General Permit for Ocean Disposal of Marine Mammal Carcasses, 24598-24602 [2016-09734]

Download as PDF 24598 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 26, 2016 / Notices 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Requests to make brief oral comments or provide written statements to the FRRCC should be sent to Donna Perla, Acting Designated Federal Officer, at the contact information above. All requests must be submitted no later than May 18, 2016, at the contact information above. Meeting Access: For information on access or services for individuals with disabilities, please contact Donna Perla at 202–564–0184 or perla.donna@ epa.gov. To request accommodation of a disability, please contact Donna Perla, preferably at least 10 days prior to the meeting, to give EPA as much time as possible to process your request. Dated: April 19, 2016. Donna Perla, Acting Designated Federal Officer. [FR Doc. 2016–09733 Filed 4–25–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [EPA–HQ–OW–2016–0150; FRL–9945–67– OW] General Permit for Ocean Disposal of Marine Mammal Carcasses Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Notice of availability of proposed general permit. AGENCY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to issue a general permit to authorize any officer, employee, agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) Stranding Agreement Holder, and any Alaska Native subsistence user to transport from the United States and dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters. EPA’s purpose in proposing a general permit is to expedite required authorizations that otherwise currently require the issuance of an emergency permit for the ocean disposal of marine mammal carcasses. EPA also proposes permit terms that would apply for at sea disposal of marine mammal carcasses generally by governmental entities (and MMHSRP Agreement Holders), as well as by Alaska Native subsistence users based on circumstances specific to the remote locations of such disposals. The EPA invites public comment on all aspects of this proposed general permit. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:08 Apr 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 Comments must be received on or before June 27, 2016. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2016–0150, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or withdrawn. The EPA may publish any comment received to its public docket. Do not submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Multimedia submissions (audio, video, etc.) must be accompanied by a written comment. The written comment is considered the official comment and should include discussion of all points you wish to make. The EPA will generally not consider comments or comment contents located outside of the primary submission (i.e. on the web, cloud, or other file sharing system). For additional submission methods, the full EPA public comment policy, information about CBI or multimedia submissions, and general guidance on making effective comments, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/dockets/ commenting-epa-dockets. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Rappoli, Ocean and Coastal Protection Division, Office of Water, 4504T, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: 202–566–1548; fax number: 202–566–1546; email address: rappoli.brian@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DATES: I. General Information A. Does this action apply to me? The proposed general permit would apply to any officer, employee, agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holder, and any Alaska Native subsistence user that transports from the United States and disposes of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters. B. What should I consider as I prepare my comments for EPA? 1. Submitting CBI. Do not submit this information to EPA through www.regulations.gov or email. Clearly mark the part or all of the information that you claim to be CBI. For CBI information in a disk or CD ROM that you mail to EPA, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM as CBI and then identify electronically within the disk or PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 CD ROM the specific information that is claimed as CBI). In addition to one complete version of the comment that includes information claimed as CBI, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information claimed as CBI must be submitted for inclusion in the public docket. Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2. 2. Tips for Preparing Your Comments. When submitting comments, remember to: • Identify the rulemaking by docket number and other identifying information (subject heading, Federal Register date and page number). • Follow directions—The agency may ask you to respond to specific questions or organize comments by referencing a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part or section number. • Explain why you agree or disagree; suggest alternatives and substitute language for your requested changes. • Describe any assumptions and provide any technical information and/ or data that you used. • If you estimate potential costs or burdens, explain how you arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be reproduced. • Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns, and suggest alternatives. • Explain your views as clearly as possible, avoiding the use of profanity or personal threats. • Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period deadline identified. II. Federal Law and International Conventions The EPA proposes general terms of authorization under Title I of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), sometimes referred to as the Ocean Dumping Act, for the ocean disposal of the marine mammal carcasses. The term ‘‘marine mammal’’ would mean any mammal that is morphologically adapted to the marine environment (including sea otters and members of the orders Sirenia, Pinnipedia, and Cetacea), or primarily inhabits the marine environment (e.g., polar bears). Other than Alaska Native subsistence users, EPA does not anticipate that ocean disposal would be necessary for marine mammal carcasses except in unusual circumstances, such as (1) beached whale carcasses and (2) after mass strandings of other marine mammals. Transportation for the purpose of disposal of any material in the ocean requires authorization under the E:\FR\FM\26APN1.SGM 26APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 26, 2016 / Notices MPRSA. In the past, the EPA has permitted the ocean disposal of cetacean (whales and related species) and pinniped (seals and related species) carcasses on a case-by-case basis, with emergency permits. The terms of this proposed general permit are based on the EPA’s past emergency permitting and will enable more timely authorization of such ocean disposals. The general permit will apply to the transport of marine mammal carcasses from the United States for the purpose of ocean disposal. Living marine mammals are protected by federal law, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act, and the Whaling Convention Act (WCA), and international conventions, including the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which established the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Although the proposed general permit would apply only to animal carcasses, certain IWC regulations are nevertheless relevant. Specifically, IWC regulations recognize that indigenous or aboriginal subsistence whaling is not the same as the commercial whaling that is subject to the IWC’s whaling moratorium. As relevant to subsistence whaling in the United States, the IWC sets catch limits for the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales based upon the needs of Native hunters in Alaskan villages. The hunt is managed cooperatively by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission under the WCA and the MMPA. The MMHSRP of the NMFS and MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holders are provided authority under this general permit because Stranding Agreement Holders are authorized to take marine mammals subject to the provisions of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 136 1 et seq.), the Regulations Governing the Taking and Importing of Marine Mammals (50 CFR part 216), the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the Regulations Governing the Taking, Importing, and Exporting of Endangered and Threatened Fish and Wildlife (50 CFR parts 222 through 226), and the Fur Seal Act of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1151 et seq.). As such, MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holders may have a need for ocean disposal should stranded marine mammals die. III. Strandings and Beachings Marine mammals that have died or have become sick or injured reach the ocean shoreline by a variety of VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:08 Apr 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 mechanisms. One such mechanism is beaching, which involves a marine mammal carcass being driven