim that an 18.75 percent royalty rate would impede leasing.  Zinke responded that "there's an argument" to support that conclusion.  "An argument is not data," King said. "In other words, there is no economic analysis to justify this massive cut? These are resources that belong to the people of the United States. We're taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers."  Zinke said he agreed and that he has not yet set the royalty committee's recommendation in motion. A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management lease sale set for March 21 will apply the current royalty rate, he said.  "They're leasing it without anticipation one way or the other whether [the royalty rate] will be adjusted," he said.  The federal government has the power to set royalty rates on a sale-by-sale basis, BOEM acting Director Walter Cruickshank said during a Feb. 28 meeting of the royalty committee in Houston.  "Within 30 days of the meeting, the [Royalty Policy Committee] will post the meeting summary online, including final presentation materials and debate used as a basis for its 12.5 percent royalty rate recommendation," Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift wrote in response to a request by E&E News for more information on the department's analysis.
Interior's consideration of lowering offshore royalty rates comes as the department proposes to raise $18 billion in new energy revenue over the next 10 years to pay for deferred maintenance in national parks, wildlife refuges and Indian schools (Energywire, March 13).  That goal could actually be accomplished in as few as eight years, Zinke told the Senate panel yesterday.  Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Zinke to provide estimated annual benchmarks for his proposal.  Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has previously questioned the administration's ability to tap funds that may have already been allocated for other purposes (E&E Daily, Feb. 12).  Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman yesterday echoed those concerns. Last year, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) that would establish a guaranteed funding source for park maintenance.  "You are assuming that the Treasury has an estimate of what's going to come in and anything over that estimate would be provided for the maintenance backlog," Portman said to Zinke.

'No known resources'
Committee pushback on BOEM's draft five-year plan — or at least parts of it — has also transcended party lines.  Ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) accused Zinke of "playing a political game" by exempting Florida from the plan while stopping short of granting similar exceptions for other states.  Zinke said he would "mark down" Washington state as opposed to drilling in federal waters beyond the state's shorelines.  "Off the coast of Oregon, Washington, most of California, there are no known resources of any weight," the secretary told Cantwell.  Zinke's exchange with Cantwell did not constitute an exemption for Washington, Swift said.  "There is no such thing as an exemption," she said. "The process for drafting a new five-year program is a winnowing process that involves multiple drafts and public comment periods."  After Zinke tweeted that Florida's waters were "off the table" for new extraction, Cruickshank of BOEM testified that the state was still part of the bureau's offshore analysis (Greenwire, Jan. 19).  Zinke declined Cantwell's request to extend public comment on the plan but said he would continue to hear feedback from states.  "I know where every state is, every governor, every member of Congress across the board," he said. "The comment period has closed. I know where people are, and I certainly know where the state of Washington is.  "The state of Washington is deeply, passionately opposed to oil and gas drilling off their coast."
A first draft of the five-year plan can be expected in late fall, Zinke told the committee.  "Our proposal will have the interests of Washington reflected in that plan, as well as Florida, the Gulf states and where there is enormous opposition, we'll do that," he said.  King pressed Zinke to listen to state feedback. The senator and his counterpart, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), have come out against the Trump administration's offshore plan.  Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) was the only governor on the West and East coasts to express explicit support for the draft offshore plan.  Ultimately, Maine's subsea geology will likely exclude the state from consideration for drilling, Zinke said yesterday.  "Maine also did not have resources off its coasts," he said.  Murkowski largely supports the plan to open more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf to drilling.  But she has joined the other members of her state's delegation to request the removal of some Alaska tracts from the draft program (Energywire, Jan. 29).  Throughout yesterday's hearing, Zinke characterized the draft proposal as a starting point for conversations on which areas are appropriate for offshore drilling.

Weekend storm washes over new Buxton beach, depositing sand on motel lots, but N.C. 12 remained protected

Board Rejects Rezoning of Conserved Land

How will a proposed bill affect beachfront development? (SC) 

$11 million renourishment project gears up at Folly Beach 

Jury is out on Trump Administration flood insurance proposal 

Coastal floods to be nearly as common as high tides in South Carolina within 80 years, NOAA says 

DEQ’s Regan Meets With Coastal Officials

Residents along Murrells Inlet channel to vote on dredging project

Council To Consider Purchasing Freeman Park Property 

Carolina Beach considering purchase of land at Freeman Park to preserve greenspace 

Hilton Head’s new dune project starts this week. Here’s how it will change the beach

New Report Predicts Rising Tides, More Flooding 

Needs of birds, wants of drivers collide on unspoiled beach (NJ),-wants-of-drivers-collide-on-unspoiled-beach

Wilmington-area leaders voice opposition to Trump's offshore drilling plan 

DEQ secretary: N.C. delegation needs to join opposition to offshore drilling

Corps of Engineers again seeking bids for Wilmington Harbor dredging, sand placement 

Holden Beach awaits permits for terminal groin project 

Army Corp Of Engineers To Hold Public Meeting On Beach Nourishment (Carolina Beach)

Virginia Beach's Croatan takes a beating from nor'easter 

Video: N.C. 12 closed on Pea Island into Tuesday 

Hundreds of state lawmakers ask for 5-year plan exemptions
Pamela King, E&E News reporter, March 6, 2018
More than 200 legislators from 17 coastal states are calling on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exclude their shores from the department's draft five-year plan for offshore energy development.  The bipartisan group, led by Democratic state Sens. Kevin Ranker of Washington and Kevin de León of California, invoked Zinke's removal of Florida's waters from the draft proposal and requested similar considerations elsewhere. Their request echoes opposition expressed by nearly every governor along the East and West coasts (Energywire, Jan. 18).  "We are encouraged by your recent action to remove Florida's coasts from the Proposed Leasing Program, a decision based on potential threats that offshore drilling would impose on coastal tourism, the recreational economy, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend upon it," the state lawmakers wrote in their LETTER yesterday.  Officials from Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management say the Sunshine State remains a part of the agency's analysis but that Zinke's preferences will be influential in the drafting of the proposed and final versions of the five-year plan (Greenwire, Jan. 19).
Three Florida Democrats — Reps. Lori Berman, Kristin Jacobs and Evan Jenne — signed the letter.  "The Proposed Leasing Program claims that these new oil and gas projects will create jobs and bolster the U.S. economy, but with the risk of spills, and the threats of exploration and production alone, the Program will ultimately hurt coastal economies, and that of their entire states, more than it will benefit them," the letter says.  Nearly 30 Maine legislators, including one Republican and one independent, added their names to the list of plan opponents. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is the only governor, outside leadership in the Gulf of Mexico, to definitively support drilling off his state's coast.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not yet taken a formal position (Energywire, March 1).  No Gulf lawmakers signed the letter.
Public meetings
In response to the letter, Interior spokesman Alex Hinson sent the department's statement on its public comment procedures.  "Creating a Five Year Program is a very open and public process, and Secretary Zinke looks forward to meeting with more Governors and other coastal representatives who want to discuss the draft program," the statement says. "Aside from those important meetings, there is continued outreach by the Department."  BOEM has scheduled 23 meetings, largely in the capitals of coastal states, to solicit public input. The bureau is also accepting comments filed online.  In a separate letter yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and 22 other Democratic and independent senators requested to extend the comment period on the draft plan.  "We believe a 60-day extension of the deadline for comments is necessary to allow for more public hearings in coastal areas and to give the public sufficient time to submit comments on offshore drilling proposed for nearly the entire U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), encompassing over 90 percent of total OCS acreage — the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Zinke.  They questioned the format and location of BOEM's open-house-style meetings.  "There should be more meetings in coastal communities, large and small, in all areas included in the Draft Proposed Program, as well as non-coastal areas to allow for as many impacted voices as possible to raise their concerns," the senators wrote. "In addition, formal oral testimony, as opposed to an 'open house' format, would better ensure that people's concerns are heard and recorded publicly."

N. Topsail Board Hears Terminal Groin Plan

Norfolk Requires Developers To Do More Against Flooding 

Abandoned boats could get sheriffs' hook under South Carolina Statehouse bill

Buxton Beach Nourishment Project Complete 

Offensive Fence Gone at Carolina Beach Park 

Yes, new fencing was installed at Freeman Park, but no need to worry 

Wrightsville Beach re-nourishment well underway 

Holden Beach commissioners OK reimbursing county for dredging

Shore Protection Office Newsletter (as presented to the Island Review)
OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program – Status Summary And A Royalty & Revenue Sharing Primer

PUBLIC NOTICE - All interested parties are hereby advised that the Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) is releasing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project, known as Bogue Banks Master Beach Nourishment Project (BBMBNP), and has received an application from Carteret County requesting Department of the Army authorization to implement a long-term management plan to provide shoreline protection along the approximately 25-mile Bogue Banks barrier island, Carteret County, North Carolina.

State: Examine moving The Riggings -- again

Bill limiting window for challenges to development in S.C. heading to Gov. McMaster's desk 

USFWS pushes lawmakers to move on updated coastal maps
Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, E&E News reporter, February 28, 2018
Lawmakers yesterday debated legislation to tweak Fish and Wildlife Service maps that limit federal funds for projects in storm-prone areas under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act.  The bills, discussed by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans yesterday, would amend three of the 65 units included in FWS's map update in 2016.  H.R. 4880, from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), would tweak one unit in Delaware. Florida Republican Rep. Neal Dunn's H.R. 2947 would tweak two others in Florida.  Gary Frazer, the assistant director for ecological services for FWS, said the agency recommends Congress approve the remaining 62 draft maps en bloc.  If Congress were to adopt all the updated maps, it would add nearly 25,000 acres of undeveloped coastal barrier areas to the Coastal Barrier Resources System, Frazer said.  According to a 2002 analysis by FWS, CBRA has saved taxpayers more than $1.3 billion from 1983 to 2010. The law discourages building on at-risk coasts by restricting federal funds available to developers for disaster assistance, roads, wastewater systems and subsidized flood insurance.  The bills would remove certain structures that were wrongfully included to allow property owners to gain access to federal subsidies.  Philip Griffitts, who is on the Bay County Board of County Commissioners in Panama City, Fla., said numerous families have struggled to keep their homes because of this error. Some of them have had to pay up to $50,000 annually for flood insurance, said Griffitts.  "The map error has real-life impacts on local homeowners, it complicates the efficient provision of public utilities and it depresses local markets," he told lawmakers.  FWS has only submitted new maps to Congress for 15 percent of the Coastal Barrier Resources System.  Frazer said FWS doesn't have the resources to update the rest of the system. FWS currently has $1.4 million for that purpose, but Frazer said an additional $5 million would be needed.  Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) pushed for modernization of the CBRA during the hearing and suggested it extend to the West Coast.  Frazer said that FWS views the law as fundamentally sound.

Brunswick County could have new flood maps soon 

AB mulls tax increase for beaches 

Shoaling, low water force limits on two Ocracoke ferry routes 

Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Award Reinforcement of the Afsluitdijk to Joint Venture (w/ video)

Freeman Park reopens and fencing is removed, group wants to save sea oats

Crystal Coast residents fight plans for offshore drilling

Lawmakers from outside Hampton Roads kill bill to address coastal flooding 

Charleston named finalist in national contest for its tidal flooding alerts idea 

State officials announce $1 million in funding to improve public beach access 

Barrier removed from Freeman Park

It took 7 years to regulate beachfront building, and S.C. lawmakers could undo it all 

Freeman Park reopens to drivers 

Freeman Park fence still up after NC orders removal 

Carolina Beach says no to refunds for Freeman Park, fencing yet to be removed 

How N.C. used a threatened lawsuit to prevent offshore drilling before

DEQ chief talks offshore drilling strategy with local leaders

Gone with the wind: storms deepen Florida's beach sand crunch 

Wrightsville Beach nourishment could wrap in late March 

State orders restoration of Freeman Park

State calls actions taken at Freeman Park by property owners “unauthorized” 

Bills call halt to retreat from the shoreline (SC)

Dare County Waterways Commission Make Imminent Plans for “Crunch Time” Dredging 

Duke’s Drones to Take Off on Defense Project

Zinke uproar prompts GOP call for extended ban off Fla.
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News, February 15, 2018
Responding to an uproar caused by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, 10 Florida House Republicans want to extend and expand a moratorium on drilling off the coast of their home state until 2029.  Zinke last month proposed to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration, but only days later, he tweeted that waters off the Florida coast would no longer be included in the plan. Zinke changed his mind after meeting privately with Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who opposed the plan (E&E News PM, Jan. 10).  The 10 lawmakers, led by Republican Rep. John Rutherford, said they now want to make sure Zinke abides by his word.  "While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently committed that Florida would be 'off the table,' as of now the plan to include Florida is still pending," they said in a column published yesterday in the Tampa Bay Times. "For this reason, we have introduced legislation to codify in law Zinke's commitment."  Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, testified before a House panel that Zinke's tweet didn't make policy and that waters off Florida "are still part of the analysis until the secretary gives us an official decision otherwise" (Greenwire, Jan. 19).  The issue has long been championed by Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who in 2006 helped forge a deal that imposed the current moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It's set to expire in 2022, though Nelson also wants the ban extended.  Joined by nine co-sponsors from Florida, Rutherford yesterday introduced the "PROTECT Florida Act," H.R. 5014, which would extend the moratorium on drilling and exploration in the eastern Gulf for another seven years.  It also would create a new moratorium on drilling and exploration in the Florida Straits and south Atlantic, off the coast of Florida.  In their column, the Florida lawmakers said allowing the current moratorium to expire in 2022 could have an immediate impact.  "The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the gulf, spanning thousands of square miles, must not be forgotten," they wrote. "Birds, marine mammals, fish and turtles were injured and killed. Beaches, marshes and wetlands were soaked in oil, and fisheries were closed. Even though this rig was off the coast of Louisiana, Florida's economy took a major hit for several months."  The bill's co-sponsors are Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho.

