Update to Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines, 47975-47981 [2017-22333]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations rescue, law enforcement, and recreational. The drawspan will be secured in the closed-to-navigation position from 8 a.m. through noon on October 20, 2017, to allow the bridge owner to install necessary electrical equipment inside the bridge machinery room and operator house. This temporary deviation has been coordinated with the waterway users. No objections to the proposed temporary deviation were raised. Vessels able to pass through the bridge in the closed position may do so at any time. The bridge will not be able to open for emergencies. Los Angeles Harbor can be used as an alternate route for vessels unable to pass through the bridge in the closed position. The Coast Guard will also inform the users of the waterway through our Local and Broadcast Notices to Mariners of the change in operating schedule for the bridge so vessel operators can arrange their transits to minimize any impact caused by the temporary deviation. In accordance with 33 CFR 117.35(e), the drawbridge must return to its regular operating schedule immediately at the end of the effective period of this temporary deviation. This deviation from the operating regulations is authorized under 33 CFR 117.35. Dated: October 10, 2017. Carl T. Hausner, District Bridge Chief, Eleventh Coast Guard District. [FR Doc. 2017–22293 Filed 10–13–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 117 [Docket No. USCG–2017–0959] Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Grand Lake, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana Coast Guard, DHS. Notice of deviation from drawbridge regulation. AGENCY: ACTION: The Coast Guard has issued a temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Black Bayou Pontoon Bridge on State Road 384 across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) at mile marker (MM) 237.5, West of Harvey Locks (WHL) at Grand Lake, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. The deviation is necessary to make extensive repairs to the bridge. DATES: This deviation is effective without actual notice from October 16, jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 2017 until December 20, 2017. For the purposes of enforcement, actual notice will be used from October 9, 2017 until October 16, 2017. ADDRESSES: The docket for this deviation, USCG–2017–0959 is available at http://www.regulations.gov. Type the docket number in the ‘‘SEARCH’’ box and click ‘‘SEARCH’’. Click on Open Docket Folder on the line associated with this deviation. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this temporary deviation, call or email Douglas Blakemore, Bridge Administration Branch, Coast Guard; telephone 504– 671–2128, email Douglas.A.Blakemore@ uscg.mil. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LA–DOTD) has requested to change the operating schedule that governs the Black Bayou Pontoon Bridge on State Road 384 across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) mile 237.5 West of Harvey Locks (WHL) at Grand Lake, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Closures to navigation traffic are required to make extensive repairs to the bridge protective system, tower and mechanical systems. This bridge operates under 33 CFR 117.5. This deviation allows the bridge to close to vessel traffic during specific dates and times from October 9, 2017 through December 20, 2017 as follows: October 9–10, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October 18–19, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October 23–26 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October 30–31, 2017 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November 7, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November 17–18, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November 20–22 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November 27, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November 28–30, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 1–2, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 4–7, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 11–12, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 13, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 14–16, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 18–19, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the above periods of closures, vessels will not be able to pass through the bridge. Navigation at the site primarily consists of tugs and tows. The bridge will be able to open to vessel traffic during emergencies. The Coast Guard will inform waterways users of the bridge closures through Local and Broadcast Notices to Mariners so that vessel operators can arrange their transits to minimize any impact caused by the temporary deviation. PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 47975 In accordance with 33 CFR 117.35(e) the drawbridge will return to its regular operating schedule immediately at the end of the effective period of this temporary deviation. This deviation from the operating regulation is authorized under 33 CFR 117.35. Dated: October 10, 2017. Douglas Allen Blakemore, Sr., Bridge Administrator, Eight Coast Guard District. [FR Doc. 2017–22292 Filed 10–13–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 155 [Docket No. USCG–2016–0437] Update to Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security. ACTION: National guidelines; update. AGENCY: The Coast Guard announces the availability of the updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines for vessel response plans (VRPs). These national guidelines provide the maritime industry with updated information on developing and submitting alternative planning criteria (alternatives). Furthermore, they facilitate consistency in the Coast Guard’s review of proposed alternatives. DATES: The updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines are available on October 16, 2017. The Coast Guard recommends that new alternatives and alternatives submitted for renewal follow the updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines. Requests for extension of currently accepted alternatives may be approved for a period not to exceed six months from the date of expiration. ADDRESSES: MER Policy Letter 01–17: Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines for Vessel Response Plans is available in our online docket at http:// www.regulations.gov, and on https:// homeport.uscg.mil under Environmental > Vessel Response Plan Program. Comments and material received from the public, as well as documents mentioned in this notice of availability, are in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov and can be viewed by following that Web site’s instructions. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information about this SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 47976 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations would be best to update the alternative planning criteria national guidelines to provide a foundation inclusive of both tank and nontank vessel communities and that applied nationally. Between 2016 and 2017, the Coast Guard drafted an update to the alternative planning criteria national guidelines, and made this available for public comment. document, call or email CDR Kevin Boyd, U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Marine Environmental Response, telephone 202–372–1226; email Kevin.C.Boyd@uscg.mil. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents I. Abbreviations II. Background III. Response to Comments III. Response to Comments I. Abbreviations jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES CFR Code of Federal Regulations CG–543 U.S. Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance COTP Captain of the Port D17 U.S. Coast Guard District 17 in Alaska MSIB Marine Safety Information Bulletin NPC National Planning Criteria VRP Vessel Response Plan U.S. United States II. Background The alternative planning criteria national guidelines provide the maritime industry with guidance on developing and submitting alternatives in accordance with the regulations. Tank and nontank vessels meeting the applicability requirements in 33 CFR 155.1015 and 155.5015 must submit vessel response plans (VRPs). If a vessel owner or operator believes the national planning criteria (NPC) provided in 33 CFR part 155 are inappropriate for the areas in which the vessel intends to operate, the vessel owner or operator can submit an alternative(s) pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f) and 155.5067. In August 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) published CG–543 Policy Letter 09–02, ‘‘Industry Guidelines for Requesting Alternate Planning Criteria Approval, One Time Waivers and Interim Operating Authorization.’’ The purpose of CG–543 Policy Letter 09–02, was to provide guidance to the maritime industry in proposing an alternative for tank vessel response plans pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f). In September 2013, the Coast Guard published a final rule for nontank vessel regulations in 33 CFR part 155, subpart J (78 FR 60100). This final rule made the NPC in 33 CFR part 155 applicable to thousands of additional vessels across the U.S., including geographic areas with limited commercially available response resources. In 2015, D17 published a draft Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) that provided guidance for proposed alternative submissions and expectations within Alaskan waters, with a focus on nontank vessel traffic. Given the multitude of comments concerning alternative planning criteria, especially from various sectors of the maritime industry on the draft D17 MSIB, the Coast Guard determined it VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 On May 27, 2016, the Coast Guard published a notice announcing the availability of a draft update to the alternative planning criteria national guidelines in the Federal Register (81 FR 33685). On August 16, 2016, the Coast Guard published in the Federal Register a notice announcing a public meeting and an extension to the comment period until September 23, 2016 (81 FR 54584). The public meeting was held on September 21, 2016, in Anchorage, Alaska. On January 10, 2017, the Coast Guard published a notice announcing the reopening of the comment period until April 10, 2017 (82 FR 3016). In conjunction with the reopened comment period, additional public meetings were held to further the dialogue and awareness of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines with federal, state, tribal, and local communities, especially in remote areas of Alaska including Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Nome, Utqiagvik, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor. In summary, the Coast Guard received 49 electronic submissions during the two public comment periods. In addition, the Coast Guard heard statements from 12 speakers at the public meeting convened in Anchorage on September 21, 2016. From the electronically submitted comments and the statements, the Coast Guard received approximately 200 individual comments. The Coast Guard appreciates the amount of time that federal, state, tribal, and local government entities, as well as private industry, committed throughout the two public comment periods to provide input. The value of all comments and feedback received in this process cannot be overstated. We carefully considered all of the input received when drafting the final revision to the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. A summary of all comments, and the Coast Guard’s response to them, is available in our online docket at http:// www.regulations.gov, and on https:// homeport.uscg.mil under Environmental > Vessel Response Plan Program. PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 A. Alternatives as a Temporary Versus a Permanent Solution The Coast Guard received 25 comments recommending that the alternatives permitted under 33 CFR 155.1065 and 155.5067 be accepted as permanent equivalencies with the National Planning Criteria (NPC) found in 33 CFR part 155. The Coast Guard disagrees. The Coast Guard views the allowance for alternatives to the response standards required in 33 CFR part 155 as a bridging strategy to future NPC compliance. The Coast Guard does acknowledge, however, that some operating areas, especially remote areas, may require long-term alternatives. Particular to the NPC as an end state, one commenter noted that there exists an assumption by the Coast Guard that meeting the NPC is the only acceptable option for planning and responding to marine casualties that pose a threat of pollution, and that this assumption is flawed. We do not agree that there is an assumption that meeting the NPC is the only acceptable option for planning and responding to marine casualties that pose a threat of pollution. Such an assumption is contrary to the purpose and intent of the regulations that allow alternative planning criteria. B. Prevention Measures The Coast Guard received 21 comments stating that the Coast Guard, in the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines, is abandoning prevention measures. Another commenter stated that the updated guidelines suggest that tracking and monitoring capability could take the place of the need to plan for resource capability. The Coast Guard disagrees. Prevention measures are fully acceptable when included in an alternative, but do not equal the value of response and recovery-based strategies at the time of an incident. Language in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines that may have led to the impression that prevention measures, such as vessel tracking and monitoring, could take the place of resource capability was removed. Specific to prevention measures, one commenter believes that a conflict exists between the alternative planning criteria national guidelines and the regulations. Specifically, the commenter points out that the guidelines include very specific requirements for a tracking and monitoring system. In consideration of this comment and to avoid the perception of creating new requirements, the Coast Guard has amended the draft national guidelines to E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES no longer include tracking and monitoring systems as a specific prevention measure within an alternative. However, we consider tracking and monitoring systems as a helpful tool for both response and prevention strategies. One commenter noted that vessel tracking and monitoring is not necessary for all alternatives. The Coast Guard agrees. The alternative planning criteria national guidelines do not mandate the use or inclusion of vessel tracking and monitoring in proposals for alternatives. C. Regulatory Overreach of the Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines One commenter perceived that the Coast Guard was requiring the tracking of vessels to be employed in a proposed ‘‘response vessel of opportunity’’ network. The Coast Guard disagrees and notes that the mention of vessel of opportunity tracking was an example of a process that an alternative might consider/propose. Nevertheless, language in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines was removed that may have led to the impression that tracking of vessels was required in a proposed ‘‘response vessel of opportunity’’ network. Seventeen comments suggested that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines represent regulatory overreach and an attempt to side-step the rulemaking process. The Coast Guard disagrees. The alternative planning criteria national guidelines do not create any substantive legal requirements on the regulated population. Under current Coast Guard regulation, owners and operators of both tank vessels (33 CFR 155.1065(f)) and nontank vessels (33 CFR 155.5067) may propose alternative frameworks when such vessel owner or operator believes that the national planning criteria are inappropriate for the areas in which the vessel intends to operate. The alternative planning criteria national guidelines afford a flexibility currently permitted by regulation. Therefore, they are not a rulemaking subject to notice and comment under the Administrative Procedure Act. We are providing these guidelines for the purpose of clarifying existing regulations.1 On a related note, several commenters suggested that the language in the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines is overly prescriptive or 1 ‘‘Agencies rely on guidance to clarify regulatory text or statutes, to respond to the questions of affected parties in a timely way, and to inform the public about complex policy implementation topics.’’ GAO report on Regulatory Guidance Processes (April 2015). VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 confusing, and therefore creates binding requirements with the ‘‘force and effect’’ of law. Examples include the use of definitions that either do not exist within, or are inconsistent with, the regulations. In consideration of these comments, and as noted above, we revised the alternative planning criteria national guidelines to remove language that could be perceived as inconsistent with or not covered by the regulations. The Coast Guard also removed the four draft enclosures. D. Economic Assessment as an Element of the Request Thirty-eight comments were received on the economic analysis to be submitted with the alternative planning criteria request, as set out in 33 CFR 155.5067. Several of these comments highlighted the potential for increased commodity and capital investment costs. Some of these comments also communicated that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines may result in significant increases in costs (for example, transportation of freight and fuel delivery by barges, transportation, home heating fuel costs of end users including native villages and other small communities in Alaska, oil spill equipment build-out costs, and contract and membership costs associated with the joining of multiple local spill response organizations as a solution to comply with the updated national guidelines). Foremost, the Coast Guard