ashore by currents or winds. Alternatively, single or multiple strandings of live marine mammal(s) may occur with the subsequent death of the animal(s). In most stranding cases, the causes of marine mammal strandings are unknown, but some identified causes include: disease, parasite infestation, harmful algal blooms, injuries due to ship strikes, fishery entanglements, pollution exposure, unusual weather or oceanographic events, trauma, and starvation. While many cetaceans and pinnipeds die every year, most carcasses never reach the coast; rather, the carcasses are consumed by other organisms or decompose sufficiently to sink to the ocean bottom where, depending upon the size of the carcass, they may form the basis of an ‘‘organic fall’’ (e.g., kelp, wood, and whale falls) ecosystem. Stranding or beaching events may pose a risk to public health due to the potential for transfer to the public of communicable diseases (e.g., brucellosis, poxvirus and Mycobacteriosis) from cetacean or pinniped carcasses. Cetacean or pinniped carcasses present a significant disposal concern due not only to the size of some carcasses but also due to the frequency with which carcasses reach the shoreline. For example, between February 2010 and February 2014, over 1000 cetacean carcasses were found along the coast of the northern Gulf of Mexico. IV. Hazard to Navigation Floating carcasses near shore (e.g., in a harbor) also may pose a hazard to navigation. Per regulations promulgated by the Army Corps of Engineers, at 33 CFR 245.20, the determination of a navigation hazard is made jointly by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). If such a determination is made, the Army Corps of Engineers determines appropriate remedial action as described in § 245.25, which may include removal of the carcass(es). Permit authorization to transport for the purpose of ocean disposal proposed today would be available if the removal operation requires ocean disposal of such carcasses. V. Disposal and Management Options Generally available options for marine mammal carcass disposal and management include: allowing the carcass(es) to decompose in place; burial in place; transportation to a landfill; incineration; and towing to sea PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 24599 for ocean disposal. Additional disposal options, such as rendering, composting, and alkaline hydrolysis, would depend on the availability of appropriate facilities. Selection of an option will depend upon factors such as carcass size, number of carcasses, and/or location. This proposed general permit concerns only the towing to sea for ocean disposal option. A. In-Place Decomposition Allowing a carcass to decompose in place may be an acceptable option if the location of the carcass is on a remote portion of the shoreline that is sufficiently distant from population centers so that the carcass does not pose a risk for public health and animal health, or result in unacceptable olfactory or visual aesthetic impacts. This option may be the most practical when the carcass is located in an area that is inaccessible to heavy equipment, thereby making other options, such as burying in place or moving to a landfill, infeasible. B. In-Place and Landfill Burial Burial of a carcass has been used as a disposal option, especially when the carcass is located near population centers or near areas used for recreational activities. A carcass may be buried near where the animal strands or beaches, usually above the high water mark, or transported inland for disposal, for example, at a municipal landfill. Disposal by trench burial involves excavating a trough, placing the carcass in the trench, and covering the carcass with the excavated material. The burial disposal option depends on the availability of appropriate excavation equipment but may be limited by potential environmental damage (e.g., destruction of dunes, beach grass, or nesting sites) caused by the transportation and operation of excavation equipment. While burial may be a cost-effective option for carcass disposal, it may not necessarily eliminate disease agents and disease transmission vectors that may be present, consequently posing a potential risk to human health and animal health. C. Incineration The incineration option for carcass disposal, which includes both open-air burning and fixed-facility incineration, offers an advantage in terms of pathogen destruction. However, due to the high water content of marine mammal carcasses, incineration costs may limit this option to small carcasses. While open-air burning of carcasses may yield a relatively benign ash, the amount of particulate matter and pyrogenic E:\FR\FM\26APN1.SGM 26APN1 24600 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 26, 2016 / Notices compounds released to the atmosphere by open-air burning may be significant and may require authorization (or may be prohibited) under state or local air pollution control laws. Additionally, the EPA presumes that open-air burning may require the use of hydrocarbon fuels, which could result in contamination of the underlying soil. Fixed-facility incinerators, which include small and large incineration facilities, crematoria, and power plant incinerators, offer the advantage of being regulated facilities that meet local and/or federal emission standards; however, the use of the fixed-facility option depends upon the transportability of the carcass. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES D. Ocean Disposal Sometimes, the only available carcass disposal option is towing to sea for ocean disposal. Ocean disposal may be appropriate after consideration and exhaustion of land-based alternatives provided that an acceptable ocean dumping site can be identified, for example, where the release point is sufficiently far offshore that currents and winds will not return the carcass to shore, and the carcass will not pose a hazard to navigation. Positive buoyancy of the carcass may occur, depending on the time elapsed, due to the natural progression of the decomposition process. Consequently, appropriate carcass preparation (e.g., attachment of weights) may be required if a determination is made that the carcass must be sunk, rather than released, at the identified ocean disposal site. VI. Potential Consequences of Marine Mammal Carcass Disposal in the Ocean Most deep-sea benthic ecosystems are organic-carbon limited and, in many cases, are dependent upon organic matter from surface waters. A sunken carcass provides a large load of organic carbon to the sea floor. These local enrichments of the sea floor result in the establishment of specialized assemblages. Large organic falls occur naturally on the sea floor. Over 20 macro faunal species are known to exclusively inhabit the microenvironment formed by large organic falls and over 30 other macro faunal species are known to inhabit these sites. The deep-sea benthic ecosystem response to whale falls has been the subject of scientific study and several stages of succession have been observed in the assemblages. The duration of these stages varies greatly with carcass size. The first stage is marked by the formation of bathyal scavenger assemblages that include hagfishes, VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:08 Apr 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 sleeper sharks, crabs, and amphipods. During the second stage, sediments surrounding the carcass, which have become enriched with organic carbon, become colonized by high densities of worms (e.g., Dorvilleidae, Chrysopetalidae). Once the consumption of soft tissue is complete, decomposition proceeds dominantly via anaerobic microbial digestion of bone lipids. The efflux of sulfides from the bones may, depending upon the size of the skeleton, provide for the formation of chemoautotrophic assemblages, which is the third stage of succession. These chemoautotrophic assemblages consist of organisms such as heterotrophic bacteria, mussels, snails, worms, limpets, and amphipods. Considering the available scientific information on organic falls, the EPA finds that the potential effects of carcass disposal are minimal for the following reasons: (1) Except for happenstance, cetacean and pinniped carcasses would sink to the ocean floor rather than wash ashore; (2) the formation of an organic fall is a naturally occurring phenomenon with no known adverse environmental impacts; and (3) towing or other transportation of a carcass to sea for ocean disposal, when other disposal options are not viable, presents a minimal perturbation to a naturally occurring phenomenon. The EPA’s findings are consistent with the statutory considerations applicable to permit issuance under the MPRSA because: the general permit requires consideration of land-based alternatives; carcass disposal will not significantly affect human health, fisheries resources, or marine ecosystems; and carcass disposal will not result in permanent effects. VII. Regulatory Background MPRSA Section 102(a)(1), 33 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1), requires that any person obtain a permit to transport any material from the United