Extension of Deep Seabed Exploration Licenses: Response to Comments, 81529-81531 [2015-32889]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 250 / Wednesday, December 30, 2015 / Notices prohibited from using trawl nets with codend mesh smaller than 5.0-inches in diameter. The Council has developed a range of alternatives for potential modifications to the GRA boundaries. The APs will provide feedback on those alternatives and may propose additional alternatives. More information, including a detailed agenda can be found at: www.mamfc.org. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526–5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Dated: December 24, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–32866 Filed 12–29–15; 8:45 am] that is not bound by 75% of FMSY; comment on draft terms of reference for a 2016 benchmark stock assessment for witch flounder; receive an update on groundfish catch advice project; receive an update on the Council risk policy working group including an overview of current control rules. They will discuss other business as needed. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Scientific & Statistical Committee to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. DATES: This meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 beginning at 9 a.m. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Boston Logan, 100 Boardman Street, Boston, MA 02128; phone: (617) 567–6789. Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465–0492. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Dated: December 24, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–32867 Filed 12–29–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: Agenda The SSC will meet to: Consider identifying an ABC for witch flounder VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:59 Dec 29, 2015 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Extension of Deep Seabed Exploration Licenses: Response to Comments Office for Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Response to comments. AGENCY: Due to a clerical error, comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity on a requested extension of Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act exploration licenses were not considered until after the licenses were extended. After reviewing and considering those comments, NOAA has found that they provide no basis for reconsidering the requested license extensions or revising the now-extended licenses. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Contact Kerry Kehoe, Office for Coastal SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 81529 Management, National Ocean Service, 301–563–1151, kerry.kehoe@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 28, 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a notice in the Federal Register advising the public of a request from Lockheed Martin Corporation (Lockheed Martin) to extend its two deep seabed mining exploration licenses (USA–1 and USA–4) issued under the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act (DSHMRA). See 77 FR 12245. Comments on the proposed extensions were requested at that time. Following the February 28, 2012, Notice, NOAA published a second notice in the Federal Register announcing the extension of Licenses USA–1 and USA– 4 through 2017, and discussing several comments received on the extensions. See 77 FR 40586 (July 10, 2012). Comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), however, were not discussed in the July 10, 2012, notice. The CBD comments were received by NOAA but, due to a clerical error, the comments were not routed to the license extension reviewers who were unaware of CBD’s comments until after an inquiry was received from CBD following the July 10, 2012, publication of the extension notice. Upon review and consideration of CBD’s comments, NOAA determined that the extension of the exploration licenses should stand without modification as CBD’s comments were based on a misunderstanding of the nature and scope of the license extensions. Following the discovery of CBD’s comments, the relevant Staff from NOAA discussed the substance of the comments with CBD and described why CBD’s concerns as articulated in the comments were not relevant to the USA–1 and USA–4 license extensions. In addition, NOAA is now publishing a response to the CBD comments to address any public misconceptions about the extension of the deep seabed mining exploration Licenses USA–1 and USA–4. General Response to the CBD Comments The CBD comments pertain to activities not presently authorized pursuant to the license extensions. Instead, the CBD comments are relevant to at-sea exploration activities that, if pursued, would first require additional NOAA approvals. See 77 FR 12246. As discussed below, the extension of the Lockheed Martin exploration licenses merely serves to preserve the legal status and any domestic and international priority of rights that E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 81530 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 250 / Wednesday, December 30, 2015 / Notices Licenses USA–1 and USA–4 may confer. As part of Lockheed Martin’s request to extend the USA–1 and USA–4 exploration licenses, it submitted a twophase exploration plan. This twophased plan is consistent with all the previous exploration plans submitted since the issuance of these licenses. Phase I is a preparatory stage which includes activities for which no license would be required. Phase II includes activities for which an exploration license may be required. The current exploration plan includes statements anticipating that actual exploration activities might be conducted under Phase II during the requested five-year extension; however, those statements are qualified. Lockheed Martin has stated that before it will conduct at-sea activities requiring an exploration license (i.e., Phase II activities), international security of tenure must first be obtained.1 In order for this to occur, the United States must first accede to the Law of the Sea Convention. The United States Department of State, in commenting on the requested license extension, stated its view that for Lockheed Martin to proceed with exploration activities without international recognition would be a violation of the terms, conditions and restrictions of its license. In the July 10, 2012, Federal Register notice for the issuance of the extension for the explorations licenses, NOAA