Nearly $10 million beach nourishment program underway in Wrightsville Beach 

Looking to go deeper, wider with Lockwood Folly Inlet 

NOAA no longer predicting Topsail Inlet tides

Trump admin offers big changes to flood insurance
Benjamin Hulac, E&E News, February 13, 2018
Rates for federal flood insurance will have to rise to reflect the risk of living in flood zones, the White House said yesterday.  In its budget proposal, the administration said payouts by the National Flood Insurance Program are driving the program further into debt. It said current rates underprice flooding risks and suggested privatizing the program.  "The Administration recognizes that flood insurance rates must increase so that policyholders' premiums reflect the risk of living in flood zones," the budget plan states.  In October, the White House's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the program was not set up to deal with massive insurance claims, which have plagued the troubled program since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.  "Put plainly, the NFIP is not designed to handle catastrophic losses like those causes by Harvey, Irma, and Maria," he wrote in a letter, referring to the hurricanes that made landfall last year.
Since its creation in the 1960s, the program has been a financial backstop for property owners — and mortgage banks — in floodplains, by providing affordable insurance in some of the nation's riskiest areas. But experts say it has also encouraged real estate developers, construction firms and homeowners to build in dangerous places.  In 2016, about 1 percent of buildings covered by the NFIP were considered "repetitive loss properties" — homes that are swamped again and again. Yet those policies were responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the program's claims, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers NFIP.  The White House said yesterday it supports the idea of bringing more money into the program while subsidizing low-income policyholders. The Trump administration called for the creation of "affordability assistance" within the NFIP, which would cost $434 million over the next decade.  In his October letter, Mulvaney said Congress should raise rates for those "who can afford to pay risk-based rates" and subsidize the rates of those who cannot.  Premiums would go up under the White House plan "if you are middle class," said R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute.  Congress has until March 23 to reauthorize the NFIP.
Lehmann said overhauling the program is a priority for Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Financial Services Committee. "He's intent on this being a legacy piece of legislation for himself," he said.  Addressing the repetitive loss issue is "something that House Republicans feel is a core part of their doctrine," Lehmann added.  Josh Saks of the National Wildlife Federation said President Trump has extended the NFIP four times. Now with a window to focus on the program, Congress has a chance to significantly reform it.  "How will it fare now that it's on its own?" he said in an interview.  Saks supports raising insurance rates but pointed out that Trump's budget proposal calls for cuts to federal flood-mapping programs. He also said the White House failed to draw enough attention to the perennially challenged program. "That's it? That's all you got, a few lines of messaging?" Saks said. "Where's the blue-ribbon panel? The gang of senators?"

Interior says $160 oil won't help most areas; industry differs
Margaret Kriz Hobson and Pamela King, E&E News, February 9, 2018
Record high oil prices aren't likely to attract significant oil and gas drilling in the vast majority of U.S. offshore areas targeted in the Trump administration's recent draft five-year oil and gas leasing plan.  According to an Interior Department report, even if oil prices climbed to $160 per barrel, little or no oil is likely to be pumped from the offshore Straits of Florida, the Oregon/Washington outer continental shelf areas or 10 of the 14 Alaska planning areas identified in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's 2019-24 leasing program.  Oil prices of $100 to $160 per barrel could boost extraction in the nation's most promising fields in the central and western Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas.  Only marginal drilling increases would occur at the $100 to $160 price level in offshore Southern, central and Northern California; the North and Mid-Atlantic; and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.  
These estimates were outlined in a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management report released last month together with Zinke's plan to make more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf open for oil and gas leasing.  That report evaluates how much undiscovered economically recoverable oil and gas is likely to be extracted at oil prices of $40, $100 and $160 per barrel and natural gas prices of $2.14, $5.34 and $8.54 per thousand cubic feet.  BOEM's report also estimates the "net social value" of oil and gas development in the proposed OCS planning areas — a value reached by subtracting the government's appraisal of the environmental and social costs from the estimated economic value of the oil and gas.  Based on that equation, oil development in the Central Gulf of Mexico would have the nation's highest value. At oil prices of $160 per barrel, the planning area's net social value would reach $1.5 trillion. Exploration in the western and eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Chukchi Sea planning areas would have net social values ranging from $200 billion to $600 billion.  But if oil prices fell to $40 per barrel, drilling off the shores of Northern California, the Beaufort Sea and Alaska's Cook Inlet would have negative net social values. And development in the Chukchi and South Atlantic planning areas would have "negligible development value."  BOEM didn't calculate the net social value of oil development in the Straits of Florida or 10 remote planning areas along Alaska's western and southern coasts, explaining that those regions have "negligible development values" or "negligible resources."  Zinke's much-lauded draft leasing program targets a total of 1.7 billion acres along the nation's shores, of which about 1 billion acres are located in the Alaska outer continental shelf. The BOEM report calculates that 900 million acres of the Alaska outer continental shelf areas hold insubstantial amounts of oil or gas (Energywire, Jan. 17).

Industry pushes back
Oil and gas industry officials are rejecting BOEM's calculations, which they say vastly underestimate the amount of undiscovered oil and gas likely to be available along U.S. shores.  Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, said that the report ignores recent technological advances. She said advanced high-tech seismic surveys could find significant new pockets of oil and gas in previously surveyed offshore blocks in the Pacific and Atlantic outer continental shelf.  But in recent years, oil companies haven't been allowed to assess those regions. "You can't know what you can't see," Martin observed.  The oil industry continues to lobby for a chance to explore along U.S. coasts. In comments on the draft BOEM plan, Statoil ASA noted that "[a]s technology improves and economic conditions change, leases once deemed noncommercial evolve into viable drilling candidates with commercial potential."  "Because of this evolution, it is important to allow innovative companies the opportunity to pursue new leases and to test innovative geologic ideas and to employ advancements in technology for drilling and production," the Norwegian multinational oil and gas company said.  In separate comments, BP PLC argued that "[d]evelopments in the Atlantic OCS will benefit from the industry's latest advances and innovations in deep water technology."  "These technology advancements in real-time and remote monitoring, subsea infrastructure, directional drilling, and seismic imaging, to name a few, have resulted in safer, more reliable operations, increased efficiency, and smaller development foot prints."
For the near term, however, industry is taking a highly cautious approach to new oil exploration projects, according to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie.  Andrew Latham, Wood Mackenzie's vice president of research and global exploration, noted that the number of committed explorers has dwindled, with those companies looking for the most promising prospects.  "Looking to 2018, the industry will drill fewer, better wells focused on plays that are commercially attractive," he said.
Conservationists fault forecast
Meanwhile, conservationists are criticizing BOEM's forecast of increased oil and gas leasing at $160-per-barrel oil prices.  Ocean Foundation fellow Richard Charter said the idea that the price of a barrel of oil would hit $160 over the five-year time span of the Trump administration's draft proposed offshore program is a "pipe dream" (Energywire, Jan. 5).  And even if per-barrel prices climbed that high, oil would find itself "noncompetitive" with offshore wind, concentrated solar and certain biofuels, Charter said. "All of those prices are coming down," he said.  Meanwhile, the upfront cost of installing new offshore rigs remains a major barrier to entry, Charter said.  Conservation lobbyist Andy Kerr agreed that new offshore oil endeavors would face competition with comparatively cheaper onshore production. "Most of that oil offshore that Zinke's proposing to lease is not economic, and it's not going to be," Kerr observed.

Slowly but surely, South Carolina's incredibly complex shoreline is losing ground

Sunny day flooding could soon be history in Charleston as new valves hold back highest tides 

Charleston looking for funding sources to address $2 billion drainage needs 

North Myrtle Beach Plans to Conduct Additional Dune Restoration 

Deeper, wider Lockwood Folly Inlet could be the answer to shoaling, though more costly 

Van Oord – Reinforcing the Coastline by Sand Reclamation 

North Myrtle Beach Restoration Scheme Nears Completion

About a half-dozen Charleston residents seek to raise historic homes to cope with flooding 

Cooper Warns Zinke of Lawsuit Over Drilling

NOAA almost done collecting info about future of leatherback 

Interior chief meets with Cooper, local opponents to drilling

Governor Cooper talks offshore drilling with Trump official

Trump official discusses offshore drilling with governor, legislators in separate meetings

Interior Secretary meeting Carolinas' governors on drilling 

OBX officials seek local offshore oil meetings, but odds not looking good

Coastal Resources Commission February Meeting Agenda 

South Carolina beach-building line still in legislative snarls 

Cooper Seeks Hearings on Drilling Plan 

‘We have one ocean,’ Josh Stein says, threatening offshore drilling legal action 

Most voters want stronger federal flood defenses — survey
Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter, February 2, 2018
Most U.S. voters support policies requiring that taxpayer-financed infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas be built to better withstand the impacts of flooding, according to new polling from the Pew Charitable Trusts.  Moreover, researchers found that most residents in seven storm-affected states also strongly support implementing stronger flood protection requirements.  "The message from this poll is clear: The American public supports improved flood policies, and that sentiment holds across political party and geographic lines," Laura Lightbody, Pew's director of flood-prepared communities, said of the findings released yesterday.  The poll, conducted by the research firm Public Opinion Strategies for Pew, is based on telephone surveys of 800 registered U.S. voters from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a 3.5-point margin of error.  Additionally, 252 interviews were conducted with voters in communities affected by hurricanes and storms that led to flooding, including people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Responses from the "storm-affected counties" sample had a 6.5-point margin of error, according to Public Opinion Strategies.  The survey findings come amid a continued stalemate in Congress over how to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which has operated in the red for more than 12 years after payouts from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exceeded the program's revenues, derived mainly from premiums.  Meanwhile, experts have said payouts from the 2017 hurricane season could deepen the program's debt crisis — from $24 billion to as much as $40 billion — as claims continue to be processed from Texas, Florida and other states.  Congress this week took up new legislative efforts to address NFIP reforms. The program was due to be reauthorized late last year and has been extended under several continuing resolutions, with the latest deadline for reauthorization coming on Feb. 8.  The Trump administration has also made major changes to U.S. flood protection policy, including last summer's executive order rescinding an Obama administration rule requiring that federally funded infrastructure projects factor for a variety of flood risks, including building at least 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain.  In December, the Department of Housing and Urban Development officially withdrew proposed requirements meant to safeguard federal infrastructure investments against flood risk. Among other things, HUD's rules would have required new and substantially improved structures to be built between 2 and 3 feet above the 100-year flood elevation in high-risk zones (E&E News PM, Dec. 21, 2017).  Administration officials have said such reforms are necessary to ease regulatory burdens on property owners and spur economic development. Critics counter that such rollbacks are environmentally and fiscally irresponsible, especially in an era when flood damages are rising exponentially.