States for the purpose of dumping into ocean waters; section 102(a)(2) requires agencies or instrumentalities of the United States to obtain a permit in order to transport any material from any location for the purpose of ocean dumping. MPRSA Section 104(c), 33 U.S.C. 1414(c), and the EPA regulations at 40 CFR 220.3(a) authorize the issuance of a general permit under the MPRSA for the dumping of materials which have a minimal adverse environmental impact and are generally disposed of in small quantities. The towing (or other transportation) of a marine mammal carcass by any person for disposal at sea constitutes transportation of material for the purpose of dumping in ocean PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 waters, and thus is subject to the MPRSA. Because the material to be disposed would consist of the carcass or carcasses, there would be no materials present that are prohibited by 40 CFR 227.5. VIII. Consideration of Alaska Native Subsistence Users The proposed general permit includes specific considerations that would apply to Alaska Native subsistence users. For purposes of this proposed general permit, EPA intends the term ‘‘Alaska Native subsistence user’’ to be based on the statutory term defined at 16 U.S.C. 1371(b) that refers to ‘‘any Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo who resides in Alaska and who dwells on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean or the Arctic Ocean’’ who takes a marine mammal for subsistence purposes or for purposes of creating and selling authentic native articles of handicrafts and clothing and provided such taking is not in a wasteful manner. The proposed general permit considers ocean disposal of marine mammal carcasses by an Alaska Native subsistence user for two reasons. First, marine mammals are generally abundant and widely distributed throughout coastal Alaska and Alaska Natives depend upon these natural resources for many customary and traditional uses. Collectively, these customary and traditional uses (e.g., food, clothing) are referred to as ‘‘subsistence uses.’’ Alaska Native subsistence use of marine mammals has been ongoing for thousands of years. More recently, the United States has recognized the importance of subsistence uses of marine mammals by Alaska Natives through enactment of the MMPA, which expressly exempts Alaska Native subsistence users from the general prohibition on ‘‘taking’’ marine mammals under certain circumstances (16 U.S.C. 1371(b)). Nonetheless, a potential by-product of such subsistence uses may be a need to transport and dispose, in ocean waters, marine mammal carcasses (or parts thereof) that have no further use for subsistence purposes. Second, many coastal communities of Alaska Native subsistence users are in remote locations and thus face a timecritical public safety issue, for example, whenever a marine mammal carcass washes ashore near a village or town, or a marine mammal is harvested or salvaged and the carcass is hauled ashore near a village or town. Such carcasses may attract bears or other scavenger animals, which may increase the risk of human injury or mortality. For these reasons, it would be prudent E:\FR\FM\26APN1.SGM 26APN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 26, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES to expedite the removal and, if necessary, ocean disposal of such carcasses as soon as practical. With these considerations in mind, the intent of the Alaska Native subsistence users-specific permit conditions (see Section B) is, to the maximum extent allowable, to avoid unnecessary interference with longstanding subsistence uses and traditional cultural practices, and to recognize the unique circumstances faced by Alaska Native subsistence users. In proposing this general permit, the EPA does not intend to change, alter or otherwise affect subsistence uses of marine mammals by Alaska Natives. Section B thus sets forth requirements designed to address these considerations while also complying with the MPRSA and the EPA’s accompanying regulations at 40 CFR subchapter H. The primary differences between Sections A and B relate to federal agency concurrences, distance from land requirements for disposal, and reporting requirements. To further clarify, the proposed general permit is not intended to and would not regulate: Any subsistence activities in Alaska, including hunting, harvesting, salvaging, hauling, dressing, butchering, distribution and consumption of marine mammals (or any other species used for subsistence purposes); the transportation and dumping of marine mammal carcasses on land, such as in whale boneyards or in inland waters (i.e., waters that are landward of the baseline of the territorial sea, such as rivers, lakes and certain enclosed bays or harbors); or leaving marine mammal carcasses to decompose in place on sea ice (or in a hole or lead in the sea ice), where there is no transportation by vessel or other vehicle for the purpose of ocean dumping. The purpose of this proposed general permit would be to expedite required authorizations that otherwise currently require the issuance of an emergency permit for the ocean disposal of marine mammal carcasses. Holders. Section A would authorize any officer, employee, agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holder, to transport and dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters. EPA proposes to require each such general permittee to consult with the MMHSRP of NMFS prior to initiating any ocean disposal activities; to consult with and to obtain concurrence from the applicable USCG District Office, NMFS Regional Office, and EPA Regional Office on selection of a disposal site, which must be at least three miles seaward of the baseline of the territorial sea; and to submit a report to the EPA on the ocean disposal activities. Section B of the proposed general permit would authorize any Alaska Native subsistence user to transport and dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters. EPA proposes to require each general permittee authorized under Section B to select an ocean disposal site sufficiently far offshore so that currents and winds will not return the carcass to shore and the carcass will not pose a hazard to navigation; and to submit a report to the EPA on the ocean disposal activities. The proposed general permit would not require a statement of need and rationale for selecting ocean disposal rather than other disposal options under Section B based on a presumption that other disposal options are not likely available in remote Native Alaskan subsistence communities. Additionally, the proposed general permit would not specify a distance requirement under Section B based on a presumption that large tow vessels are not likely available in remote Native Alaskan subsistence communities. These presumptions are consistent with EPA’s intention to avoid altering Alaska Native subsistence user practices in Alaska. The EPA invites comments on the appropriateness of such presumptions for ocean dumping of marine mammals under Section B. IX. Discussion Considering the information presented in the previous section, EPA proposes to determine that the potential adverse environmental impacts of marine mammal carcass disposal at sea are minimal and that marine mammal carcasses often must be disposed of in emergency situations. As such, issuance of a general permit would be appropriate under the MPRSA. Section A of the general permit that EPA proposes to issue today would be available to government entities and MMHSRP Stranding Agreement X. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:08 Apr 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 A. Paperwork Reduction Act The information collection activities that would be required under this proposed general permit would be covered under the MPRSA Information Collection Request (ICR) that has been submitted for approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The ICR document that the EPA prepared for all of MPRSA activities has been assigned EPA ICR number 0824.06. You can find PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 24601 a copy of the ICR in the docket for this general permit, and it is briefly summarized here. The MPRSA ICR includes generalized estimates for respondent costs associated with possible future general permits including this one, but not specifically for this proposed general permit. Therefore, the estimated number of respondents and costs associated with this general permit are a subset of the total costs estimated in the ICR, and are significantly lower than the totals presented in the ICR due to the very simple reporting associated with this general permit. Section 104(e) of the MPRSA authorizes EPA to collect information to ensure that ocean dumping is appropriately regulated and will not harm human health or the marine environment, based on applying the Ocean Dumping Criteria. To meet United States’ reporting obligation under the London Convention, EPA also reports some of this information in the annual United States Ocean Dumping Report, which is sent to the International Maritime