Major offshore developments initiated or planned in recent years to ease the energy crisis include mono-buoys and docking islands for VLCCs and offshore nuclear power plants. Legislative requirements for environmental studies needed for licensing of such facilities is discussed as well as the scope of work needed for comprehensive environmental evaluations. Emphasis is placed on special considerations such as oil and LNG spill?s and movements, and dredging. Experience gained in ongoing studies will be of importance in planning similar projects.
History teachers of the 21st Centurymay refer to the 1970's as a time when the United States was rocked simultaneously by an environmental crisis and an energy crisis. Future students may never appreciate the problems which the government and energy producing industries had to solve during an extremely short period of time. This paper will attempt to focus on one small aspect of that crisis period; namely, the environmental issue as related to offshore developments of the energy-producing industries.
The clash of our fuel "shortage" coupled with an increased concern for environmental protection has resulted in an interesting development. The energy related companies, particularly the power and petroleum industries, have turned their attention to the offshore in an attempt to mitigate the energy shortage. The petroleum industry, long involved in offshore developments, is entering a new era of SNG terminals, transportation of and dockage facilities for LNG, and deepwater ports for supertankers. Exploration and drilling are moving into virgin and deeper waters. Utilities and their vendors are designing offshore power plants.
Interestingly, this movement to major offshore developments is not necessarily consistent with environmental objectives. Outside of the arctic region, our most ecologically sensitive zones occur in coastal areas. Consequently, -improper construction practices or operational accidents can severely affect a valuable ecosystem. The Santa Barbara oil release incident demonstrated that, if designed and handled improperly offshore developments can aggravate environmental degradation, not arrest it.
The objective of this paper is to address environmental conservation in light of new and major offshore developments. We now have an experience record of two years and, while incomplete, it allows us to draw preliminary conclusions relative to federal requirements, the scope and depth of Environmental Impact Reports, the methodology for assessing environmental impact, and the application of earlier studies to new proposals.