Among the other findings from the new Pew poll:
Nearly nine of 10 voters support "flood-ready building" policies, which would require that federally financed infrastructure in flood-prone areas be built to better withstand the impacts of flooding.
Eighty-six percent of respondents in states affected by hurricanes support a single, national standard for property sellers to disclose past flooding during a sale.
Eighty-five percent of respondents said they support the Federal Emergency Management Agency providing low-interest loans to states to be used to help reduce the risk of flooding, such as by elevating homes, schools or hospitals, turning repeatedly flooded areas into parks or open space, or improving storm drainage systems.
Seventy-six percent support weighting federal flood recovery funding to areas that take proactive steps to mitigate flood damage before a disaster occurs. States that engage in activities to reduce risks and lower recovery costs would receive more rebuilding funds. States that do less would receive less.
More than 72 percent of those polled support higher flood insurance premiums for people living in communities with repetitive-loss properties if local officials do not make investments in flood protection and mitigation.

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
February 5, 2018; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

A state proposal could threaten Virginia Beach's neighborhood dredging program

Oceanic Whitetip Shark Listed as Threatened

Jones Asks Feds to hold Public Meeting in Dare County on Offshore Oil & Gas

Abandoned boats: A costly challenge for Brunswick County

Wrightsville Beach braces for two major insurance program changes

30 years of shifting sands (NJ)

Bird Key to get sand as part of Folly renourishment; Crab Bank still waiting 

New rules aim to make Norfolk flood resilient. But will they make it too expensive to build new homes? 

In using wastewater to fight sea level rise, will beer be an additional benefit?

What makes Fla. so special? Currents, geology, Zinke says
Pamela King and Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News reporters, January 26, 2018
Pressed by coastal governors, lawmakers and advocacy groups to explain his exemption of Florida's waters from offshore drilling, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week offered a cryptic clue.  "The coastal currents are different, the layout of where the geology is," he said of the Sunshine State in a Sunday interview with CNN.  The Interior Department and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management did not respond to requests for elaboration on Zinke's statement.  After removing Florida from the five-year plan, Zinke was inundated with meeting requests from state governors along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They all sought the same treatment as Florida, which Zinke tweeted that he took out of the plan immediately after a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott (R) (Energywire, Jan. 10).  Questions remain as to whether Florida is truly exempt. BOEM acting Director Walter Cruickshank last week told a panel of lawmakers that the secretary's exemption, which came in the form of a tweet, stood on its own and that Florida remained in the bureau's analysis. A proposed program is due later this year.  Either way, no other state has received the same assurances Zinke gave to Florida. Though he has had phone calls with coastal governors and pledged to schedule visits, the Interior secretary has stopped short of exempting another state from the offshore plan.  So what's so special about Florida's currents and geology? E&E News asked oceanographers and offshore geology experts to explain.
What do currents have to do with drilling?
If there's a spill offshore, ocean currents will determine where the oil goes.  Florida is surrounded by a "loop current" that travels through the Gulf of Mexico, down Florida's western coast and up the Eastern Seaboard. There, it joins the powerful Gulf Stream and travels across the Atlantic Ocean and over to Europe.  "If there's a spill in the Gulf Stream, it's going to travel along the East Coast, whereas a spill might be contained better in the Gulf of Mexico," said Antonio Rodriguez, a professor of coastal geology in the University of North Carolina's department of marine sciences.  Oil spills along the rest of the East Coast, which could be open for drilling under BOEM's next five-year program, could have the same far-reaching impact, Rodriguez said. But spills along Florida's western and southern coasts would be particularly disruptive because of strong channeling effects as the loop current squeezes through the narrow artery between Florida's tip and the Bahamas.  Strong ocean currents can also pose difficulties for day-to-day functions on offshore platforms, said Harry Roberts, an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University's department of geology and geophysics.  In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the hairpin turn of the loop current and its powerful eddies can create logistical problems for offshore firms, shutting down production and closing off access to supplies, Roberts said.  "It makes operations more difficult," he said.  Current research shows that the western cliff of the Florida shelf is the area that holds the most production potential, said Steve Murawski, a fisheries biologist and marine ecologist at the University of South Florida (USF).  But that's exactly where the loop current could cause the most havoc, he said.  "Any oil spill in the loop current would transport oil rapidly around Florida and up the coast," Murawski said.
What's so different about Florida's geology?
A few things, ocean experts say.  The Florida landmass is just the visible part of the larger Florida platform, a massive carbonate geological feature that, according to current knowledge, contains little oil and gas.  "Florida's just not a hydrocarbon producer," said Albert Hine, an emeritus professor of geological oceanography at USF. "It's not for a lack of trying."  Florida actually does produce hydrocarbons, but only onshore and in relatively small quantities. Discoveries were made in South Florida in the 1940s, but the industry never really took off there as it did in other states. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, Florida ranked 23rd of 31 U.S. oil-producing states in 2017, producing 153,000 barrels for the entire year, for an average of a little over 400 barrels a day. Mississippi produced 10 times more. Any spills that might occur in Florida would be tiny and confined to the land.  Despite its unfavorable geology compared with other states, Mark Shuster, a former Royal Dutch Shell PLC geologist now with the University of Texas, Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology, says Florida's Gulf region likely holds pockets of significant potential, thus the industry's interest in exploring in its Gulf of Mexico waters.  Of the three federal Gulf of Mexico offshore energy leasing planning areas, the Central Planning Area off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama hosts the greatest amount of activity. Florida's Gulf waters constitute the Eastern Planning Area, the vast majority of which is currently off-limits to ocean drilling rigs.  But that doesn't mean Florida's offshore rocks are without some significant hydrocarbon reserves.  "With regards to potential on the Gulf side, there's quite a bit of exploration that's occurred on the farthest east part of the Central Planning Area, and some fairly significant discoveries have been made in what's called the Norphlet play, so Appomattox is a big discovery there and there are a few others," said Shuster. "That's adjacent or very close to the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, which includes the Florida waters."  Thus, "there's a high likelihood that there's going to be some petroleum potential in the eastern Gulf of Mexico," he added.  In Florida's Atlantic waters, little is known about the geology, but the industry is known to be much less interested in drilling east of Florida and more interested in prospecting off the Carolinas.  Deep waters off that portion of the coast are underlain by some of the same geological features as the Gulf of Mexico, but those regions are still subject to the rush of the Gulf Stream, said Hine of USF.
What does it all mean?
Zinke's decision to remove Florida from the offshore plan has largely been regarded as a political stunt.
Scott, Florida's governor, may run for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson. Touting a successful negotiation with the federal government to protect Florida's coasts could be seen as a major campaign bargaining chip.  Nelson last week pushed back by blocking three of Interior's long-stalled nominees (E&E Daily, Jan. 18).  The Sunshine State is notorious as a swing state in national elections, sometimes playing an outsized role in determining who wins the presidency, as was seen in the 2000 election. Florida's largest industry is tourism, and its greatest draw the beaches and shorelines. Florida Republicans and Democrats alike by and large oppose offshore oil exploration, the one bipartisan compromise they never waver from.  Shuster of UT Austin noted the comparison to offshore California, which the oil industry reluctantly wrote off long ago.  There still remains untapped energy potential offshore Southern California, with studies in the late 1970s estimating upward of 5 billion barrels of oil to be had. But the political blowback from the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill has resulted in no new significant offshore exploration in California since those studies were undertaken. Companies can prospect from existing platforms and projects, but those efforts have yielded mixed results, and California has missed the shale oil renaissance almost entirely as the state's oil production continues to steadily decline, as it has since 1985.  "There are a number of prospects that were defined and remain undrilled when that area went into moratorium, and a couple discoveries made that were never developed," Shuster said. "I think there's potential, but it just has been very, very difficult for industry to pursue anything there."  California, like Florida, has been very successful in keeping ocean rigs away from both state- and federal-controlled waters for decades. California boasts the highest head count in the House of Representatives and the most electoral votes during presidential elections.  Ultimately, as BOEM acting Director Cruickshank's comments on Capitol Hill appear to indicate, Zinke's promises to Florida may be more symbolic than substantive.  The Miami City Commission yesterday passed a resolution to oppose drilling off Florida's shores.  "Despite Secretary Zinke's tweet, Florida's coastline will not be safe until the Trump administration fully reverses course on this rash and ill-informed proposal," said Salome Garcia, Oceana's South Florida campaign organizer. 

News Release - Governor Cooper to Trump Administration: Exempt North Carolina from Offshore Drilling Plan 

Cooper Promises Lawsuit Over Exemption 

Cooper: NC to sue if kept in offshore drilling plan 

Isle of Palms, Folly Beach moving ahead with post-Irma beach restoration projects

Naming and launching ceremony Trailing Suction Hopper Dredge (TSHD DC) Orisant by Royal IHC

Oak Island Beach Nourishment Project Raises Concerns

Two agencies object to DeBordieu groin plan (SC)

Waterways Commission Considers the Future of Permitting, Dredge Disposal at January Meeting

