Abstract

This paper documents the joint MMS, USCG, and Industry effort to update the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed December 16, 1998 between Minerals Management Service and the United States Coast Guard1. This MOU defines the respective agencies' responsibilities and jurisdiction under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The previous version, signed in 1990 was identified as deficient in light of advancements in offshore technology.

The USCG and MMS have shared responsibility for activities on the OCS since 1953. A series of memoranda and agreements have defined the agencies' roles. Advances into deep water, coupled with the introduction of new types of facilities, particularly floating facilities, had rendered the previous MOU obsolete. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on FPSOs provides additional insight related to these type units.

This paper will explore some of the in-work issues of the process whereby joint industry and government teams seek to define and provide feedback and input into regulatory issues. It will also identify the challenges to implementation of the MOU, which continue to be faced by the agencies. It is hoped that this paper will form the basis for further refinement and aid the overall implementation of the MOU.

The prospect of operating an FPSO in the Gulf of Mexico presents a myriad of challenges. Principal among these is a clear understanding of the regulatory requirements that will be applied. The MOU uses a "systems" approach to agency jurisdiction. As rewritten, it was intended to satisfactorily address all floating OCS facilities, including FPSOs. This paper will examine the MOU and explain its applicability to FPSOs, and will identify areas where further refinement is recommended.

Introduction

It is beneficial to have an understanding of the purpose and history behind the MMS-USCG MOU. Agencies that are charged with shared responsibility under legislation or law usually execute a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU. The MOU or alternatives such as a Memorandum of Agreement, or Letter of Agreement may also be appropriate when regulatory jurisdictions or processes overlap. The MOU between MMS and the USCG has been in existence in some form since the first laws were passed addressing the mineral resources in the lands beneath the outer continental shelf.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act2 (the Act) was enacted in 1953 and amended in 1978. This Act assigned to the Secretary of the Interior responsibilities associated with the exploration for and exploitation of the minerals contained in the lands under the OCS. The Act charged the "agency under which the Coast Guard is operating" with responsibilities related to safety of personnel, navigation, firefighting, lifesaving and other marine operations. (The Coast Guard, currently under the Department of Transportation had operated under the Department of the Treasury, and in time of war, under the Department of the Navy. This historical and statutory tendency for the Coast Guard to change departments necessitated this rather obtuse language in the law.)

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