Organization. Respondents/affected entities: any officer, employee, agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holder, and any Alaska Native subsistence user who disposes of a marine mammal carcass at sea would be affected by the general permit. Under this proposed general permit, respondents would not need to request a permit as they would already be covered under the general permit. Respondent’s obligation to respond: pursuant to 40 CFR 221.1 and 221.2, EPA requires all ocean dumping permit holders to supply the specified reporting information. The number of respondents covered under the proposed general permit and associated costs can only be estimated at this time. Based on existing data of marine mammal ocean disposal requests, EPA would expect one to four responses per year under the provisions of Section A. Based upon the available data, EPA estimates that there will be 40 to 60 responses per year under the provisions of Section B. Frequency of response: one or more disposal events could be included in a response. Total estimated burden ranges from 3.75 to 15.00 hours per year and 30.00 to 45.00 hours per year under the requirements of Section A and Section B, respectively. Burden is defined at 5 CFR 1320.3(b). Total estimated cost ranges from $263.63 to $1,054.50 per year and E:\FR\FM\26APN1.SGM 26APN1 24602 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 26, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES $2,109.00 to $3,163.50 per year under the requirements of Section A and Section B, respectively. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. The OMB control numbers for the EPA’s regulations in 40 CFR are listed in 40 CFR part 9. Submit your comments on the Agency’s need for this information, the accuracy of the provided burden estimates and any suggested methods for minimizing respondent burden to the EPA using the docket identified at the beginning of this general permit. You may also send your ICR-related comments to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs via email to oira_submissions@ omb.eop.gov, Attention: Desk Officer for the EPA. Since OMB is required to make a decision concerning the ICR between 30 and 60 days after receipt, OMB must receive comments no later than May 26, 2016. The EPA will respond to any ICRrelated comments in the final general permit. B. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments This action has tribal implications. However, it will neither impose substantial direct compliance costs on federally recognized tribal governments, nor preempt tribal law. The proposed general permit has tribal implications because it may affect traditional practices of some tribes. The EPA consulted with tribal officials under the EPA Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes early in the process of developing this general permit to allow them to have meaningful and timely input into its development. On June 2, 2015, EPA mailed a Tribal Leader Notification letter with a consultation plan to all coastal tribes in the Lower 48 States and Alaska, who could be potentially impacted by the proposed general permit. EPA held two teleconferences on June 16th and 30th. Via teleconference and email, the Agency received input from three tribes: Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, Coquille tribe, and Trinidad Rancheria tribe. In addition, EPA coordinated with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission through a briefing and discussion on July 17, 2015. Tribal concerns during consultation focused on the potential to impact traditional hunting and whaling practices, and providing coverage under the general permit to tribes. After considering tribal input, EPA made certain changes to address tribal VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:08 Apr 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 concerns. The initial scope of the proposed general permit would have applied to only the at sea disposal of large carcasses (e.g., whales, walruses), from land, which have died and subsequently washed ashore or died after becoming stranded. Through additional outreach with Alaska Native villages, we learned that the initial scope of the general permit was inadequate for subsistence users; consequently, we broadened the scope to include all marine mammal carcasses. Additionally, coverage under the general permit was initially intended for state and municipal governments; however, based upon comments from two tribal representatives, coverage will be extended to all tribal governments. Dated: April 18, 2016. Bill Long, Acting Director, Oceans and Coastal Protection Division. General Permit for Ocean Disposal of Marine Mammal Carcasses A. General Requirements for Governmental Entities and Stranding Agreement Holders Except as provided in Section B below, any officer, employee, agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holder, is hereby granted a general permit to transport and dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters subject to the following conditions: 1. The Permittee shall consult with the MMHSRP of NMFS prior to initiating any disposal activities. 2. A disposal site must be at least three miles seaward of the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured, as provided for in the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. The Permittee shall consult with and obtain written concurrence (via email or letter) from the applicable USCG District Office, NMFS Regional Office, and EPA Regional Office on ocean disposal site selection. A fact sheet containing points of contact at USCG, NMFS, and EPA is available at http://www.epa.gov/ocean-dumping/ ocean-disposal-marine-mammal-carcasses. 3. If a determination is made that the carcass must be sunk, rather than released at the disposal site, the transportation and dumping of any materials other than the materials necessary to ensure the sinking of the carcass are not authorized under this general permit and constitute a violation of the MPRSA. If materials are used to sink the carcass, the Permittee must consult with and obtain written concurrence (via email or letter) from the applicable EPA Regional Office on the selection of materials. Any materials described in 40 CFR 227.5 (prohibited materials) or 40 CFR 227.6 (constituents prohibited as other than trace amounts) may not be used. PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4. The Permittee shall submit a report on the dumping activities authorized by this general permit to the applicable EPA Regional Office within 30 days after carcass disposal. This report shall include: a. A description of the carcass(es) disposed; b. The date, time, and location (by latitude and longitude) at the degree of precision available to the person reporting the information, for example, locational technology available on board the tow vessel used for ocean disposal; c. The name, title, affiliation, and contact information of the person in charge of the disposal operation and the person in charge of the vessel or vehicle that transported the carcass (if different than the person in charge of the disposal); d. A statement of need and rationale for selecting ocean disposal rather than other disposal options; and e. Copies of correspondence from USCG and NMFS that indicate their concurrence on the selection of the disposal site. 5. The Permittee shall immediately notify EPA of any violation of any condition of this general permit. B. Requirements for Alaska Native Subsistence Users Notwithstanding Section A, any Alaska Native subsistence user is hereby granted a general permit to transport and dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters subject to the following conditions: 1. The Permittee shall submit a report on the dumping activities authorized by this general permit to EPA Region 10 within 30 days after disposal of a carcass. This report shall include: a. A description of the carcass(es) disposed; b. The date, time, and location (by latitude and longitude) at the degree of precision available to the person reporting the information, for example, locational technology available on board the tow vessel used for ocean disposal; and c. The name and contact information of the person in charge of the disposal and the person in charge of the vessel or vehicle that transported the carcass (if different from the person in charge of the disposal). 2. Marine mammal carcasses must be towed or otherwise transported to a site offshore where currents and winds will not return the carcass to shore and the carcass will not pose a hazard to navigation. [FR Doc. 2016–09734 Filed 4–25–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [FRL–9931–87–OEI] Cross-Media Electronic Reporting: Authorized Program Revision Approval, State of Kansas Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\26APN1.SGM 26APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 80 (Tuesday, April 26, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24598-24602]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-09734]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[EPA-HQ-OW-2016-0150; FRL-9945-67-OW]