acknowledged and accepted the Department of State’s position. See 77 FR 12246. Lockheed Martin also provided NOAA written confirmation that no atsea exploration activities, which would require a license, would be conducted without additional authorization from NOAA. Such authorization would, at that time, be subject to all necessary environmental reviews. Although Lockheed Martin may ultimately conduct at-sea exploration activities pursuant to the USA–1 and USA–4 licenses, such activities would require additional environmental review and NOAA authorization before commencement of such exploration pursuant to these licenses. Accordingly, upon review and consideration of the CBD comments, NOAA has found that the extension of the deep seabed mining exploration licenses should stand without modification. NOAA’s specific 1 Lockheed Martin has also stated that the market price of metals would need to increase and stabilize to make the deep sea recovery of such materials commercial viable. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:59 Dec 29, 2015 Jkt 238001 responses to the CBD comments are provided below. Response to CBD Comments Comment 1: NOAA cannot extend the licenses or approve the exploration plan unless it fully complies with the environmental review provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) through the preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement which includes a full analysis of the impact of direct, indirect and cumulative effects; alternatives; and mitigation measures for the action, along with an opportunity for public review and comment. It is inadequate for NOAA to rely on any prior NEPA analysis as there is significant new information about the impacts of offshore mineral exploration. While tiering to a previous environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) may be useful in complying with NEPA, it does not eliminate the need to analyze the impacts of site specific actions. Response: NOAA disagrees that the Agency has failed to fully comply with the requirements of NEPA. NOAA has prepared a programmatic EIS in connection with potential deep ocean mining activities.2 In addition, an EIS was prepared for USA–1 and USA– 4 3 at the time of issuance and an updated environmental assessment was prepared in 1989 for the licenses.4 When USA–4 was transferred to Lockheed Martin Company in 1994, an additional environmental impact statement was prepared that noted that the EIS was only being prepared to meet the requirements of DSHMRA to prepare an EIS, and not those of NEPA as the transfer of the license would not have significant environmental impacts.5 2 The programmatic EIS was prepared in 1981 which described the results of the Deep Ocean Mining Environmental Study (DOMES), a five-year project designed to examine potential effects of nodule mining. The review covered both exploration and commercial recovery authorizations; however, it only assessed the environmental impacts from first generation mining activities with the belief that there would be a need for further assessments as the industry developed and evolved. The PEIS found that data collection activities for assessing resources and determining seafloor characteristics presented no threat of significant adverse effects on the environment. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Sept. 1981. 3 U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final Environmental Impact Statement, July 1984. 4 U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: An Updated Environmental Assessment of NOAA Deep Seabed Mining Licensees’ Exploration Plans, Jan. 1989. 5 U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final Environmental Impact Statement, November 1994. PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 With respect to the instant license extensions, NOAA considered its environmental compliance obligations and determined that, in order for the Agency to conduct an environmental review, there must first be a proposed activity to review. As discussed above, there is no action triggered or authorized pursuant to the USA–1 and USA–4 license extensions that has the potential to significantly affect the environment. The extensions merely preserve any domestic or international priority of rights the licenses may confer. Lockheed Martin’s revised exploration plan associated with the license extensions, which like each other exploration plan submitted for these licenses, has two phases with the first being preparatory land-side activities that do not require any authorizations and the second including actual at-sea exploration activities. Lockheed Martin has noted that its Phase II activities are contingent upon a U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention and a substantial increase in the market prices for metals; two events which have not occurred and are not likely to occur prior to the end of the current term of the licenses. Should Lockheed Martin decide to conduct any Phase II, at-sea exploration in connection with USA–1 or USA–4, the terms of the licenses require additional authorizations from NOAA and other federal reviewing agencies prior to the commencement of any such activities. Given the phased nature of these licenses and the uncertainty associated with possible commencement of Phase II activities, NOAA believes it would be premature at this stage to conduct the types of environmental reviews suggested by commenter. Lockheed Martin has not detailed the specific location(s) within the licensed exploration areas where any future atsea activities would be conducted. The company has also not detailed the specifics of any exploration techniques, equipment or intensity. Absent this type of information, any environmental review conducted by NOAA would be speculative at best. Instead, NOAA believes that environmental reviews, including those that may be required under NEPA, are appropriate once Lockheed Martin has decided to pursue NOAA authorization for Phase II activities. Such environmental review will be subject to public review and comment, and NOAA encourages CBD to participate in that process should Lockheed Martin seek approval for Phase II activities. Comment 2: The extension is an action that must comply with the Endangered Species Act, Marine E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 250 / Wednesday, December 30, 2015 / Notices Mammal Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Response: NOAA disagrees. As described