Barnstable County Officials Await Testing of New Dredge 

States call for the Fla. treatment in their case against drilling
Pamela King, E&E News reporter, January 18, 2018
The Interior Department's map of its five-year offshore drilling plan for the Lower 48 could soon look dramatically different.  After agency chief Ryan Zinke granted an unexpected exemption to Florida's coasts, the governors of nearly every state on the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards have asked that their waters also be excluded from consideration for oil exploration and production under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's five-year strategy (Energywire, Jan. 10).  New York, for example, questioned the basis for the Florida decision but asked that the Empire State receive similar consideration.  "Your decision to remove Florida from consideration of any new oil and gas platforms before your Department has even concluded its public fact-finding process appears arbitrary," Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wrote in a letter to Zinke. "Nevertheless, to the extent that states are exempted from consideration, New York should also be exempted."  Interior has declined to comment on Zinke's talks with governors, but states have shared the nature of their chief executives' discussions with the secretary. Nearly every state opposed to the BOEM program presented the administration with a plea to protect its coastal economy from oil spills and climate impacts.
Maine, the sole coastal supporter outside the Gulf of Mexico, leveraged its economic concerns as a reason to back the plan.  "The governor believes in a balanced approach that places a priority on protecting our environment and traditional industries that does not close the door on jobs and lower energy costs for Maine people," according to a statement from Gov. Paul LePage (R)'s office.  In every call he made to a governor, Zinke pledged to take a trip to assess the state's concerns. He always stopped short of granting additional exemptions.  With the exception of California, which claims full ownership of three of the 11 offshore planning areas in the continental United States, each state advocated only for protecting the waters off its own coasts. It's unclear whether, if Zinke grants the desired exemptions in the North Atlantic planning area, Maine could move forward with exploration and production in its own section of the ocean.  The Florida decision injects additional uncertainty regarding how BOEM will handle the three planning areas the peninsula touches.  Removing the state from the five-year plan could, for example, still leave room for exploration of "highly prospective" sections of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico planning area, ClearView Energy Partners LLC Managing Director Kevin Book wrote in a Jan. 11 note.  What "removing Florida" looks like may not be clear until the proposed five-year plan is published later this year, according to BOEM officials. In a public meeting to discuss the draft proposed version of the document, released Jan. 4, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida and full South Atlantic planning areas appeared to remain in play (Energywire, Jan. 17).  Speculation about what waters will and will not be included in the final BOEM plan doesn't even begin to address whether companies will actually want to drill there, if given the opportunity, said Book.  "[S]hould the agency proceed with lease sales in accordance with such a plan in the current price environment, we would anticipate relatively low bids that reflect significant operator perceptions of political risk, and we would expect limited additional drilling activity," he wrote.  What follows is a breakdown of the opposition from states on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts:
North Atlantic
Aside from Maine, every state in the North Atlantic planning area has opposed the offshore program Interior floated this month.  Zinke promised to visit Rhode Island, where Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has advocated on behalf of the entire New England region's marine ecosystem and economy. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) also opposed the plan and is planning to speak with the administration about it during his next visit to Washington, D.C., according to a spokesman.  Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) was encouraged to see Interior reference his opposition in the draft report, said spokesman Brendan Moss.  "Governor Baker made clear to Secretary Zinke over six months ago that the administration opposes offshore drilling in the North Atlantic," Moss wrote in an email to E&E News.  Connecticut's administration and New York's governor raised climate concerns in their arguments.  "This is yet another disgraceful and unnecessary action from an administration that has taken us light years backward in the fight against climate change," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) said in a statement. "It stands only to hurt Connecticut's economy, our natural resources, and our coastal communities. We need a federal government that will stand up and protect our environment.   "Sadly, this president has once again put special interests before people."   Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) opposed the plan but did not call for a meeting with Zinke before leaving office this week, according to press secretary Brian Murray.  "For eight years, the Governor has been steadfastly opposed to drilling off the New Jersey coast. He remains so today," Murray said in a statement. "If exceptions are being made for other states, the Governor will certainly pursue the same type of exception for New Jersey.  "He also will consult with the Attorney General on additional steps to continue his policy of protecting New Jersey's coastline."
New Jersey wasn't the only state to raise the specter of potential legal action.  Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) has been instructed by the governor to sue the federal government if it tries to develop oil off the state's shores.  Every state in the Mid-Atlantic planning region has called for a sit-down with the Interior secretary. At least two states have gotten their wish.  Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) touted the $7 billion in economic activity and more than 60,000 jobs generated by his state's fishing, tourism and recreation industries.  "The health of Delaware's economy and environment are directly tied to the health of our coastal areas," Carney said in a Jan. 12 statement. "Delaware simply cannot accept the risks associated with offshore drilling, and we will continue to express our concerns to the Trump Administration."  In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) highlighted the sensitivity of the state's 22 barrier islands and millions of acres of estuaries.  "Offshore drilling poses too many risks for North Carolina and our coastal economy," Cooper said in a statement. "I look forward to the Secretary coming to visit our coast to learn firsthand the importance of tourism and commercial fishing and the damage an oil spill would cause."
South Atlantic
Offshore exploration in the South Atlantic planning area — or parts of it — could already be off the table with the Florida exemption.  South Carolina and Georgia are still staking claims for exclusions of their own.
Georgia's governor and some lawmakers and members of the congressional delegation have raised concerns about drilling off the Peach State's coast now that Florida has been granted an exemption. The Port of Savannah serves as a key economic engine for the state and elsewhere, but the town and other coastal communities are vulnerable to sea-level rise and other environmental changes.  Business and elected officials — as well as residents — in those towns want to keep them protected and preserved so they can continue to be spots for recreation and tourism.  It's unclear what Gov. Nathan Deal's (R) wishes are and whether he will seek an exemption for all or part of the state or look for another option.  "The governor has concerns in regards to opening up Georgia's pristine coastline and will convey them to our congressional delegation," spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan said in an email to E&E News.
With 840 miles of coastline, California stands just behind Florida as the state that would be most broadly affected under BOEM's draft program.  During a 20-minute phone call with Zinke, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made his view clear: New offshore drilling in California's northern, central and southern planning areas should be a non-starter.  Brown cited "more than 30 years of agreement between the state and federal government on this issue and the economic and environmental impacts of past oil spills in California," according to a summary of the call.  California is no stranger to legal challenges over offshore oil and gas development. State officials and environmental groups have waged multiple recent battles against the use of hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific.  Though no new leasing has occurred in the Pacific since 1984, hundreds of oil and gas wells dot California's coast. Many are clustered on platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, the site of a catastrophic 80,000-barrel oil spill in 1969.  In recent years, critics of Pacific drilling have taken aim at how the remaining development is carried out. Environmentalists in 2014 challenged the use of fracking on the existing leases, arguing that Interior has never closely studied the impacts of that technique. The agency settled the case in early 2016 by agreeing to conduct an environmental assessment focused on fracking's impacts.  But the review wasn't good enough for environmentalists or California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who is representing the California Coastal Commission in a new round of litigation. They say the issue merits a deeper dive — via an environmental impact statement.  California's offshore drilling critics are now poised to fight development on two fronts: challenging the use of fracking on existing leases and fighting off the Trump administration's thirst for new leasing.
Washington, Oregon
After joining California in a denouncement of Interior's offshore proposal, Washington and Oregon set to work on their own appeals.  Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) asked that Oregon's "people's coast" be given the same consideration as Florida. Zinke pledged to work with the governor and promised to visit the state.  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) made a similar request. "I spoke with Secretary Zinke today and reiterated my opposition to his offshore oil drilling proposal," the governor said in a statement. "I told him the concerns of Washingtonians and West Coast residents deserve [to] be treated with the same consideration and deliberation as those in Florida.  "Secretary Zinke did not provide that commitment, unfortunately. But this fight is far from over."

Actuaries say rising seas more damaging than heat
Daniel Cusick, E&E Newshed: Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sea-level rise now exceeds air temperature increases as the most important driver of extreme climate events across the United States and Canada, according to new findings from a coalition of insurance risk experts.
In the latest update to the quarterly "Actuaries Climate Index," experts found that the five-year moving average of climate extremes across the U.S. and Canada remained at a record high level during the spring of 2017, continuing a pattern established during the previous winter.  The index, developed by the American Academy of Actuaries and three partner organizations, provides a statistical window into climate change by measuring deviations from the 30-year average across six metrics: high and low temperatures, high winds, heavy precipitation, drought, and sea level.  "Of course, the balance of average temperatures and sea level are closely related. Higher temperatures are helping to cause higher sea levels," said Doug Collins, chairman of the Climate Index Working Group, which produced the report on behalf of AAA and its partners, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries.  Collins added that the changes in sea level "are still relatively small in terms of annual or even decadal changes. But they are steadily rising, and have been steadily rising for some time. This makes it harder to defend our coastal cities from storms."  According to the experts, sea level has been highest in recent years in the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions, from Virginia to Texas. But it has also been a significant factor in the Central East Atlantic (Maryland to Maine) and the Northeast Atlantic (the Canadian maritime) regions.  In recent years, major U.S. cities along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico have faced increased flooding episodes — from Boston, New York and Miami to New Orleans and Houston.  Just this month, a significant flood event in Boston was linked to the convergence of a powerful nor'easter and a record high tide in Boston Harbor, resulting in icy seawater flowing into parts of the city center (Climatewire, Jan. 10).  According to its authors, the quarterly index "is designed to provide actuaries, public policymakers, and the general public with objective data about changes in the frequency of extreme climate events over recent decades."  From 1961 to 1990, seasonal shifts in the climate index ranged widely, both above and below the standard deviation. But since the mid-1990s, the index has shown a mostly upward trajectory, with seasonal index records set in both 2016 and 2017.  Collins, a retired actuary based in the coastal community of Harpswell, Maine, said the group's findings are primarily intended to help insurance industry experts gauge risk to properties from climate change and its effects.  But the index may also prove useful to policymakers, including those working to reform and reauthorize the deeply indebted National Flood Insurance Program. Congress currently faces a deadline tomorrow to reauthorize the insurance program, but some expect the deadline to be extended as lawmakers work to avoid a looming government shutdown.  Updates to the index are posted quarterly at as data for each meteorological season becomes available, officials said. The consortium is also developing a second index, called the "Actuaries Climate Risk Index," to measure correlations between changes in the frequency of extreme events and economic losses, injuries and mortality.

Where has the beach gone?

World’s largest sea turtle could come off ‘endangered’ list 

Isle of Palms Beach Replenishment Begins

Brunswick revokes previous stance on offshore drilling 

Va. senators continue knotty affair with offshore drilling
Kellie Lunney and Geof Koss, E&E News, January 17, 2018
Virginia's Democratic lawmakers want Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exempt the Old Dominion from the administration's five-year offshore drilling plan, including the state's two senators who previously supported ocean drilling under certain circumstances.  "We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there," wrote six members of Virginia's congressional delegation, including Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, in a Friday letter to Zinke.  The request is the latest from several elected officials in coastal states, many of whom were outraged at Zinke's decision last week to take Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas drilling after meeting with Gov. Rick Scott (R) in Tallahassee (E&E Daily, Jan. 11).  "We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia's coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point," stated the letter, also signed by Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin.  Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, who represents Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk and Hampton, told The Washington Post last week that he was opposed to oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of his state (E&E Daily, Jan. 9).
Warner and Kaine in 2013 pushed legislation that would have paved the way for offshore energy exploration and development off the coast of Virginia provided the state receive a portion (37.5 percent) of revenues from such production, similar to the agreement Gulf Coast states now have with the federal government.  At the time, Warner said he had "long advocated for additional exploration and the responsible production of domestic energy resources off of Virginia's coast" and that the legislation he co-sponsored with Kaine "includes appropriate environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments."   Kaine had this to say about the issue in 2013: "Virginia is well-positioned to be a national leader in offshore energy exploration. A comprehensive energy strategy — including oil, gas, wind, solar, tidal and other areas — can transition us to a clean energy future while bridging the transition with secure U.S. fuels we don't have to import."  Asked to clarify his position yesterday, Warner said in a statement that he has "always said that offshore drilling without a major revenue-sharing agreement is a complete non-starter."  He added: "The Trump administration has made a decision to exempt Florida from their plan, citing local concerns. It is obvious that other states should have that same opportunity. Like in Florida, there is a growing bipartisan opposition to expanded offshore development in the Virginia communities that would be most affected."
Kaine last week said the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Department of Defense concerns over military readiness and shifting local opposition to offshore drilling in Virginia Beach prompted him to change his position two years ago (E&E News PM, Nov. 16, 2016).  "I think it's a bad idea," Kaine told E&E News last week.  At the end of the Obama administration, Kaine voted against a proposal that would have expanded revenue sharing outside the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.  Despite Kaine's reversal on the issue, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday the change in the political environment since Trump became president has lawmakers taking a fresh look at revenue sharing, which has long been viewed as key to getting states on board with drilling off their coasts.  "The reality is during the Obama administration there wasn't much conversation about [outer continental shelf] production, much less revenue sharing, because if you don't have production there's nothing to share," Murkowski told reporters yesterday. "So, I think it does prompt more discussion about what revenue sharing might look like outside of the Gulf states."
Still, many of Kaine's concerns were highlighted in the Friday letter to Zinke.  "While many states have long histories of energy production, states like Florida and Virginia have robust economies based on other sectors like tourism, aquaculture, outdoor recreation, deepwater port commerce, and especially Department of Defense infrastructure," the Virginia Democrats wrote.   The lawmakers added that Virginia's coastal area alone "has more than a dozen [installations] across every service branch, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval installation."  They said, "While it is within DoD's mandate to work with Interior, any look at a map displays vast offshore areas in which drilling could conflict with military activities. In a time of relatively stable prices and booming oil and gas production elsewhere, the risks outweigh the benefits."  McEachin said yesterday he hopes "amplifying Virginia voices in our letter to Secretary Zinke will get Virginia removed" from the draft oil and gas leasing plan. "I would prefer no offshore drilling, but at a minimum, I have a responsibility to Virginians," he said.

A starting point
Since Zinke's Jan. 9 tweet that he intended to exempt federal waters off Florida from his proposed offshore drilling plan, governors of states including Washington and North Carolina have asked to opt out of the five-year plan. The Interior secretary said he would talk with any governor who submits a request.  The department yesterday began public meetings on the plan, kicking off hearings in Annapolis, Md., and Jackson, Miss.  Also yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) penned an op-ed in The New York Times about why his state needed similar protection to Florida.  Zinke unveiled his proposal for 47 lease sales in different parts of the outer continental shelf from 2019 to 2024 — the most ever for a five-year planning period — on Jan. 4.  He said at the time he was open to tweaking the proposal. "Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks," he said.  The 47 lease sales, according to the plan, would include 19 off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic region.  "Creating a five-year program is a very open and public process that actually centers around a series of public comment periods and revisions to the proposed plan," Interior press secretary Heather Swift said last week in an email.  Murkowski said yesterday that Interior's drilling proposal is the process's starting point.  "This is a draft, and this draft proposal put everything out there on the table," she said. "So, Zinke's getting all the feedback, good, bad and indifferent. He's going to weigh all that."