General Permit for Ocean Disposal of Marine Mammal Carcasses

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of availability of proposed general permit.

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SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to issue a 
general permit to authorize any officer, employee, agent, department, 
agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or local unit of 
government, as well as any Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response 
Program (MMHSRP) Stranding Agreement Holder, and any Alaska Native 
subsistence user to transport from the United States and dispose of 
marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters. EPA's purpose in proposing a 
general permit is to expedite required authorizations that otherwise 
currently require the issuance of an emergency permit for the ocean 
disposal of marine mammal carcasses. EPA also proposes permit terms 
that would apply for at sea disposal of marine mammal carcasses 
generally by governmental entities (and MMHSRP Agreement Holders), as 
well as by Alaska Native subsistence users based on circumstances 
specific to the remote locations of such disposals. The EPA invites 
public comment on all aspects of this proposed general permit.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before June 27, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-
2016-0150, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or withdrawn. The 
EPA may publish any comment received to its public docket. Do not 
submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential 
Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Multimedia submissions (audio, video, etc.) must 
be accompanied by a written comment. The written comment is considered 
the official comment and should include discussion of all points you 
wish to make. The EPA will generally not consider comments or comment 
contents located outside of the primary submission (i.e. on the web, 
cloud, or other file sharing system). For additional submission 
methods, the full EPA public comment policy, information about CBI or 
multimedia submissions, and general guidance on making effective 
comments, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/dockets/commenting-epa-dockets.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Rappoli, Ocean and Coastal 
Protection Division, Office of Water, 4504T, Environmental Protection 
Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone 
number: 202-566-1548; fax number: 202-566-1546; email address: 
rappoli.brian@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. General Information

A. Does this action apply to me?

    The proposed general permit would apply to any officer, employee, 
agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, 
tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding 
Agreement Holder, and any Alaska Native subsistence user that 
transports from the United States and disposes of marine mammal 
carcasses in ocean waters.

B. What should I consider as I prepare my comments for EPA?

    1. Submitting CBI. Do not submit this information to EPA through 
www.regulations.gov or email. Clearly mark the part or all of the 
information that you claim to be CBI. For CBI information in a disk or 
CD ROM that you mail to EPA, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM as 
CBI and then identify electronically within the disk or CD ROM the 
specific information that is claimed as CBI). In addition to one 
complete version of the comment that includes information claimed as 
CBI, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information 
claimed as CBI must be submitted for inclusion in the public docket. 
Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with 
procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2.
    2. Tips for Preparing Your Comments. When submitting comments, 
remember to:
     Identify the rulemaking by docket number and other 
identifying information (subject heading, Federal Register date and 
page number).
     Follow directions--The agency may ask you to respond to 
specific questions or organize comments by referencing a Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) part or section number.
     Explain why you agree or disagree; suggest alternatives 
and substitute language for your requested changes.
     Describe any assumptions and provide any technical 
information and/or data that you used.
     If you estimate potential costs or burdens, explain how 
you arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be 
reproduced.
     Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns, and 
suggest alternatives.
     Explain your views as clearly as possible, avoiding the 
use of profanity or personal threats.
     Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period 
deadline identified.

II. Federal Law and International Conventions

    The EPA proposes general terms of authorization under Title I of 
the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), sometimes 
referred to as the Ocean Dumping Act, for the ocean disposal of the 
marine mammal carcasses. The term ``marine mammal'' would mean any 
mammal that is morphologically adapted to the marine environment 
(including sea otters and members of the orders Sirenia, Pinnipedia, 
and Cetacea), or primarily inhabits the marine environment (e.g., polar 
bears). Other than Alaska Native subsistence users, EPA does not 
anticipate that ocean disposal would be necessary for marine mammal 
carcasses except in unusual circumstances, such as (1) beached whale 
carcasses and (2) after mass strandings of other marine mammals.
    Transportation for the purpose of disposal of any material in the 
ocean requires authorization under the

[[Page 24599]]

MPRSA. In the past, the EPA has permitted the ocean disposal of 
cetacean (whales and related species) and pinniped (seals and related 
species) carcasses on a case-by-case basis, with emergency permits. The 
terms of this proposed general permit are based on the EPA's past 
emergency permitting and will enable more timely authorization of such 
ocean disposals. The general permit will apply to the transport of 
marine mammal carcasses from the United States for the purpose of ocean 
disposal.
    Living marine mammals are protected by federal law, including the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act, and 
the Whaling Convention Act (WCA), and international conventions, 
including the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 
which established the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and the 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora. Although the proposed general permit would apply only to 
animal carcasses, certain IWC regulations are nevertheless relevant. 
Specifically, IWC regulations recognize that indigenous or aboriginal 
subsistence whaling is not the same as the commercial whaling that is 
subject to the IWC's whaling moratorium. As relevant to subsistence 
whaling in the United States, the IWC sets catch limits for the Western 
Arctic stock of bowhead whales based upon the needs of Native hunters 
in Alaskan villages. The hunt is managed cooperatively by the National 
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling 
Commission under the WCA and the MMPA.
    The MMHSRP of the NMFS and MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holders are 
provided authority under this general permit because Stranding 
Agreement Holders are authorized to take marine mammals subject to the 
provisions of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 136 1 et seq.), the Regulations 
Governing the Taking and Importing of Marine Mammals (50 CFR part 216), 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), the Regulations Governing the Taking, Importing, and Exporting 
of Endangered and Threatened Fish and Wildlife (50 CFR parts 222 
through 226), and the Fur Seal Act of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1151 
et seq.). As such, MMHSRP Stranding Agreement Holders may have a need 
for ocean disposal should stranded marine mammals die.

III. Strandings and Beachings

    Marine mammals that have died or have become sick or injured reach 
the ocean shoreline by a variety of mechanisms. One such mechanism is 
beaching, which involves a marine mammal carcass being driven ashore by 
currents or winds. Alternatively, single or multiple strandings of live 
marine mammal(s) may occur with the subsequent death of the animal(s). 
In most stranding cases, the causes of marine mammal strandings are 
unknown, but some identified causes include: disease, parasite 
infestation, harmful algal blooms, injuries due to ship strikes, 
fishery entanglements, pollution exposure, unusual weather or 
oceanographic events, trauma, and starvation. While many cetaceans and 
pinnipeds die every year, most carcasses never reach the coast; rather, 
the carcasses are consumed by other organisms or decompose sufficiently 
to sink to the ocean bottom where, depending upon the size of the 
carcass, they may form the basis of an ``organic fall'' (e.g., kelp, 
wood, and whale falls) ecosystem.
    Stranding or beaching events may pose a risk to public health due 
to the potential for transfer to the public of communicable diseases 
(e.g., brucellosis, poxvirus and Mycobacteriosis) from cetacean or 
pinniped carcasses. Cetacean or pinniped carcasses present a 
significant disposal concern due not only to the size of some carcasses 
but also due to the frequency with which carcasses reach the shoreline. 
For example, between February 2010 and February 2014, over 1000 
cetacean carcasses were found along the coast of the northern Gulf of 
Mexico.

IV. Hazard to Navigation

    Floating carcasses near shore (e.g., in a harbor) also may pose a 
hazard to navigation. Per regulations promulgated by the Army Corps of 
Engineers, at 33 CFR 245.20, the determination of a navigation hazard 
is made jointly by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard 
(USCG). If such a determination is made, the Army Corps of Engineers 
determines appropriate remedial action as described in Sec.  245.25, 
which may include removal of the carcass(es). Permit authorization to 
transport for the purpose of ocean disposal proposed today would be 
available if the removal operation requires ocean disposal of such 
carcasses.