in the response to comment 1 above, no action is presently triggered or authorized pursuant to the USA–1 and USA–4 license extensions that has the potential to affect protected species under the cited statutes. As such, NOAA is unaware of, and commenter has not identified, any outstanding obligations with respect to these statutes. Comment 3. The initial phase of the application at issue here will be comprised of surveys and other activities in preparation for mining. These exploratory surveys have significant environmental impacts including acoustic impacts from the use of seismic survey airguns, mining and lighting impacts. Deepsea [sic] mining also generates waste, noise, fuel or other spills, vessel traffic, sediment plumes, habitat disturbance and destruction, and water quality problems. The license should be denied because it is untenable for NOAA to make a finding that the exploration proposed in the application cannot reasonably be expected to result in significant adverse effect [sic] on the quality of the environment as required for issuing a license under 15 CFR 970.506. Any license should be conditioned on measures that avoid these environmental impacts. Response: NOAA disagrees. Contrary to the assertion of the commenter, the current license extensions do not authorize the at-sea activities described in the comments. The requested license extensions only extend the term of the licenses and do not authorize the types of at-sea exploration activities cited by commenter. Indeed, conducting such activities may be unnecessary as Lockheed Martin stands in a unique position as a pre-enactment explorer (i.e., the company conducted its exploration activities including the acquisition of manganese nodules from the seafloor for assay purposes prior to the enactment of the DSHMRA). When USA–4 was transferred to Lockheed Martin in 1994 following the relinquishment of the license from the consortium led by Kennecott Corporation, Lockheed Martin’s request for the transfer of the license stated that the company had no plans to conduct at-sea exploration activities since it already had conducted sufficient exploration prior to the enactment of DSHMRA. As noted above, when and if Lockheed Martin decides to seek authorization to commence Phase II activities, such authorization will trigger appropriate review of the environmental impacts associated with the proposed at-sea exploration activities. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:59 Dec 29, 2015 Jkt 238001 The CBD comments also contain an extensive discussion of the impacts of airguns used to conduct seismic surveys. No such activities have been proposed, let alone authorized. Additionally, throughout the CBD comments the impacts of mining of the deep seabed are also discussed. Mining has not been authorized nor proposed. DSHMRA establishes a licensing requirement for exploration activities and a separate permit requirement for commercial recovery (i.e., mining). Both exploration licenses expressly prohibit the licensee from even testing mining equipment without receiving further authorization from NOAA. To date, no such authorizations have ever been requested. Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog 11.419 Coastal Zone Management Program Administration. Dated: December 22, 2015. Christopher C. Cartwright, Associate Assistant Administrator for Management and CFO/CAO, Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [FR Doc. 2015–32889 Filed 12–29–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–08–P DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of the Secretary [Docket ID: DoD–2015–OS–0142] Proposed Collection; Comment Request Defense Logistics Agency, DoD. Notice. AGENCY: ACTION: In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Defense Logistics Agency announces a proposed public information collection and seeks public comment on the provisions thereof. Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed information collection; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. DATES: Consideration will be given to all comments received by February 29, 2016. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 81531 You may submit comments, identified by docket number and title, by any of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Directorate of Oversight and Compliance, Regulatory and Audit Matters Office, 9010 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301–9010. Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, docket number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information. Any associated form(s) for this collection may be located within this same electronic docket and downloaded for review/testing. Follow the instructions at http:// www.regulations.gov for submitting comments. Please submit comments on any given form identified by docket number, form number, and title. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: To request more information on this proposed information collection or to obtain a copy of the proposal and associated collection instruments, please write to the Defense Logistics Agency, ATTN: Joint Contingency and Expeditionary Services (JCXS) Program Management Office (PMO), 4800 Mark Center Drive, Alexandria, VA 22350; or call (571) 372–3593. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title; Associated Form; and OMB Number: Joint Contingency Contracting System (JCCS); OMB 0704–XXXX. Needs and Uses: The information collection requirement is necessary to evaluate vendors for possible approval or acceptance to do business with and have access to U.S. military installations around the world. JCCS is a module of the Joint Contingency and Expeditionary Services (JCXS). JCXS is the DoD’s agile, responsive, and global provider of Joint expeditionary acquisition business solutions that fulfill mission-critical requirements while supporting interagency collaboration—to include, but not limited to, contracting, finance, spend analysis, contract close-out, staffing, strategic sourcing, and reporting. As an integral component of JCXS, JCCS was designed to register foreign vendors for work with the U.S. ADDRESSES: E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 250 (Wednesday, December 30, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 81529-81531]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32889]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Extension of Deep Seabed Exploration Licenses: Response to 
Comments