Oak Island asks to benefit from future dredgings of Lockwoods Folly Inlet 

Feds say they're happy to talk to you about offshore drilling, as long as you drive far from the shore

NC officials, environmentalists concerned over offshore drilling plan

NC Governor Cooper Seeks Offshore Drilling Exemption 

Elected officials react to offshore drilling proposal

Committee explores facilitating seismic testing, permitting
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News reporter, January 16, 2018 2018
While opponents gear up to fight the Trump administration over its plan to open up more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas development, the first battle may well be over seismic testing.  On Friday, a House Natural Resources panel will take up the matter, with drilling proponents vowing to make it easier for companies to conduct the tests to help them find oil under the ocean floor.  "Seismic research is vital to unlocking energy potential off our coasts, and federal red tape is standing in the way," said Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, the committee's chairman.  The issue will get an airing before the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, which scheduled the oversight hearing to examine "deficiencies in the permitting process" for seismic testing.  Earlier this month, Bishop accused federal agencies of "bureaucratic dysfunction" after a report by the Government Accountability Office highlighted how long energy companies are forced to wait for decisions.  Bishop said that both NOAA Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service, agencies that review seismic applications to make sure they comply with wildlife laws, lack consistent standards, with some applications received by NOAA in mid-2014 still under review.  He also criticized the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for denying six applications for seismic testing a year ago, after reviewing the applications for 948 to 982 days.  Critics of the current system say that the long delays leave little incentive for energy companies to move forward with projects.
Opponents of seismic testing say the hearing provides more evidence that drilling backers want to advance their plans even in the face of widespread opposition.  "Coastal communities, businesses and governors have overwhelmingly spoken out against offshore drilling," said Diane Hoskins, a campaign director at Oceana.  "What's flawed is the false promise that looking for oil —- that coastal communities don't want —- via seismic airgun blasting can be done without consequences," she said. "Communities don't want this, and it's time for Washington to listen to the bipartisan local voices instead of the oil and gas industry."  Bishop said he wants Congress to pass H.R. 4239, the "SECURE American Energy Act," as a way to reduce delays in seismic research by authorizing agencies to avoid "duplicative regulation."  The hearing comes after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this month unveiled a proposal calling for 47 lease sales from 2019 to 2024, the most ever for a five-year planning period.  When Zinke announced the plan, Frank Knapp, president and CEO of both the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, S.C., and the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, said it had ignited "massive, universal opposition." And he predicted the fight would land in the courts, with the first battle over seismic tests.  "If those permits are issued for seismic airgun blasting, then expect there to be innumerous lawsuits filed," Knapp said.  The Interior Department plans to hold public meetings around the country to hear comments on Zinke's proposal, with the first meeting scheduled for today in Annapolis, Md.
Schedule: The hearing is Friday, Jan. 19, at 9 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.; Witnesses: TBA.

Fla. flip-flop not 'political favor' — White House
Hannah Northey, E&E News, January 11, 2018
The White House today defended its decision to withdraw Florida's federal waters from an offshore drilling plan, insisting the move was not a political gift to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.  "I am not aware of any political favor that that would have been part of," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.  Sanders touted President Trump's advocacy for energy "independence" and "dominance," pointing to his allowance of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and regulatory rollback agenda.  She also left the door open for additional concessions on the offshore proposal, saying the public comment process will involve ongoing "negotiations" with other states.  "We'll continue to talk to other stakeholders as we make decisions for other areas in other states," she said.  The Interior Department originally included the waters off the Sunshine State when releasing its five-year offshore drilling plan, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week tweeted the state would be taken off the table following his meeting with Scott.  The move fueled speculation the Interior plan is now on shaky legal ground as governors across the nation ask for similar treatment.  When asked about the White House comments, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said the creation of the five-year program is "very open and public" and centers around a series of public comment periods and revisions to the plan.  "The secretary has said since day one that he is interested in hearing the local voice. Governor Scott requested a meeting the day the plan was released and was granted a meeting. For context, Governor Scott was the only governor to request a meeting until yesterday," Swift said. "The secretary intends to meet with or talk with any governor who submits a request. If other governors would like to request meetings with the secretary, they are absolutely invited to do so."
A number of governors and senators appeared interested in meeting with Zinke.  Citing Interior's Florida decision, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington told Zinke in a letter today that "every state should be granted a similar opportunity to protect its marine and coastal waters."  Other lawmakers questioned the quick change of heart in Interior's plan, which would open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf for potential drilling. President Obama, in comparison, closed 94 percent of federal waters to oil and gas leasing in his 2017-2022 plan (E&E Daily, Jan. 11).  Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent Zinke a letter today questioning his decision on Florida and the role of politics.  "Your decision to give a last-minute exemption to Florida while ignoring over 10 other states who followed the proper legal procedures is a waste of taxpayer dollars and may violate the requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)," Cantwell wrote. "It also suggests you are more concerned with politics than proper process when it comes to making key decisions that affect our coastal communities."

Governor wants North Carolina, like Florida, exempted from new offshore drilling plan 

Gov: NC wants exemption from offshore drilling

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants offshore 'no drill' oil exemption just like Florida

Zinke cut Fla. from 5-year plan. Can he do that?
Pamela King, E&E News, January 11, 2018
The Interior Department's decision this week to withdraw Florida's federal waters from the agency's five-year offshore drilling plan brought more questions than answers.  Chief among those queries: Can Interior do this?  The answer: Yes?
After meeting with Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Tuesday evening, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted that no new oil and gas platforms would appear off Florida's coasts (Energywire, Jan. 10). The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's draft proposed plan, rolled out last week, would have opened nearly all of the U.S. outer continental shelf to oil and gas leasing.  "As long as BOEM adheres to its prescribed comment periods and addresses feedback from commenters, my understanding is that removal of all or part of a Planning Area would comport with both the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the Administrative Procedure Act," Kevin Book, managing director of research for ClearView Energy Partners LLC, wrote in an email.  The fact that the announcement came as a tweet led Book to believe the withdrawal was less of a definitive decision than an indication of where the department is heading as it crafts its final program.  "I would not necessarily regard the terms of a tweet as definitive," Book wrote. "THAT, to the best of my knowledge, DOES NOT comport with BOEM procedure. Instead, the agency seems likely to incorporate Gov. Scott's feedback and proceed from there."
Interior contends that the announcement was not rolled out on Twitter. All official press advisories came through Scott's office.  The comment period for the draft plan, which was published in the Federal Register on Monday, is still open. Plan documents still include Florida's waters as among the areas under consideration for leasing.  Interior's reversal on Florida flies in the face of the processes laid out in OCSLA, said David Hayes, who served as deputy secretary of the department under former Presidents Obama and Clinton.  The decision should have the department's attorneys "cringing," said Hayes, who is now executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at New York University School of Law.  "This incident provides Exhibit A that the Interior Department is treating a deadly serious matter as a political exercise," he said. "Even a cursory examination of the extensive public record regarding the potential opening up the Atlantic, the eastern Gulf and the Pacific to oil and gas drilling would have shown that a number of key states — including but certainly not limited to Florida — are dead set against drilling off their coasts. California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and many others are just as strongly opposed."  State leaders took to Twitter to respond to Zinke's flurry of tweets Tuesday night.  "California is also 'unique' & our 'coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,'" state Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) tweeted, citing some of Zinke's reasons for excluding Florida from the program. "Our 'local and state voice' is firmly opposed to any and all offshore drilling.  "If that's your standard, we, too, should be removed from your list. Immediately."

Tweeting a meeting
Tweets from state leaders are not official meeting requests from governors to the secretary, said Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift.  "The governor of Florida requested a meeting the day the plan was announced," she said. "By comparison, the California and Virginia governors hadn't requested meetings with the secretary. However, they are welcome and encouraged to do so if they'd like to voice their positions to the secretary."  Swift said that Zinke intends to meet with any governor who requests a meeting.  California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said yesterday during a budget press conference that he would be pursuing a similar decision for his state, according to the governor's press office.  "We are certainly going to ask for that exemption here, and I'm hoping that [Interior] will be responsive," Brown said.  Removing Florida from the program changes the game for other states that want exclusions, said Jim McElfish, senior attorney and director of the sustainable land use program at the Environmental Law Institute.  "Allegedly that door is opened by going through this long process," he said. "Whether or not the administration will pay attention to or regard other states' comments we can't really predict, but it's entirely possible that other areas will be removed."
Uneasy outlook
Observers of the fallout following the Florida announcement were wary of its ramifications for the process.  "This does not portend well for the department's ability to engage in a disciplined, transparent, broad-based and fair process," Hayes said.  Trade groups that last week cheered Interior's offshore strategy yesterday characterized the withdrawal as "premature" and "disappointing."  "OCSLA clearly outlines a deliberative, inclusive and lengthy review process before any preliminary leasing proposals are finalized," National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi said in a statement. "The conversation to be had around the draft proposed offshore leasing plan should include modern technology, science and America's energy demand and security."  In a follow-up conversation with E&E News, Luthi said he doesn't necessarily believe the agency is acting outside its OCSLA authorities, but that Florida's removal from the program took away the opportunity for meaningful dialogue on whether to lease there.  American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said the decision precluded discussions of safety advancements in offshore operations.
"The Gulf of Mexico is the backbone of our nation's offshore energy production, and restricting access to the eastern Gulf puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the country and along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi," Gerard said.  For groups that supported a smaller offshore program, the withdrawal was encouraging — but frustratingly arbitrary.  "We're happy that Florida's out," said Nat Mund, director of federal affairs for the Southern Environmental Law Center. "We just think the same protections should be afforded to other states, as well."  Because there was so little information as to the basis for Interior's decision, it's also unclear whether the withdrawal will stick, said Mund.  "Could Zinke tomorrow tweet out and say, 'Just kidding, Florida's back in'?" Mund asked.

Nelson, governors want answers on Zinke's Fla. about-face
Geof Koss, E&E News, January 10, 2018
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is questioning whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's decision yesterday to suddenly withdraw federal waters off Florida from the department's five-year leasing plan violated administrative law.  Nelson, who repeatedly derided Zinke's move as a "political stunt" in a Senate floor speech this afternoon, outlined questions in a letter to the secretary, noting the general public is now being asked to comment on something "vastly different" from what was published in the Federal Register on Monday.  Nelson asked for details on what the secretary meant when he said Florida drilling is "off the table," including whether that means an extension of the current moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico beyond the current statutory limit of 2022.  The senator also wants to know whether waters off Florida's Atlantic Coast are included and whether seismic testing for oil and gas would be allowed.  The Democrat, who is up for re-election this fall and expects a challenge from Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott, told E&E News he had a "bunch of questions" over Zinke's reversal.  "What does this mean?" he asked. "But I think the subtext is, is there some violation of the procedures of the federal administrative law by doing something that was so obviously a political reason?"  Nelson declined to offer an opinion on whether Zinke's actions violated ethics rules or laws, but called it "clearly a political stunt designed to help Gov. Scott."  During his floor speech, Nelson noted that the announcement from Zinke — made on Twitter — followed a 20-minute meeting with Scott at Tallahassee International Airport.  Nelson's letter seeks answers from Interior by the end of the week. The department did not respond to a request for comment.  Zinke's statement said, "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver."  Nelson said he would introduce legislation today to permanently ban drilling off all of Florida's coasts. Asked whether he would consider holding up Interior nominees over the issue, Nelson responded, "To be determined."  But he noted that he once held up an Interior official during the George W. Bush administration over its desire to drill off Florida.
Equal treatment
Lawmakers and governors from coastal states who oppose drilling quickly argued for the same treatment Zinke afforded Scott.  "If he made an exception for Gov. Scott, I'm wondering if he's going to make an exception for the new governor of New Jersey, or the governor for Virginia, the governor of Delaware, or the governors of Oregon, California and Washington state," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters today. "You know, what's good for the goose is good for the gander."  Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said Zinke's action "smacks of naked political favoritism" and is illegal.  "Exempting Florida but not another large coastal state like California has no rational basis, is an abuse of discretion, and is arbitrary and capricious," he said in a statement, referencing the legal standard courts often use when weighing federal actions.  New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote on Twitter: "New York doesn't want drilling off our coast either. Where do we sign up for a waiver @SecretaryZinke?"  California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown said today he hoped to obtain a dispensation similar to Florida's. "We're certainly going to ask for that here," he said at a news conference unveiling his proposed state budget for 2018-19. "I'm hoping they'll be responsive.  "The Trump administration has been responsive on disasters. And now we see they've set the precedent in Florida, and we'll try to get the same exemption for California on offshore drilling."  South Carolina's Republican Gov. Henry McMaster today said he was seeking a meeting with Zinke to preserve his state's coast.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has long supported offshore drilling, told reporters today that states should be able to "opt out" of leasing.  "I want to hear what my state says, but I don't mind opening up drilling if states can opt out and those states who want to stay in should get some revenue," he said. Informed of McMaster's statement, Graham said he would follow the governor's lead.  Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) defended Zinke's moves on Florida.  "Remember that when he laid down that draft plan, it was exactly that, it was a draft plan," she told E&E News this afternoon.  "There is a period of comment now for all of the states," she said, "and basically anybody to weigh in, and it's from those comments that the secretary will then move forward to define what this next five-year plan is."  Murkowski dismissed Nelson's criticisms of Zinke's meeting with Scott.  "I think the secretary had far more information than just a 20-minute meeting in order for him to develop this draft, the review, the analysis that went into it," she said.