V. Disposal and Management Options

    Generally available options for marine mammal carcass disposal and 
management include: allowing the carcass(es) to decompose in place; 
burial in place; transportation to a landfill; incineration; and towing 
to sea for ocean disposal. Additional disposal options, such as 
rendering, composting, and alkaline hydrolysis, would depend on the 
availability of appropriate facilities. Selection of an option will 
depend upon factors such as carcass size, number of carcasses, and/or 
location. This proposed general permit concerns only the towing to sea 
for ocean disposal option.

A. In-Place Decomposition

    Allowing a carcass to decompose in place may be an acceptable 
option if the location of the carcass is on a remote portion of the 
shoreline that is sufficiently distant from population centers so that 
the carcass does not pose a risk for public health and animal health, 
or result in unacceptable olfactory or visual aesthetic impacts. This 
option may be the most practical when the carcass is located in an area 
that is inaccessible to heavy equipment, thereby making other options, 
such as burying in place or moving to a landfill, infeasible.

B. In-Place and Landfill Burial

    Burial of a carcass has been used as a disposal option, especially 
when the carcass is located near population centers or near areas used 
for recreational activities. A carcass may be buried near where the 
animal strands or beaches, usually above the high water mark, or 
transported inland for disposal, for example, at a municipal landfill. 
Disposal by trench burial involves excavating a trough, placing the 
carcass in the trench, and covering the carcass with the excavated 
material. The burial disposal option depends on the availability of 
appropriate excavation equipment but may be limited by potential 
environmental damage (e.g., destruction of dunes, beach grass, or 
nesting sites) caused by the transportation and operation of excavation 
equipment. While burial may be a cost-effective option for carcass 
disposal, it may not necessarily eliminate disease agents and disease 
transmission vectors that may be present, consequently posing a 
potential risk to human health and animal health.

C. Incineration

    The incineration option for carcass disposal, which includes both 
open-air burning and fixed-facility incineration, offers an advantage 
in terms of pathogen destruction. However, due to the high water 
content of marine mammal carcasses, incineration costs may limit this 
option to small carcasses. While open-air burning of carcasses may 
yield a relatively benign ash, the amount of particulate matter and 
pyrogenic

[[Page 24600]]

compounds released to the atmosphere by open-air burning may be 
significant and may require authorization (or may be prohibited) under 
state or local air pollution control laws. Additionally, the EPA 
presumes that open-air burning may require the use of hydrocarbon 
fuels, which could result in contamination of the underlying soil. 
Fixed-facility incinerators, which include small and large incineration 
facilities, crematoria, and power plant incinerators, offer the 
advantage of being regulated facilities that meet local and/or federal 
emission standards; however, the use of the fixed-facility option 
depends upon the transportability of the carcass.

D. Ocean Disposal

    Sometimes, the only available carcass disposal option is towing to 
sea for ocean disposal. Ocean disposal may be appropriate after 
consideration and exhaustion of land-based alternatives provided that 
an acceptable ocean dumping site can be identified, for example, where 
the release point is sufficiently far offshore that currents and winds 
will not return the carcass to shore, and the carcass will not pose a 
hazard to navigation. Positive buoyancy of the carcass may occur, 
depending on the time elapsed, due to the natural progression of the 
decomposition process. Consequently, appropriate carcass preparation 
(e.g., attachment of weights) may be required if a determination is 
made that the carcass must be sunk, rather than released, at the 
identified ocean disposal site.

VI. Potential Consequences of Marine Mammal Carcass Disposal in the 
Ocean

    Most deep-sea benthic ecosystems are organic-carbon limited and, in 
many cases, are dependent upon organic matter from surface waters. A 
sunken carcass provides a large load of organic carbon to the sea 
floor. These local enrichments of the sea floor result in the 
establishment of specialized assemblages. Large organic falls occur 
naturally on the sea floor. Over 20 macro faunal species are known to 
exclusively inhabit the microenvironment formed by large organic falls 
and over 30 other macro faunal species are known to inhabit these 
sites.
    The deep-sea benthic ecosystem response to whale falls has been the 
subject of scientific study and several stages of succession have been 
observed in the assemblages. The duration of these stages varies 
greatly with carcass size. The first stage is marked by the formation 
of bathyal scavenger assemblages that include hagfishes, sleeper 
sharks, crabs, and amphipods. During the second stage, sediments 
surrounding the carcass, which have become enriched with organic 
carbon, become colonized by high densities of worms (e.g., 
Dorvilleidae, Chrysopetalidae). Once the consumption of soft tissue is 
complete, decomposition proceeds dominantly via anaerobic microbial 
digestion of bone lipids. The efflux of sulfides from the bones may, 
depending upon the size of the skeleton, provide for the formation of 
chemoautotrophic assemblages, which is the third stage of succession. 
These chemoautotrophic assemblages consist of organisms such as 
heterotrophic bacteria, mussels, snails, worms, limpets, and amphipods.
    Considering the available scientific information on organic falls, 
the EPA finds that the potential effects of carcass disposal are 
minimal for the following reasons: (1) Except for happenstance, 
cetacean and pinniped carcasses would sink to the ocean floor rather 
than wash ashore; (2) the formation of an organic fall is a naturally 
occurring phenomenon with no known adverse environmental impacts; and 
(3) towing or other transportation of a carcass to sea for ocean 
disposal, when other disposal options are not viable, presents a 
minimal perturbation to a naturally occurring phenomenon.
    The EPA's findings are consistent with the statutory considerations 
applicable to permit issuance under the MPRSA because: the general 
permit requires consideration of land-based alternatives; carcass 
disposal will not significantly affect human health, fisheries 
resources, or marine ecosystems; and carcass disposal will not result 
in permanent effects.

VII. Regulatory Background

    MPRSA Section 102(a)(1), 33 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1), requires that any 
person obtain a permit to transport any material from the United States 
for the purpose of dumping into ocean waters; section 102(a)(2) 
requires agencies or instrumentalities of the United States to obtain a 
permit in order to transport any material from any location for the 
purpose of ocean dumping. MPRSA Section 104(c), 33 U.S.C. 1414(c), and 
the EPA regulations at 40 CFR 220.3(a) authorize the issuance of a 
general permit under the MPRSA for the dumping of materials which have 
a minimal adverse environmental impact and are generally disposed of in 
small quantities. The towing (or other transportation) of a marine 
mammal carcass by any person for disposal at sea constitutes 
transportation of material for the purpose of dumping in ocean waters, 
and thus is subject to the MPRSA. Because the material to be disposed 
would consist of the carcass or carcasses, there would be no materials 
present that are prohibited by 40 CFR 227.5.