AGENCY: Office for Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Response to comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: Due to a clerical error, comments submitted by the Center for 
Biological Diversity on a requested extension of Deep Seabed Hard 
Mineral Resources Act exploration licenses were not considered until 
after the licenses were extended. After reviewing and considering those 
comments, NOAA has found that they provide no basis for reconsidering 
the requested license extensions or revising the now-extended licenses.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Contact Kerry Kehoe, Office for 
Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, 301-563-1151, 
kerry.kehoe@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 28, 2012, the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration published a notice in the Federal 
Register advising the public of a request from Lockheed Martin 
Corporation (Lockheed Martin) to extend its two deep seabed mining 
exploration licenses (USA-1 and USA-4) issued under the Deep Seabed 
Hard Mineral Resources Act (DSHMRA). See 77 FR 12245. Comments on the 
proposed extensions were requested at that time. Following the February 
28, 2012, Notice, NOAA published a second notice in the Federal 
Register announcing the extension of Licenses USA-1 and USA-4 through 
2017, and discussing several comments received on the extensions. See 
77 FR 40586 (July 10, 2012).
    Comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), 
however, were not discussed in the July 10, 2012, notice. The CBD 
comments were received by NOAA but, due to a clerical error, the 
comments were not routed to the license extension reviewers who were 
unaware of CBD's comments until after an inquiry was received from CBD 
following the July 10, 2012, publication of the extension notice. Upon 
review and consideration of CBD's comments, NOAA determined that the 
extension of the exploration licenses should stand without modification 
as CBD's comments were based on a misunderstanding of the nature and 
scope of the license extensions.
    Following the discovery of CBD's comments, the relevant Staff from 
NOAA discussed the substance of the comments with CBD and described why 
CBD's concerns as articulated in the comments were not relevant to the 
USA-1 and USA-4 license extensions. In addition, NOAA is now publishing 
a response to the CBD comments to address any public misconceptions 
about the extension of the deep seabed mining exploration Licenses USA-
1 and USA-4.