Zinke's Fla. exemption stirs up states' rights debate
Kellie Lunney, Geof Koss and George Cahlink, E&E News reporters, January 11, 2018
It was the tweet heard 'round the Capitol — only this time it wasn't from President Trump.  "Read my full statement on taking #Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted Tuesday, after meeting in Tallahassee with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who opposes opening Florida's coastline to leasing.  "Local voice matters," he wrote.  It didn't take long for Democrats and Republicans from shore to shore and in between to react to Zinke's decision to remove Florida "from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms," particularly given the strong local opposition to offshore drilling in states along the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific coast.  Several lawmakers, especially those from coastal states, criticized the decision to exempt Florida from Interior's draft five-year plan to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf for potential drilling, while other states remain in play at this point.  "In Maryland, Republicans and Democrats are united on offshore drilling. We do not want it off our coast," said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), one of many members who emphasized that opposition within local communities to offshore energy development should be a deciding factor.  Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) asked Interior for clarification on Zinke's statement that Florida drilling is "off the table," including whether that means an extension of the current moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico beyond the current statutory limit of 2022 (E&E News PM, Jan. 10).  Zinke said his thinking on Florida resulted from talking to Scott and supporting his view that "Florida is unique, and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver."  
But lawmakers from other states yesterday made the same claim.  "Our state and local leaders are unified in their opposition to drilling," said California Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragán, adding that tourism on her state's coast contributes billions to the state's annual economy. "I would expect nothing less than equal treatment from Secretary Zinke and anticipate his removal of California from consideration as well."  And so it went.  Even fans of the proposal, which is open for public comment until March 9, questioned Zinke's Florida exemption.  Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee who favors expanded drilling, criticized the move, warning it's not an effective way to implement policy.  "I think it's a mistake," said Cassidy. "Because you send the message that if you raise enough hell, he'll exempt you."  Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the controversy is in part attributable to a major policy shift from the previous administration.  "Whether or not the secretary acted too quickly is probably a discussion people will have, but I would suggest that this is an opportunity for a process," she said.  "And in Alaska, when [former President] Obama took it all off the table, there was no process for us," she said. "We couldn't weigh in. He just said nope, not happening."  Obama closed 94 percent of federal waters to oil and gas leasing in his 2017-2022 plan.  "Under this administration, they have done exactly the opposite," Murkowski said, adding: "Obama took everything off the table, Trump is putting everything on the table. We will now have an opportunity to weigh in, decide what is appropriate, what is not appropriate, and then we'll move forward."

Zinke's plan
Zinke unveiled his proposal for 47 lease sales in different parts of the OCS from 2019 to 2024 — the most ever for a five-year planning period — just one week ago.  He said at the time he was open to tweaking the proposal. "Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks," he said.  The 47 lease sales, according to the plan, would include 19 off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic region (Greenwire, Jan. 4).  Beginning Tuesday, the department will hold public meetings across the country on the plan.  "Creating a five-year program is a very open and public process that actually centers around a series of public comment periods and revisions to the proposed plan," Interior press secretary Heather Swift said in an email. "The secretary has said since day one that he is interested in hearing the local voice."  Swift also said that Florida's governor requested a meeting the day the department announced the plan.  "Gov. Scott was the only governor to request a meeting until today," Swift said, adding: "The secretary intends to meet with or talk with any governor who submits a request. If other governors would like to request meetings with the secretary, they are absolutely invited to do so."  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) sent a letter to Zinke yesterday reiterating his opposition to drilling off the coast of the Tar Heel State and asking for a phone or in-person meeting on the issue.  "I look forward to speaking with you to share just how damaging your proposal would be to North Carolina and our nation's coastlines," Cooper wrote.
Administrative Procedure Act violation?
Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds Interior, said yesterday that Zinke's actions seem to violate the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how agencies implement federal regulations, and undercut the administration's offshore push.  "He may have really deeply hurt his legal position," Udall told E&E News. "He definitely undermined the integrity of the process."  Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called Zinke's actions "arbitrary," noting that Washington, like many states, "has never been interested in [offshore drilling]."  "We have all sorts of reasons why this is a bad idea," Cantwell told reporters. "And what we certainly don't want to just find out is that it's really just political motivation," alluding to Scott's expected challenge to Nelson this fall for his Senate seat. Nelson also questioned whether the move violates APA.  Cantwell declined to comment on whether Zinke may have violated ethics requirements or whether she would seek an inspector general investigation, saying she planned to meet with panel Democrats.  But she said she believes Zinke violated the APA on coal royalties and other issues. "So, we think that it's definitely a very sloppy approach to managing the public resources," she said.
A perennial debate
The brouhaha on Capitol Hill and in statehouses yesterday over the exemption offered an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to ruminate on states' rights and the role of the federal government — a perennial debate between the two parties on many issues, including public lands, energy development and environmental protection.  "I do want states to be considered. They have to be a partner in this thing, and that really is part of what Zinke is trying to do," said House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who often advocates for greater input from state and local communities on federal lands management.  Bishop, however, downplayed the impact of Zinke's Florida move, saying that "a whole lot of people were reading more into this" than they should.  He stressed that Congress will ultimately come up with a long-term, permanent plan for offshore drilling that will address states' concerns.  Bishop said Interior has only limited authority to carry out the strategy over five years. He added that he has yet to decide if states should be able to opt out of offshore drilling but said states should have a "major" role in facilitating or approving any exploration.  He suggested his proposed "Strengthening the Economy With Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act" bill, which would increase energy development on public lands and waters, could be the best legislative vehicle for addressing states' rights in offshore drilling.  Bishop sidestepped any direct criticism of Zinke, saying he knew about Zinke's talks with Scott and continues to work with the Interior chief on a long-term legislative plan.  Several conservative Republicans from states that have or potentially could have coastal drilling said they still favor exploration, but they did not reject Zinke's move, saying they understood the need for states and regions to have a say.  "I would rather we not have that opt-out option, but I understand why he's doing it," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).  Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he's a strong proponent of offshore drilling that could potentially generate large revenue for his state but said he also is a staunch backer of states' rights.  "The problem you run into there is it does become political very quickly," said Meadows, who added that his state's Democratic governor could reject offshore drilling, but the state's GOP Legislature could then reverse him.  Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who has supported legislation to lift the offshore ban permanently, said he's open to some "exemptions" for states but added it would have to be a "pretty high bar."  He conceded that for many states, it comes down to the "tough question" of whether economic and national security gains outweigh the environmental and safety risks that can come with offshore drilling.  Loudermilk said he does not expect his state to seek an exemption, given it has a limited coastline compared with larger states like Florida.  Arkansas Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman, chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said during a markup yesterday where the issue was debated that he wanted to "compliment" his Democratic colleagues' rush to defend states' rights when it benefited their own states.  "Something I've heard said oftentimes is, 'These waters don't belong to California, Florida or Louisiana. They belong to all of America,'" the Republican said, referring to a common Democratic argument.  Turning to Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), his colleague on the committee, Westerman said, "I'm sure Mr. Graves would love for Louisiana to have control of all the regulation and all the revenue that's been produced in the Gulf of Mexico, but I'm pretty sure there would be strong objection to that."
Industry groups decry exemption
Multiple industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and International Association of Drilling Contractors, issued statements calling Zinke's announcement on Florida "premature" and "disappointing."  "Secretary Zinke's remark to remove Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms is undisciplined and arbitrary and stands in stark opposition to the deliberative and inclusive process envisioned by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, not to mention it represents an apparent about-face by the administration, particularly at this very early stage in the process," said IADC President Jason McFarland.  National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi also weighed in.  "The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) clearly outlines a deliberative, inclusive and lengthy review process before any preliminary leasing proposals are finalized," Luthi said.  "Removing areas offshore Florida this early in the planning process prematurely curtails dialogue and thorough study of the possibilities for future development of offshore resources that could provide additional energy and jobs for working Floridians," he said.  API President Jack Gerard said, "Americans support increased domestic energy production, and the administration and policymakers should follow the established process before making any decisions or conclusions that would undermine our nation's energy security."

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Resuming where we stopped 

Zinke removes waters off Fla. from leasing plan
Manuel Quiñones and George Cahlink, E&E News reporters, January 10, 2018 
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said late yesterday that federal waters surrounding Florida would not be open to exploration, an abrupt change of course after the Trump administration proposed new leasing areas in the region last week.   Earlier this month, the White House proposed plans to open vast new waterways around the U.S. to leasing, including the eventual lifting of an eastern Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium.  But yesterday, after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), Zinke said the state's waters would be off limits.  "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," Zinke said in a statement.  Democrats and environmentalists are interpreting the move as political because Scott may run for Senate.  "This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida's coast his entire career. We shouldn't be playing politics with the future of Florida," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said.  Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, called Zinke's move a "publicity stunt."  "Florida is at risk for offshore drilling because the Trump administration chose to put it at risk," he said.  Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, wondered whether the administration would "give equal consideration to all the other coastal governors from both parties who overwhelmingly reject this radical offshore drilling plan."  Republicans tend to support more oil and gas development, but some GOP lawmakers from states with sensitive coasts or military installations questioned the Zinke plan.  Among those expressing concerns are Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Susan Collins of Maine, and Reps. Scott Taylor of Virginia and Matt Gaetz of Florida.  Gaetz, who is a strong administration backer but represents a Gulf Coast district, said he had an "iron-clad" agreement from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to keep in place a drilling ban off Florida's coast.
"I got a commitment from the speaker that during the 115th Congress on a must-pass bill, we would preserve the moratorium that protects the eastern Gulf of Mexico," said Gaetz.  A Ryan spokeswoman only confirmed the speaker was working with Florida Republicans on the issue.  Florida Republican "Reps. [Francis] Rooney and Gaetz requested that we help identify a future vehicle to extend the eastern Gulf of Mexico moratorium, and the speaker agreed to work with them," said AshLee Strong.  Gaetz said keeping the moratorium alive attracts both environmentalists and national security-minded lawmakers. He warned that lifting it would adversely impact crucial military testing ranges in the Gulf used by Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.  "If I get everyone who cares about the environment and everyone who cares about the military, I'll fight against the energy shills any day," said Gaetz, when asked about potential opposition from the fossil fuel industry.  Gaetz said that besides Ryan's backing, he would also have the support of former Speaker John Boehner, who owns property on the Florida Gulf Coast. He thinks having Boehner in his corner helps his cause.  "Paul Ryan has never lied to me," said Gaetz. "Besides, Speaker Boehner is calling in from Marco Island; who could ask for a better advocate?"

