The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM's) Environmental Studies Program (ESP) announces the release of its annual Studies Development Plan (SDP), updated to cover the Fiscal Years (FYs) 2017-2019 planning period. SDP profiles are potential new study efforts the bureau is considering, not a definitive list of studies that will be funded. Below, we describe the key steps leading to the latest SDP and ending with procurement of studies the bureau decides to fund. The SDP can be downloaded here.

6BOEM-Flam-Scallop- East-Flower-Garden-Banks by-James-Sinclair-BOEMFlam Scallop nestled in an orange sponge that hosts colonial zooid in the Eastern Flower Garden Bank, Gulf of Mexico. Photo by: James Sinclair, BOEM

The context for the ESP is that BOEM is responsible for ensuring that the effects on the natural and human environment are taken into consideration during the leasing and development of oil, natural gas, renewable energy, and marine mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). To help inform management decisions affecting the OCS, BOEM develops, oversees, and funds the collection of environmental information as directed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act through its ESP. The ESP focuses on applied science, including baseline information about the environment and the effects from activities that result from the leasing and development processes under our authority. The goals of the ESP are to establish the information needed to assess, predict, monitor, and manage environmental impacts on marine biota and the human, marine, and coastal environments.

To achieve those goals the ESP employs a rigorous planning, review, and procurement process to meet the nation’s environmental research needs for OCS resource assessments. BOEM began formulating its FY2017-2019 SDP covering all BOEM energy and minerals activities last October. To ensure transparency, we issued a Note to Stakeholders inviting the public to identify potential study ideas for consideration on Alaska, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific OCS areas for all three program areas. The period for submitting ideas closed on November 20. External input from the outreach process was sent directly to regional and program office studies chiefs for their evaluation and potential inclusion in the SDP process. BOEM also received input from the program offices and other agencies which use BOEM's environmental studies data for decisions governing resource management. Following a rigorous internal review to prioritize the ideas and understand how they would contribute to filling BOEM's information needs, the Regional program offices, ESP in Headquarters, and senior management finalized the FYs 2017-2019 SDP this spring. It includes brief study descriptions or "profiles" that describe proposed studies for the upcoming FY and for one successive year. These studies are designed to collect the information necessary to meet the needs of the users, including BOEM scientists, rule writers, modelers, and decision-makers.

Since the SDP is intended to serve a planning function, typically only some of the studies proposed within it will be conducted by BOEM and included on our National Studies List (NSL). The selection of studies for the eventual NSL is a process undertaken by BOEM's program offices in each Region and Headquarters, principally considering program relevance, timing, and availability of funds. Once the annual appropriations for the Department have been approved, studies on the NSL are procured via competitive procurements, cooperative agreements with a State institution or university, or through inter/intra agency agreements with other Federal agencies. It is important to note that the NSL is subject to change throughout the course of the year as conditions warrant and due to budgetary constraints. More information about BOEM's procurement processes can be found here.

BOEM's Environmental Studies Planning page contains additional information about the SDP, NSL, and other aspects of the studies process.

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