VIII. Consideration of Alaska Native Subsistence Users

    The proposed general permit includes specific considerations that 
would apply to Alaska Native subsistence users. For purposes of this 
proposed general permit, EPA intends the term ``Alaska Native 
subsistence user'' to be based on the statutory term defined at 16 
U.S.C. 1371(b) that refers to ``any Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo who 
resides in Alaska and who dwells on the coast of the North Pacific 
Ocean or the Arctic Ocean'' who takes a marine mammal for subsistence 
purposes or for purposes of creating and selling authentic native 
articles of handicrafts and clothing and provided such taking is not in 
a wasteful manner.
    The proposed general permit considers ocean disposal of marine 
mammal carcasses by an Alaska Native subsistence user for two reasons. 
First, marine mammals are generally abundant and widely distributed 
throughout coastal Alaska and Alaska Natives depend upon these natural 
resources for many customary and traditional uses. Collectively, these 
customary and traditional uses (e.g., food, clothing) are referred to 
as ``subsistence uses.'' Alaska Native subsistence use of marine 
mammals has been ongoing for thousands of years. More recently, the 
United States has recognized the importance of subsistence uses of 
marine mammals by Alaska Natives through enactment of the MMPA, which 
expressly exempts Alaska Native subsistence users from the general 
prohibition on ``taking'' marine mammals under certain circumstances 
(16 U.S.C. 1371(b)). Nonetheless, a potential by-product of such 
subsistence uses may be a need to transport and dispose, in ocean 
waters, marine mammal carcasses (or parts thereof) that have no further 
use for subsistence purposes.
    Second, many coastal communities of Alaska Native subsistence users 
are in remote locations and thus face a time-critical public safety 
issue, for example, whenever a marine mammal carcass washes ashore near 
a village or town, or a marine mammal is harvested or salvaged and the 
carcass is hauled ashore near a village or town. Such carcasses may 
attract bears or other scavenger animals, which may increase the risk 
of human injury or mortality. For these reasons, it would be prudent

[[Page 24601]]

to expedite the removal and, if necessary, ocean disposal of such 
carcasses as soon as practical.
    With these considerations in mind, the intent of the Alaska Native 
subsistence users-specific permit conditions (see Section B) is, to the 
maximum extent allowable, to avoid unnecessary interference with long-
standing subsistence uses and traditional cultural practices, and to 
recognize the unique circumstances faced by Alaska Native subsistence 
users. In proposing this general permit, the EPA does not intend to 
change, alter or otherwise affect subsistence uses of marine mammals by 
Alaska Natives. Section B thus sets forth requirements designed to 
address these considerations while also complying with the MPRSA and 
the EPA's accompanying regulations at 40 CFR subchapter H. The primary 
differences between Sections A and B relate to federal agency 
concurrences, distance from land requirements for disposal, and 
reporting requirements.
    To further clarify, the proposed general permit is not intended to 
and would not regulate: Any subsistence activities in Alaska, including 
hunting, harvesting, salvaging, hauling, dressing, butchering, 
distribution and consumption of marine mammals (or any other species 
used for subsistence purposes); the transportation and dumping of 
marine mammal carcasses on land, such as in whale boneyards or in 
inland waters (i.e., waters that are landward of the baseline of the 
territorial sea, such as rivers, lakes and certain enclosed bays or 
harbors); or leaving marine mammal carcasses to decompose in place on 
sea ice (or in a hole or lead in the sea ice), where there is no 
transportation by vessel or other vehicle for the purpose of ocean 
dumping. The purpose of this proposed general permit would be to 
expedite required authorizations that otherwise currently require the 
issuance of an emergency permit for the ocean disposal of marine mammal 
carcasses.

IX. Discussion

    Considering the information presented in the previous section, EPA 
proposes to determine that the potential adverse environmental impacts 
of marine mammal carcass disposal at sea are minimal and that marine 
mammal carcasses often must be disposed of in emergency situations. As 
such, issuance of a general permit would be appropriate under the 
MPRSA.
    Section A of the general permit that EPA proposes to issue today 
would be available to government entities and MMHSRP Stranding 
Agreement Holders. Section A would authorize any officer, employee, 
agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, 
tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding 
Agreement Holder, to transport and dispose of marine mammal carcasses 
in ocean waters. EPA proposes to require each such general permittee to 
consult with the MMHSRP of NMFS prior to initiating any ocean disposal 
activities; to consult with and to obtain concurrence from the 
applicable USCG District Office, NMFS Regional Office, and EPA Regional 
Office on selection of a disposal site, which must be at least three 
miles seaward of the baseline of the territorial sea; and to submit a 
report to the EPA on the ocean disposal activities.
    Section B of the proposed general permit would authorize any Alaska 
Native subsistence user to transport and dispose of marine mammal 
carcasses in ocean waters. EPA proposes to require each general 
permittee authorized under Section B to select an ocean disposal site 
sufficiently far offshore so that currents and winds will not return 
the carcass to shore and the carcass will not pose a hazard to 
navigation; and to submit a report to the EPA on the ocean disposal 
activities. The proposed general permit would not require a statement 
of need and rationale for selecting ocean disposal rather than other 
disposal options under Section B based on a presumption that other 
disposal options are not likely available in remote Native Alaskan 
subsistence communities. Additionally, the proposed general permit 
would not specify a distance requirement under Section B based on a 
presumption that large tow vessels are not likely available in remote 
Native Alaskan subsistence communities. These presumptions are 
consistent with EPA's intention to avoid altering Alaska Native 
subsistence user practices in Alaska. The EPA invites comments on the 
appropriateness of such presumptions for ocean dumping of marine 
mammals under Section B.

X. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

A. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection activities that would be required under 
this proposed general permit would be covered under the MPRSA 
Information Collection Request (ICR) that has been submitted for 
approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act. The ICR document that the EPA prepared for all 
of MPRSA activities has been assigned EPA ICR number 0824.06. You can 
find a copy of the ICR in the docket for this general permit, and it is 
briefly summarized here. The MPRSA ICR includes generalized estimates 
for respondent costs associated with possible future general permits 
including this one, but not specifically for this proposed general 
permit. Therefore, the estimated number of respondents and costs 
associated with this general permit are a subset of the total costs 
estimated in the ICR, and are significantly lower than the totals 
presented in the ICR due to the very simple reporting associated with 
this general permit.
    Section 104(e) of the MPRSA authorizes EPA to collect information 
to ensure that ocean dumping is appropriately regulated and will not 
harm human health or the marine environment, based on applying the 
Ocean Dumping Criteria. To meet United States' reporting obligation 
under the London Convention, EPA also reports some of this information 
in the annual United States Ocean Dumping Report, which is sent to the 
International Maritime Organization.
    Respondents/affected entities: any officer, employee, agent, 
department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, tribal, or 
local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding Agreement 
Holder, and any Alaska Native subsistence user who disposes of a marine 
mammal carcass at sea would be affected by the general permit. Under 
this proposed general permit, respondents would not need to request a 
permit as they would already be covered under the general permit.
    Respondent's obligation to respond: pursuant to 40 CFR 221.1 and 
221.2, EPA requires all ocean dumping permit holders to supply the 
specified reporting information.
    The number of respondents covered under the proposed general permit 
and associated costs can only be estimated at this time. Based on 
existing data of marine mammal ocean disposal requests, EPA would 
expect one to four responses per year under the provisions of Section 
A. Based upon the available data, EPA estimates that there will be 40 
to 60 responses per year under the provisions of Section B.
    Frequency of response: one or more disposal events could be 
included in a response.
    Total estimated burden ranges from 3.75 to 15.00 hours per year and 
30.00 to 45.00 hours per year under the requirements of Section A and 
Section B, respectively. Burden is defined at 5 CFR 1320.3(b).
    Total estimated cost ranges from $263.63 to $1,054.50 per year and