Panel OKs controversial marine mammals bill
Kellie Lunney, E&E News, January 10, 2018
House lawmakers this morning advanced legislation that would expedite the federal permitting process applicants must comply with to protect marine mammals from harm during offshore oil and gas exploration.  The Natural Resources Committee reported out six bills, including H.R. 3133, the "Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA) Act of 2017," from Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson.  Lawmakers approved the legislation by voice vote. Democrats offered unsuccessful amendments that would have prevented the bill from being applied to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Another unsuccessful Democratic amendment would have had the legislation take effect only after science demonstrated that marine and coastal wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico had recovered from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Republicans, including Johnson, said the legislation provides a "much-needed update" to a bureaucratic permitting process while maintaining protections for marine mammals. But Democrats blasted the bill as another attempt by the majority to gut core environmental laws.  "Washington bureaucrats should never have the authority to halt coastal initiatives based on their own politically biased agendas," said Johnson. "Yet many permit approvals are prolonged, including coastal restoration efforts and critical naval operations, specifically for that reason."  "I am aware that part of the alleged justification for this bill is to resolve a conflict between marine mammal protection and coastal restoration in the Gulf," said the panel's ranking member, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).   "Both are important priorities. ... But we should be working on a bipartisan policy solution to address those specific needs rather than pushing this partisan, overly broad piece of legislation that will be dead on arrival in the Senate. This does nothing to aid coastal restoration projects or the people who need them," the Democrat said.  The bill, generally supported by industry groups and opposed by conservationists, seeks to reduce some of the permitting requirements associated with offshore energy development.  "Ocean stakeholders, such as the offshore energy industry, the U.S. Navy and coastal restoration groups have all faced similar costly and unnecessary delays under the existing overly burdensome and duplicative seismic permitting process," said National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi in a statement.  NOIA represents the offshore industry.
"Thankfully, the SEA Act will install a reasonable and enforceable time-frame along with an objective and politically neutral regulatory regime for seismic permits, and still fully protect marine mammals," said Luthi.  More than 100 businesses and groups, including Oceana and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sent a letter to committee members yesterday urging them to oppose the "SEA Act."  Opponents say the legislation would eviscerate the core provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Among other things, they say the legislation would create a series of tight deadlines for federal officials to review complicated and dense applications and would require automatic approval for those applications if the deadlines are missed.  The "SEA Act" also would prevent the enforcing agency from requiring any kind of mitigation from the applicant if mammals are injured or killed during testing and would eliminate the requirement that permits be restricted to a specific geographic region, according to conservation groups.  Applicants for seismic research permits must abide by various environmental laws with different requirements to protect marine life, the ecosystem and any endangered or threatened species that could be affected by the testing. Some studies have shown that air guns used in seismic blasting have damaged marine mammals and upended their habitat and migration patterns.
Applicants must apply for an "incidental take" authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the event that marine life is injured or killed during testing.  Johnson's bill would mandate a 120-day approval deadline for "incidental harassment authorizations," would allow extensions of certain permits for another year absent major changes to the marine mammal population and would exempt animals already covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act from additional requirements under the Endangered Species Act if they fall into both categories.  
The bill's advancement comes after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made waves last night by announcing Florida would be exempt from the department's proposed plan that would make more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf open for oil and gas drilling, including in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. Zinke met yesterday with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who strongly opposed including the state in the energy development plan. Several lawmakers from coastal states are now asking for similar recusals from the plan.  Some committee Democrats used today's debate over the Johnson bill to criticize the administration's stance on offshore drilling and sudden reversal on Florida's inclusion.  "I would expect equal treatment from Secretary Zinke," said Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), who unsuccessfully offered the amendment related to the Pacific Ocean. Barragán said she expects Zinke to exempt California from the 2019-24 energy development plan now that Florida is off the table.  The provisions of H.R. 3133 also are tucked into the "Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act," which the House could vote on as early as this month (E&E Daily, Dec. 21, 2017).  So far, there isn't a companion bill or similar language to H.R. 3133 pending in the Senate.

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Say No to Coastal Drilling

Feds reset 5-year plan, but oil recovery is a '15-year story'
Pamela King and Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News reporters, January 5, 2018
The Interior Department yesterday laid out its five-year program to open up vast new areas to offshore leasing, opening up the possibility of drilling in nearly all federal waters in the continental United States.  But it will take the offshore industry much longer than that to return to its pre-oil-bust glory, analysts say. And revival will depend heavily on factors — such as the price of a barrel of crude — that sit squarely outside of the federal government's control.  "We've reached the bottom in both activity and the cost environment," said William Turner, senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie. "The operators are nearing peak efficiency in offshore operations. If we can get some stability in commodity prices, 2018 is going to be putting things in place to make for an exciting 2019."  Interior's draft program proposes to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to leasing between 2019 and 2024 (Greenwire  , Jan. 4).  During as many as 47 lease sales over those five years, drillers would have the opportunity to buy up tracts and plot out their development plans. Presumably, those leases would expire after 10 years, Turner said, giving operators a decade to extract the underwater resource.  "It could be as much as a 15-year story," he said.  On a call with reporters yesterday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted the program as a step toward recapturing some of the offshore wealth generated in 2008, a banner year for the business (Climatewire, June 26, 2017).  Offshore revenues stood at $2.6 billion in 2016 after oil prices bottomed out.  "We can do better," Zinke said.  The secretary reiterated how expanded onshore and offshore drilling will see the United States achieving "energy dominance" as domestic oil and gas production rises and imports fall. Government energy researchers believe it is possible for the country to become a net exporter of energy within a decade. The nation almost certainly closed 2017 as a net natural gas exporter.  Not everyone is convinced that expanded offshore drilling will be the boon the administration claims it will.  Jim Krane, a professor and energy expert at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the administration's vision of energy dominance or an energy independent United States is largely illusory.  "We've been hearing that same mantra since Jimmy Carter, I believe," Krane said. "None of our prior attempts to achieve energy independence — and what they really mean is oil independence — have ever come to fruition."  He agrees that greater domestic oil production has significantly improved U.S. energy security. With imports falling and a more diverse oil supply picture, it becomes more difficult for any single disruption or event happening in any one country to dramatically affect oil prices.  Nevertheless, the United States does not control the price of oil, Krane recalled, and the Middle East remains a dominant supplier of the fastest growing part of the world, necessitating U.S. engagement and security assurances for Middle Eastern crude suppliers for some time to come, he and Baker Institute scholar Kenneth Medlock argue in a new co-authored paper posted yesterday in the journal Energy Policy.  "The main sticking point, especially now, is that the oil market is global, and price formation does not happen inside the United States," Krane added. "Prices are formed globally and the Middle East has a lot to do with that because so much supply comes from the Middle East. So even if we don't import a drop of oil from the Middle East, we are still dependent on them."
State of the industry
Even if most or all of the Trump administration's proposed leasing area gets included in the final plan, it is not guaranteed that any actual offshore drilling would occur everywhere under a revised five-year schedule.  In a notice, Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), pointed out that far too little is known about the oil and gas potential of many of the areas in which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management envisions offering lease sales. Barely any new seismic surveying has occurred off the West Coast, none using more modern technologies, while the Obama administration earlier put a halt to seismic surveys in the Atlantic Basin.    President Trump swiftly moved to reauthorize those Atlantic surveys last year.  IAGC complains that it can still take years for seismic survey companies to receive permission to prospect in federal waters. A recent review by the Government Accountability Office found inconsistencies with the way NOAA Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service handle requests for incidental take permits in cases where seismic surveys could harm or kill marine life.  Former President George W. Bush’s withdrawal of the North Aleutian Basin remains in play.  
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
"While the Marine Mammal Protection Act requires the agencies to make decisions on IHA applications within 120 days, IAGC members' applications for seismic surveys in the Atlantic [outer continental shelf] have been pending for 892 days," Martin said. "This unwarranted and continued stalling represents a complete bureaucratic breakdown in an otherwise straightforward process by federal agencies."  GAO recommends the federal agencies develop guidance for their staff directing how reviews are to be conducted and how long they should take. That agency said NOAA Fisheries and FWS mostly agree with these recommendations.  With or without streamlined permitting and slashed red tape, economics will play a much greater role in determining where offshore drilling occurs in the United States.  Offshore drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico, the world's busiest offshore energy hub, has collapsed by approximately 70 percent since the global crude oil price crashed beginning in mid-2014. Though oil prices have recovered to around $60 a barrel, Gulf drillers have not responded by dispatching more rigs to the waters off Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Baker Hughes, a General Electric company, reported last week that one offshore drilling rig left the Gulf of Mexico, dragging that region's rig tally lower to 18 units.  The United States is also competing with far more offshore energy hubs than it had in the past as other governments have moved aggressively to entice rigs to their waters. With the rising oil price, data show that offshore oil and gas exploration has modestly expanded overseas while remaining stagnant in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (Energywire, Nov. 13, 2017).  In a recent study, Westwood Global Energy Group took a broad view of 2017's greatest "global high impact" oil discoveries and found that U.S. offshore just didn't stack up to the competition. The largest find in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in Mexico's portion, specifically at the Zama 1 exploration well, Westwood analyst Jamie Collard wrote.  Aside from that shallow water mega-find "much of the discovered volumes in 2017 have come from just a handful of high-impact wells," Collard noted. "Some of the largest include: Kosmos' giant Yakaar gas discovery in the MSGBC Basin offshore Senegal; a trio of oil discoveries in the offshore Guyana for Exxon at Payara, Snoek and Turbot; and Talos Energy's Zama-1 discovery in the Salina Basin offshore Mexico." The largest discovery in the United States occurred onshore Alaska, the assessment found.  Oil companies are still bidding on U.S. offshore exploration blocks, but offshore lease sales conducted for the current five-year schedule have seen much less industry participation than compared to the era of $100 crude oil. The most recent lease sale showed some turnaround and rising participation. BOEM hosts the next offshore bid lease round in March.  Katharine MacGregor, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management at Interior, said she's optimistic the lease sales will draw interest from forward-looking companies.  "Leasing today is just the foundation stone upon which future production can be built," she said.
Industry cheers
Offshore trade groups yesterday signaled that they're ready to begin construction.  Despite the collapse of drilling activity in the Gulf, the active exploration and development off the U.S. coast before oil prices fell is leading to a surge in crude production from offshore projects. The Energy Information Administration and private-sector analysts largely agree that the U.S. Gulf will reach a new record peak daily oil production volume in 2018, exceeding the prior high-water mark by some 10 percent. Gulf oil production is then expected to plateau for a few years before declining again.  "It is time for a truly national discussion about increasing our offshore energy capabilities," National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi said in a statement yesterday. "To kick off a national discussion, you need a national plan — something that has been lacking the past several years."  The American Petroleum Institute (API) predicted that Interior's program would help secure domestic energy supplies, reducing reliance on foreign imports.  "This new offshore leasing plan is an important step toward harnessing our nation's energy potential for the benefit of American energy consumers," said API Upstream Director Erik Milito. "The ability to safely and responsibly access and explore our resources in the Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is a critical part of advancing the long-term energy security of the U.S. It will also encourage economic growth, spur manufacturing and investment, create thousands of additional U.S. jobs, and strengthen our national security."  Louisiana operators said they anticipated Interior's proposal would jump-start reinvestment in their state economy.  "The offshore industry has a $44 billion economic impact on the state of Louisiana," Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement. "Combining the offshore sector with related pipeline and refining activities, the oil and gas industry has a $70 billion total annual impact to Louisiana."
Environmental fears
Reactions to the proposal from environmentalists and opponents of offshore drilling range from disgusted to horrified. Activists are livid, and major protests against the proposal are virtually guaranteed.  Conservation and watchdog groups noted that the federal government's push for more development comes just days after the Trump administration revealed its plans to roll back or altogether scrap offshore equipment safety rules (Energywire, Jan. 2).  "The Trump administration's plan to increase offshore drilling will cause more oil spills and deadly accidents — period," said Christy Goldfuss, vice president for Energy and Environment Policy at the Center for American Progress. "Eliminating basic drilling safety rules while pushing drill rigs into dangerous environments is arrogant, foolhardy, and will result in oil washing ashore from South Carolina and Florida to California and the Arctic."  Zinke is likely to field blowback on the plan from Florida's Republican governor. The secretary said he has a strong relationship with Gov. Rick Scott (R) and looks forward to their "dialogue" on the matter.  "We are sensitive to the needs and requirements of Florida," Zinke said. "We're also sensitive to that coastline."  But environmental groups were hesitant to trust a department chief who has made clear that "energy dominance" is his priority.  "Trump and Zinke are acting against the wishes of the American people in their attempt to expand offshore drilling and roll back permanent protections for America's public waters," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  He hinted that a courtroom battle could be on the horizon.  "The Sierra Club will continue to stand with coastal communities in fighting back against this reckless plan, and we are currently examining our legal options to do so," Brune said.