General Response to the CBD Comments

    The CBD comments pertain to activities not presently authorized 
pursuant to the license extensions. Instead, the CBD comments are 
relevant to at-sea exploration activities that, if pursued, would first 
require additional NOAA approvals. See 77 FR 12246. As discussed below, 
the extension of the Lockheed Martin exploration licenses merely serves 
to preserve the legal status and any domestic and international 
priority of rights that

[[Page 81530]]

Licenses USA-1 and USA-4 may confer.
    As part of Lockheed Martin's request to extend the USA-1 and USA-4 
exploration licenses, it submitted a two-phase exploration plan. This 
two-phased plan is consistent with all the previous exploration plans 
submitted since the issuance of these licenses. Phase I is a 
preparatory stage which includes activities for which no license would 
be required. Phase II includes activities for which an exploration 
license may be required. The current exploration plan includes 
statements anticipating that actual exploration activities might be 
conducted under Phase II during the requested five-year extension; 
however, those statements are qualified. Lockheed Martin has stated 
that before it will conduct at-sea activities requiring an exploration 
license (i.e., Phase II activities), international security of tenure 
must first be obtained.\1\ In order for this to occur, the United 
States must first accede to the Law of the Sea Convention. The United 
States Department of State, in commenting on the requested license 
extension, stated its view that for Lockheed Martin to proceed with 
exploration activities without international recognition would be a 
violation of the terms, conditions and restrictions of its license. In 
the July 10, 2012, Federal Register notice for the issuance of the 
extension for the explorations licenses, NOAA acknowledged and accepted 
the Department of State's position. See 77 FR 12246.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Lockheed Martin has also stated that the market price of 
metals would need to increase and stabilize to make the deep sea 
recovery of such materials commercial viable.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Lockheed Martin also provided NOAA written confirmation that no at-
sea exploration activities, which would require a license, would be 
conducted without additional authorization from NOAA. Such 
authorization would, at that time, be subject to all necessary 
environmental reviews. Although Lockheed Martin may ultimately conduct 
at-sea exploration activities pursuant to the USA-1 and USA-4 licenses, 
such activities would require additional environmental review and NOAA 
authorization before commencement of such exploration pursuant to these 
licenses.
    Accordingly, upon review and consideration of the CBD comments, 
NOAA has found that the extension of the deep seabed mining exploration 
licenses should stand without modification. NOAA's specific responses 
to the CBD comments are provided below.

Response to CBD Comments

    Comment 1: NOAA cannot extend the licenses or approve the 
exploration plan unless it fully complies with the environmental review 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) through the 
preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact 
statement which includes a full analysis of the impact of direct, 
indirect and cumulative effects; alternatives; and mitigation measures 
for the action, along with an opportunity for public review and 
comment. It is inadequate for NOAA to rely on any prior NEPA analysis 
as there is significant new information about the impacts of offshore 
mineral exploration. While tiering to a previous environmental 
assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) may be useful 
in complying with NEPA, it does not eliminate the need to analyze the 
impacts of site specific actions.
    Response: NOAA disagrees that the Agency has failed to fully comply 
with the requirements of NEPA.
    NOAA has prepared a programmatic EIS in connection with potential 
deep ocean mining activities.\2\ In addition, an EIS was prepared for 
USA-1 and USA-4 \3\ at the time of issuance and an updated 
environmental assessment was prepared in 1989 for the licenses.\4\ When 
USA-4 was transferred to Lockheed Martin Company in 1994, an additional 
environmental impact statement was prepared that noted that the EIS was 
only being prepared to meet the requirements of DSHMRA to prepare an 
EIS, and not those of NEPA as the transfer of the license would not 
have significant environmental impacts.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ The programmatic EIS was prepared in 1981 which described 
the results of the Deep Ocean Mining Environmental Study (DOMES), a 
five-year project designed to examine potential effects of nodule 
mining. The review covered both exploration and commercial recovery 
authorizations; however, it only assessed the environmental impacts 
from first generation mining activities with the belief that there 
would be a need for further assessments as the industry developed 
and evolved. The PEIS found that data collection activities for 
assessing resources and determining seafloor characteristics 
presented no threat of significant adverse effects on the 
environment. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Sept. 1981.
    \3\ U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final 
Environmental Impact Statement, July 1984.
    \4\ U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: An 
Updated Environmental Assessment of NOAA Deep Seabed Mining 
Licensees' Exploration Plans, Jan. 1989.
    \5\ U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Deep Seabed Mining: Final 
Environmental Impact Statement, November 1994.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With respect to the instant license extensions, NOAA considered its 
environmental compliance obligations and determined that, in order for 
the Agency to conduct an environmental review, there must first be a 
proposed activity to review. As discussed above, there is no action 
triggered or authorized pursuant to the USA-1 and USA-4 license 
extensions that has the potential to significantly affect the 
environment. The extensions merely preserve any domestic or 
international priority of rights the licenses may confer. Lockheed 
Martin's revised exploration plan associated with the license 
extensions, which like each other exploration plan submitted for these 
licenses, has two phases with the first being preparatory land-side 
activities that do not require any authorizations and the second 
including actual at-sea exploration activities. Lockheed Martin has 
noted that its Phase II activities are contingent upon a U.S. accession 
to the Law of the Sea Convention and a substantial increase in the 
market prices for metals; two events which have not occurred and are 
not likely to occur prior to the end of the current term of the 
licenses. Should Lockheed Martin decide to conduct any Phase II, at-sea 
exploration in connection with USA-1 or USA-4, the terms of the 
licenses require additional authorizations from NOAA and other federal 
reviewing agencies prior to the commencement of any such activities.
    Given the phased nature of these licenses and the uncertainty 
associated with possible commencement of Phase II activities, NOAA 
believes it would be premature at this stage to conduct the types of 
environmental reviews suggested by commenter. Lockheed Martin has not 
detailed the specific location(s) within the licensed exploration areas 
where any future at-sea activities would be conducted. The company has 
also not detailed the specifics of any exploration techniques, 
equipment or intensity. Absent this type of information, any 
environmental review conducted by NOAA would be speculative at best. 
Instead, NOAA believes that environmental reviews, including those that 
may be required under NEPA, are appropriate once Lockheed Martin has 
decided to pursue NOAA authorization for Phase II activities. Such 
environmental review will be subject to public review and comment, and 
NOAA encourages CBD to participate in that process should Lockheed 
Martin seek approval for Phase II activities.
    Comment 2: The extension is an action that must comply with the 
Endangered Species Act, Marine