[[Page 24602]]

$2,109.00 to $3,163.50 per year under the requirements of Section A and 
Section B, respectively.
    An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required 
to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a 
currently valid OMB control number. The OMB control numbers for the 
EPA's regulations in 40 CFR are listed in 40 CFR part 9.
    Submit your comments on the Agency's need for this information, the 
accuracy of the provided burden estimates and any suggested methods for 
minimizing respondent burden to the EPA using the docket identified at 
the beginning of this general permit. You may also send your ICR-
related comments to OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs 
via email to oira_submissions@omb.eop.gov, Attention: Desk Officer for 
the EPA. Since OMB is required to make a decision concerning the ICR 
between 30 and 60 days after receipt, OMB must receive comments no 
later than May 26, 2016. The EPA will respond to any ICR-related 
comments in the final general permit.

B. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian 
Tribal Governments

    This action has tribal implications. However, it will neither 
impose substantial direct compliance costs on federally recognized 
tribal governments, nor preempt tribal law. The proposed general permit 
has tribal implications because it may affect traditional practices of 
some tribes.
    The EPA consulted with tribal officials under the EPA Policy on 
Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes early in the process 
of developing this general permit to allow them to have meaningful and 
timely input into its development.
    On June 2, 2015, EPA mailed a Tribal Leader Notification letter 
with a consultation plan to all coastal tribes in the Lower 48 States 
and Alaska, who could be potentially impacted by the proposed general 
permit. EPA held two teleconferences on June 16th and 30th. Via 
teleconference and email, the Agency received input from three tribes: 
Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, Coquille tribe, and Trinidad 
Rancheria tribe. In addition, EPA coordinated with the Alaska Eskimo 
Whaling Commission through a briefing and discussion on July 17, 2015. 
Tribal concerns during consultation focused on the potential to impact 
traditional hunting and whaling practices, and providing coverage under 
the general permit to tribes.
    After considering tribal input, EPA made certain changes to address 
tribal concerns. The initial scope of the proposed general permit would 
have applied to only the at sea disposal of large carcasses (e.g., 
whales, walruses), from land, which have died and subsequently washed 
ashore or died after becoming stranded. Through additional outreach 
with Alaska Native villages, we learned that the initial scope of the 
general permit was inadequate for subsistence users; consequently, we 
broadened the scope to include all marine mammal carcasses. 
Additionally, coverage under the general permit was initially intended 
for state and municipal governments; however, based upon comments from 
two tribal representatives, coverage will be extended to all tribal 
governments.

    Dated: April 18, 2016.
Bill Long,
Acting Director, Oceans and Coastal Protection Division.

General Permit for Ocean Disposal of Marine Mammal Carcasses

A. General Requirements for Governmental Entities and Stranding 
Agreement Holders

    Except as provided in Section B below, any officer, employee, 
agent, department, agency, or instrumentality of federal, state, 
tribal, or local unit of government, as well as any MMHSRP Stranding 
Agreement Holder, is hereby granted a general permit to transport and 
dispose of marine mammal carcasses in ocean waters subject to the 
following conditions:

    1. The Permittee shall consult with the MMHSRP of NMFS prior to 
initiating any disposal activities.
    2. A disposal site must be at least three miles seaward of the 
baseline from which the territorial sea is measured, as provided for 
in the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. 
The Permittee shall consult with and obtain written concurrence (via 
email or letter) from the applicable USCG District Office, NMFS 
Regional Office, and EPA Regional Office on ocean disposal site 
selection. A fact sheet containing points of contact at USCG, NMFS, 
and EPA is available at http://www.epa.gov/ocean-dumping/ocean-disposal-marine-mammal-carcasses.
    3. If a determination is made that the carcass must be sunk, 
rather than released at the disposal site, the transportation and 
dumping of any materials other than the materials necessary to 
ensure the sinking of the carcass are not authorized under this 
general permit and constitute a violation of the MPRSA. If materials 
are used to sink the carcass, the Permittee must consult with and 
obtain written concurrence (via email or letter) from the applicable 
EPA Regional Office on the selection of materials. Any materials 
described in 40 CFR 227.5 (prohibited materials) or 40 CFR 227.6 
(constituents prohibited as other than trace amounts) may not be 
used.
    4. The Permittee shall submit a report on the dumping activities 
authorized by this general permit to the applicable EPA Regional 
Office within 30 days after carcass disposal. This report shall 
include:
    a. A description of the carcass(es) disposed;
    b. The date, time, and location (by latitude and longitude) at 
the degree of precision available to the person reporting the 
information, for example, locational technology available on board 
the tow vessel used for ocean disposal;
    c. The name, title, affiliation, and contact information of the 
person in charge of the disposal operation and the person in charge 
of the vessel or vehicle that transported the carcass (if different 
than the person in charge of the disposal);
    d. A statement of need and rationale for selecting ocean 
disposal rather than other disposal options; and
    e. Copies of correspondence from USCG and NMFS that indicate 
their concurrence on the selection of the disposal site.
    5. The Permittee shall immediately notify EPA of any violation 
of any condition of this general permit.

B. Requirements for Alaska Native Subsistence Users

    Notwithstanding Section A, any Alaska Native subsistence user is 
hereby granted a general permit to transport and dispose of marine 
mammal carcasses in ocean waters subject to the following conditions:

    1. The Permittee shall submit a report on the dumping activities 
authorized by this general permit to EPA Region 10 within 30 days 
after disposal of a carcass. This report shall include:
    a. A description of the carcass(es) disposed;
    b. The date, time, and location (by latitude and longitude) at 
the degree of precision available to the person reporting the 
information, for example, locational technology available on board 
the tow vessel used for ocean disposal; and
    c. The name and contact information of the person in charge of 
the disposal and the person in charge of the vessel or vehicle that 
transported the carcass (if different from the person in charge of 
the disposal).
    2. Marine mammal carcasses must be towed or otherwise 
transported to a site offshore where currents and winds will not 
return the carcass to shore and the carcass will not pose a hazard 
to navigation.

[FR Doc. 2016-09734 Filed 4-25-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6560-50-P