Trump opens vast waters to oil firms. But will they come?
Brittany Patterson and Zack Colman, E&E News reporters,  January 5, 2018
In a striking about-face, the Interior Department announced yesterday that it wants to allow drilling in nearly all U.S. waters, the single largest expansion of offshore oil and gas leasing ever proposed by the federal government.  The agency said it will hold 47 lease sales in every region of the outer continental shelf but one between 2019 and 2024. The updated five-year plan, required by President Trump in an executive order in April, puts regions that were long off-limits to oil and gas development back in play.  Planning areas in the Pacific Ocean and the eastern Gulf of Mexico are included in the new plan, as well as more than 100 million acres in the Arctic and along much of the Eastern Seaboard. Former President Obama placed the latter two regions under a drilling moratorium in the last weeks of his presidency.  "This is a start on looking at American energy dominance and looking at our offshore assets and beginning a dialogue of when, how, where and how fast those offshore assets should be or could be developed," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a call with reporters.  
Industry groups applauded the vast expansion and said the plan, which opens 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to drilling, places America on its way to achieving Trump's desired "energy dominance."  "This is going to be an amazing plan. This really is a statement to the entire world," said Tim Charters, senior director of governmental and political affairs with the National Ocean Industries Association.  While the oil and gas industry cheered, analysts and even some industry representatives cautioned that the plan's signal may not immediately boost offshore development.  Low oil prices and plentiful supply from onshore plays in Texas' Permian Basin and in North Dakota remain a quicker and cheaper bet for oil companies, experts said. While the new drilling plan provides a plethora of options for development, investing in regions like the Atlantic Ocean — where little drilling has occurred — could cost billions of dollars in new infrastructure. Additional costs could also come from litigation initiated by state attorneys general and environmental groups, which fiercly oppose the expansion.  "If you do think you have a discovery there, how are you going to get it to shore? Are you going to tanker it in? Are you going to build a subsea pipeline?" an oil and gas industry source said. "You're looking at potentially billions and billions of dollars in some of these frontier areas that don't have any existing infrastructure."  That also raises a fundamental question for oil and gas companies: Are they willing to invest in expensive projects with long timelines as some analysts project constrained global oil demand and an emergence of climate policies?
In the draft proposed plan, Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) noted that major industry players, including Chevron Corp., Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Statoil ASA and BP PLC, have expressed interest in unexplored areas. But it could take years to tap those regions for oil.  "You want to be able to get the resources to the market," the oil and gas industry source said. "The demand is going to be there, for sure — maybe 15 to 20 years down the road; it's hard to say. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out given the long timelines you need for these projects."  Some shareholders have pushed major oil and gas companies to disclose the risks their assets face due to climate policies. The idea is that as governments become increasingly concerned about rising temperatures, policies to restrict carbon emissions may follow. Reserves that companies had been banking on for future revenue could potentially be devalued, becoming so-called stranded assets.
Charters said he thinks the projections of a downward trend in oil demand are overblown. He pointed to a Wood Mackenzie study released last month that showed the emergence of electric vehicles would displace 1.8 million barrels per day of oil demand in 2035. Combined with instability in oil-producing countries like Iran and Venezuela, Charters said, there's plenty of reason to believe new investments will be needed.  "I think everybody has been dealing with that stuff differently," Charters said of stranded assets.  For now, oil and gas companies are putting the issue of stranded assets on the back burner. They would rather have the option of bidding on leases and deciding whether to explore and produce at a later date. After all, the understanding of oil markets and the policy picture could change significantly between now and 2024, the final year covered in the draft plan floated yesterday.
"While general assumptions about declining future oil demand are consistent with our long-term view of the energy transition that is underway, declining oil demand is not a condition we are experiencing today," Royal Dutch Shell PLC spokesman Curtis Smith said in an email. "In fact, it's quite challenging to keep up with current demand while production from offshore fields naturally declines year over year. Even if global demand were to remain flat, continuous investment — including robust lease sales and new exploration — will be required to keep pace."  That said, some of the lease sales and new exploration considered in the draft plan come with sizable challenges. The Atlantic Seaboard is one of them. There is strong opposition to opening the coastline to oil and gas development, with more than 1,200 local, state and federal officials having raised concerns that it could jeopardize fishing and tourism.  Opponents include the governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington; more than 150 coastal municipalities; and an alliance of more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families.
Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at financial firm Raymond James, said those are just some of the factors that could deter most oil companies from investing in "frontier exploration" or places like the Atlantic where development has been limited.  "Companies are not going to drill just because the government said those areas are available to drill," he said. "There has to be an economic justification for companies to invest capital, particularly when it comes to high-risk opportunities."  Smith said Shell pursues "economically resilient projects that are scoped, designed and safely operated to withstand the unpredictable ups and downs of the oil market" and added that "deep water is a growth priority."  The main point of the draft plan is that it's important to maintain an opportunity to bid on leases and explore untapped areas, said Christopher Guith, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute.  "This isn't about January 4th, 2018," Guith said. "I think it's pointless to look at today's prices and think they have any material impact on industry interest 15 or 20 years from now. But as a matter of policy, that's not the government's job. ... The federal government's job is to provide a more energy-secure future, and making more federal energy sources available does that."
Guith said some areas are likely to be more attractive than others.  The Arctic already has drawn suitors, as the Trump administration gave Eni US, a subsidiary of the Italian energy firm, permission to explore for oil in the Beaufort Sea. The Atlantic might be a tougher sell, though. Drilling has been off-limits there for nearly four decades, so there's a dearth of information on what's actually beneath the ocean floor.  Interior has taken additional steps to reduce the financial burdens facing offshore developers in the hope of boosting investment. Last month, the agency announced it intends to rescind key safety regulations enacted by the Obama administration in 2016 to prevent another Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Earlier this year, BOEM slashed royalty rates from 18.5 percent to 12.5 percent for leases in water less than 200 meters deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It was an attempt to "reflect recent market conditions," according to a press release.  Molchanov is unconvinced that deregulatory measures could increase interest in offshore oil and gas development.  "It's simply the fact that the economics of drilling shale resources in places like the Permian Basin and in North Dakota, those areas offer better geology and therefore better economics than exploring in areas no one has explored before," he said. "When companies drill in these shale areas, those wells begin to generate cash flow almost instantaneously within weeks, whereas if companies were to drill hypothetically off the coast of Florida, let's say, there is no infrastructure, and all of the equipment would have to be brought in from scratch."  It will take at least a year before any final decisions about leasing areas are finalized, the agency said. It noted that areas can be removed from the five-year plan, but not added. The release of the draft yesterday kicks off a 60-day public comment period. BOEM has scheduled 23 public meetings to gather in-person comment and will have to conduct a full environmental assessment.

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Zinke open to tweaks as plan draws strong reactions
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News reporter, January 4, 2018
Talk about a reversal.
While critics estimated the Obama administration put 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off-limits to oil and gas development, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said today he wants to make more than 90 percent of the OCS open for leasing.  But Zinke said his proposal for 47 lease sales from 2019 to 2024 — the most ever for a five-year planning period — is just a start, and he made it clear he's open to tweaking the proposal.  "Today's announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period," Zinke said. "Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks."  The Interior Department said it will hold public meetings around the country beginning Jan. 16 to receive comments on Zinke's plan, which calls for potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 OCS planning areas, including off California.  According to the Interior Department, the 47 lease sales would include 19 off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic region (Greenwire, Jan. 4).
Zinke said gas and oil drilling had "taken a backseat" during the Obama years but that would no longer be the case.  "Today we're embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America," Zinke said.  With the plan affecting so much of the country, the robust debate Zinke expects is fully underway and certain to intensify.  A key measure will be how Congress reacts, with members getting 60 days to review any final plan.  The Interior Department said 155 members of the House and Senate sent letters to Zinke earlier in support of a new five-year plan. It would replace the current five-year plan finalized last January under the Obama administration and scheduled to run through 2022.
House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the new plan would put all coastal communities at risk of an environmental disaster and open up all federal waters except Alaska's Bristol Bay to potential drilling, including areas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts previously held off-limits by both parties.  "President Trump wants you to know his oil rigs are bigger and work better than anybody else's," Grijalva said today. "This will do nothing to put us on a sustainable energy path or decrease prices for Americans.  Trump's plan means more oil drilled here and then sold overseas. Oil companies get the profits while towns from Washington to California and Maine to Florida bear the enormous costs we know are coming."  In the Senate, Louisiana's two Republican senators praised the plan and predicted it will create thousands of jobs for their state. Sen. Bill Cassidy said the proposal would mean "better paychecks and opportunities for American workers and more affordable energy for their families," while Sen. John Kennedy called it an "extraordinary moment for American energy."
And in the House, Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said he wanted Congress to make it easier for energy companies to use seismic testing as a way to help them locate new places to drill.  "Seismic research is vital to unlocking energy potential off our coasts, and federal red tape is standing in the way," Bishop said. Bishop also took note of the big differences between the Trump and Obama administrations.  "The previous administration's approach to offshore development started from the premise of considering as little as possible," Bishop said. "The Trump administration starts from the premise of considering as much as possible." But Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called Zinke’s plan "an outrageous attack on our coastal economies, culture, and environment."  "Washingtonians want to keep thriving on the coast and I will fight to protect their jobs, communities, and environment," she said.
Among interest groups, reaction broke down along predictable lines, with business groups saying the plan could lower energy prices and boost the economy while environmental groups feared the worst.  Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute, said the new plan "unlocks the vast potential of American energy and expands our ability to export oil and gas to our allies around the world." "For decades, our nation has needlessly limited our own ability to harness oil and gas resources," she said. "This new plan sets a much different course."  The National Parks Conservation Association said it fears the drilling plan could put some of the 88 national parks on coastlines at risk, including Acadia in Maine.  "For the first time in decades, the waters, wildlife and local economies of coastal parks like Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina and Channel Islands National Park in California will be at risk to the dangers of drilling," said Nick Lund, NPCA's senior manager for conservation programs.

Feds should improve permitting for seismic surveys — GAO
Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter, 1/4/18
Federal guidance for issuing seismic research permits to companies interested in offshore oil and gas exploration is confusing, possibly resulting in unnecessary delays in some instances, according to a new watchdog report.Three agencies within the Commerce and Interior departments have responsibilities related to reviewing and approving seismic survey applications from companies seeking to tap the potential for oil and gas drilling in waters within the outer continental shelf (OCS), because of risks posed to the marine ecosystem.  But those agencies — the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries — don't always use the same process or time frames, which can lead to frustration for applicants.  "In reviewing applications for seismic survey permits, BOEM records the date on which an application for a seismic survey permit is 'accepted,' or complete, which may be weeks or months after an application is received," concluded the Government Accountability Office in a new report, released today.
"NMFS [NOAA Fisheries] and FWS, however, were unable to provide accurate data on the dates that they determined applications for incidental take authorizations were adequate and complete because the agencies' guidance does not specify how or when staff should record this date," the report says.  The report concludes that "without guidance on how to accurately record review dates, agencies and applicants will continue to have uncertainty around review time frames."
The complexity surrounding the seismic research permitting process is due in part to the various environmental laws — which have different processes and time frames — that agencies must comply with to protect marine mammals, the ecosystem and any potential endangered species that could be affected by the testing.  Some studies have shown that equipment used in seismic research has harmed marine life, so applicants often must apply for an "incidental take" authorization in the event that marine life is injured or killed during testing. The time frames also differ by OCS region, which include waters in Alaska, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
The politics of offshore drilling play a role, as well: Several communities on the Atlantic Coast are vocally opposed to any oil and gas exploration in their waters.  The Trump administration decided to reopen and revise the Obama administration's current 2017-2022 leasing plan, which was approved in January 2017. President Trump's April 28 executive order reversed the Obama-era ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and directed Interior to consider adding areas in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  That order also directed a more streamlined permitting process for privately funded seismic data collection in those areas to gauge the offshore energy resource potential.  Interior is poised to unveil its new plan for offshore drilling today (see related story).  House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who is shepherding a major onshore and offshore energy bill through the House right now, requested the GAO report in 2016.  "Seismic research is vital to unlocking energy potential off our coasts, and federal red tape is standing in the way," Bishop said in a statement today.  "GAO's report highlights the bureaucratic dysfunction, lack of transparency and blatant abuses of discretion that has stalled greater exploration and development," he said. "Congress has an obligation to take corrective action, and with the passage of the SECURE American Energy Act, we will."  Bishop said that he expects the House to take up the "SECURE Act" (H.R. 4239) early this congressional session, possibly this month. His committee approved it in November. The bill, which has some Democratic support, includes provisions aimed at reducing delays in seismic research by directing agencies to avoid duplicative regulation.  GAO recommended that NOAA Fisheries and FWS "develop guidance clarifying how and when staff should record review dates of incidental take authorization applications and analyze how long the reviews take." NOAA Fisheries agreed with the watchdog's recommendations, while FWS partially agreed, requesting some flexibility by noting that sometimes dates need to be revised while working with applicants.


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