[[Page 81531]]

Mammal Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    Response: NOAA disagrees. As described in the response to comment 1 
above, no action is presently triggered or authorized pursuant to the 
USA-1 and USA-4 license extensions that has the potential to affect 
protected species under the cited statutes. As such, NOAA is unaware 
of, and commenter has not identified, any outstanding obligations with 
respect to these statutes.
    Comment 3. The initial phase of the application at issue here will 
be comprised of surveys and other activities in preparation for mining. 
These exploratory surveys have significant environmental impacts 
including acoustic impacts from the use of seismic survey airguns, 
mining and lighting impacts. Deepsea [sic] mining also generates waste, 
noise, fuel or other spills, vessel traffic, sediment plumes, habitat 
disturbance and destruction, and water quality problems. The license 
should be denied because it is untenable for NOAA to make a finding 
that the exploration proposed in the application cannot reasonably be 
expected to result in significant adverse effect [sic] on the quality 
of the environment as required for issuing a license under 15 CFR 
970.506. Any license should be conditioned on measures that avoid these 
environmental impacts.
    Response: NOAA disagrees. Contrary to the assertion of the 
commenter, the current license extensions do not authorize the at-sea 
activities described in the comments. The requested license extensions 
only extend the term of the licenses and do not authorize the types of 
at-sea exploration activities cited by commenter. Indeed, conducting 
such activities may be unnecessary as Lockheed Martin stands in a 
unique position as a pre-enactment explorer (i.e., the company 
conducted its exploration activities including the acquisition of 
manganese nodules from the seafloor for assay purposes prior to the 
enactment of the DSHMRA). When USA-4 was transferred to Lockheed Martin 
in 1994 following the relinquishment of the license from the consortium 
led by Kennecott Corporation, Lockheed Martin's request for the 
transfer of the license stated that the company had no plans to conduct 
at-sea exploration activities since it already had conducted sufficient 
exploration prior to the enactment of DSHMRA. As noted above, when and 
if Lockheed Martin decides to seek authorization to commence Phase II 
activities, such authorization will trigger appropriate review of the 
environmental impacts associated with the proposed at-sea exploration 
activities.
    The CBD comments also contain an extensive discussion of the 
impacts of airguns used to conduct seismic surveys. No such activities 
have been proposed, let alone authorized.
    Additionally, throughout the CBD comments the impacts of mining of 
the deep seabed are also discussed. Mining has not been authorized nor 
proposed. DSHMRA establishes a licensing requirement for exploration 
activities and a separate permit requirement for commercial recovery 
(i.e., mining). Both exploration licenses expressly prohibit the 
licensee from even testing mining equipment without receiving further 
authorization from NOAA. To date, no such authorizations have ever been 
requested.

    Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog 11.419

Coastal Zone Management Program Administration.

    Dated: December 22, 2015.
Christopher C. Cartwright,
Associate Assistant Administrator for Management and CFO/CAO, Ocean 
Services and Coastal Zone Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration.
[FR Doc. 2015-32889 Filed 12-29-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-08-P