appreciates the comments received concerning the economic impact of alternative planning criteria and associated national guidelines. The Coast Guard takes these comments very seriously, and will carefully evaluate the economic impact assessments that plan holders or Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators submit as part of their proposed alternative(s) in accordance with 33 CFR part 155. E. Coast Guard Sector/COTP Involvement in the Review Process of Alternatives Four comments noted that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines seem to remove the local Sector from decision making on proposed alternatives. The Coast Guard disagrees. While CG–MER is the ultimate decision making authority on proposed alternative planning criteria, local COTPs have a responsibility to review all proposed alternatives within their area of responsibility and provide an endorsement. This responsibility is set forth in 33 CFR 155.5067(a) for nontank vessels and the same PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 47977 responsibility applies in practice to tank vessels pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f). F. Local Area Committee Involvement in Review Process of Alternatives The Coast Guard received 21 comments regarding the inclusion of local Area Committees as part of the process for reviewing proposed alternatives. Specifically, the concern is that the Coast Guard intends to route proposed alternatives via Area Committees for approval. In consideration of these comments, we have modified the language in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines that could have led to the misimpression that the Coast Guard intends to seek Area Committee approval. The Coast Guard changed this language to reflect that local Area Committees may be included in a COTP’s evaluation of proposed alternatives. Area Committees, however, do not approve alternatives. Additional comments questioned the legal authority under which Area Committees may be involved in the evaluation of alternatives. Area Committees were established as part of the National Planning and Response System created pursuant to Section 311 of the FWPCA (33 U.S.C. 1321(j)). Area Committees represent an essential element of oil spill and hazardous substance contingency planning. Further, there is nothing in the legislation that would limit or prevent the Coast Guard from consulting with Area Committees on proposed alternatives. Two comments suggested that the COTP and local Area Committee should coordinate with the other federal and state entities including the Regional Response Team, National Strike Force Coordination Center, and the District Response Advisory Team, and the State of Alaska to ensure a comprehensive review of the gaps identified in alternative planning criteria submissions. The Coast Guard agrees, and notes the requirements for consultation with such entities in accordance with the National Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Contingency Plan (40 CFR part 300). The local Area Committee, under the direction of the Federal On-scene Coordinator (who is generally the COTP in the coastal zone), is responsible for directing the development of the Area Contingency Plan (ACP). In accordance with 40 CFR 300.210, ACPs are prepared by an Area Committee consisting of federal, state, and local agencies and in consultation with regional response teams and other appropriate entities. With respect to E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 47978 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES evaluating proposed alternatives, although consultation with Area Committees is not required by the VRP regulations, COTPs, in their discretion, may consult with Area Committees, which may include the review of gaps identified in proposed alternatives. A related comment suggested that local Area Committees be informed by the Coast Guard when it receives a proposed alternative. As mentioned above, COTPs maintain the discretion to consult with the local Area Committee on proposed alternatives. One commenter acknowledged the Coast Guard’s stated intent to coordinate with Area Committees, District Response Advisory Teams, and Coast Guard Sectors in its review of proposed alternatives. However, the commenter suggested that it is not clear how these public involvement procedures will work in practice, especially when the Coast Guard has indicated that some alternatives may be approved in fewer than 90 days. While our regulations say that alternatives should be submitted to the Coast Guard 90 days before a vessel intends to operate under the proposed alternative, we recognize that not all proposed alternatives are the same. Some alternatives may warrant more analysis than others. In recognition of this, the alternative planning criteria national guidelines recommend submission of proposed alternatives at least 180 days before a vessel intends to operate under the proposed alternative. G. Geographic Extent of Alternatives Twenty-seven comments highlighted concern over the Coast Guard’s intent to allow for alternatives that address a geographic area smaller than the entire extent of a COTP zone. Specifically, comments questioned the Coast Guard’s authority to accept an alternative that only partially covers a COTP zone. Additionally, one comment forecasted a ‘‘compliance quagmire’’ if a patchwork of alternatives is allowed to exist within a COTP zone. The Coast Guard appreciates these concerns, but disagrees. The Coast Guard will continue to evaluate alternatives that adequately address areas where the NPC are inappropriate. The regulations specify that an alternative can be submitted for the geographic area(s) where the vessel intends to operate. See 33 CFR 155.1065(f) and 155.5067(a). One commenter noted the belief that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines requirement to consider ‘‘any and all’’ environmental impacts of not meeting the NPC requirements is unreasonable, particularly for large and remote areas (e.g. Western Alaska). The Coast Guard agrees in part and disagrees VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 in part. Previous alternative planning criteria policy guidance for tank vessels, as well as the existing regulations for nontank vessel response plans, require that proposed alternatives should, at a minimum, contain an environmental impact assessment (CG–543 Policy Letter 09–02 and 33 CFR 155.5067(b)). To keep within the scope of the regulatory requirements, the Coast Guard reworded the guidelines to emphasize that an environmental impact assessment should, at a minimum, be included in the submission of an alternative. Additionally, to ensure compliance with 33 CFR 155.1030 and 155.5030, proposed alternatives should highlight sensitive areas from the applicable Area Contingency Plan(s) in their environmental impact assessment. One commenter proposed that Alaska be given its own planning standards given the physical, environmental, and geographic challenges unique to Alaska. We wish to point out that both the tank and nontank VRP regulations allow for the planning criteria to be tailored for a specific geographic location when the vessel owner or operator believes that the NPC are inappropriate for the areas they intend to operate. H. Strategic Plan Replaced With BuildOut Plan Seven comments reflected concern regarding the submission of a ‘‘strategic plan’’ as part of the proposed alternative(s). Additionally, some commenters asked how the Coast Guard would use and evaluate such a plan. We recognize the misunderstanding: We did not intend to refer to the company’s strategic business plan, but rather a strategic plan for eventually meeting the NPC. In consideration of these concerns, we have revised the guidelines by replacing the phrase ‘‘strategic plan’’ with ‘‘build-out plan’’ to avoid the misimpression that industry business planning processes should be submitted as part of a proposed alternative. The build-out plan is a means by which a plan holder can address how they will build up response capability to meet the NPC. The Coast Guard has consistently stated that the intent of alternative planning criteria is to gradually buildup response capability in remote areas. See, Final Rule on ‘‘Nontank Vessel Response Plans and Other Response Plan Requirements’’ (78 FR 60099). The build-out plan is not a formal, organizational, strategic plan, but rather a detailed description of the measureable steps towards compliance with the NPC. The Coast Guard will review build-out plans in its review of submitted alternatives. Additionally, the PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Coast Guard will review achievement of build-out plan goals in its review of alternatives submitted for renewal. I. Enforcement and Evaluation The Coast Guard received 10 comments regarding the enforcement of alternative planning criteria, including concerns over the Coast Guard’s ability to ensure compliance, especially in remote areas. The Coast Guard recognizes that remote areas may be challenging to frequent and regular verification efforts; nevertheless, at the discretion of the COTP, the Coast Guard will exercise its authority to verify compliance with approved alternatives. One commenter recommended the Coast Guard add clarity as to what level of response capability, and future expanded capability, the Coast Guard will be seeking prior to approving future alternatives. The Coast Guard will evaluate the adequacy of response capabilities listed in alternatives, including expanded response capability addressed in the build-out plan. The Coast Guard’s evaluation includes verifying that response resources are adequate in the areas intended, and that the alternative will provide an equivalent oil spill removal capacity. Additionally, alternatives are subject to equipment inspections, personnel training verifications, and exercise evaluations, including validation of build-out plan milestone achievement. J. Policy Necessity Two commenters questioned the need for the alternative planning criteria national guidelines, noting that the CG– 543 Policy Letter 09–02 and MSIB 03– 14 for Western Alaska were clear, concise, and simple. The CG–543 Policy Letter 09–02 was a national policy that only covered tank vessels. MSIB 03–14 was issued by the COTP for Western Alaska and specific to the Western Alaska COTP zone. The Coast Guard saw a need for a national policy that covers both tank and nontank vessels on alternative planning criteria. One commenter noted that the Coast Guard’s approval of an alternative plays a critical role in the level of environmental protection provided in the region. The Coast Guard agrees and notes that an environmental impact assessment is one of the elements that an owner or operator of a tank or nontank vessel should, at a minimum, include for the Coast Guard’s consideration in determining whether to accept an alternative(s). One commenter suggested that the policy reflect the stated regulation; that an alternative can be submitted for consideration any time that the vessel E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations owner or operator feels the NPC are inappropriate or unattainable for reasons beyond their control or, when a vessel owner or operator can demonstrate that the alternative will provide an equivalent or superior level of response and/or protection as the NPC. The Coast Guard agrees in part and disagrees in part. The Coast Guard agrees that the alternative planning criteria may be submitted when an owner or operator believes the NPC are inappropriate for the area in which the vessel intends to operate. The Coast Guard does not agree, nor do the regulations in 33 CFR part 155 contemplate, the use of an alternative(s) where the NPC can be met. jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES K. Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment Consideration in Alternatives One commenter noted that the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment (AIRA) and the response model contained therein are better suited to the Alaskan region than compliance with the regulations. The Coast Guard disagrees. The AIRA presents one possible response model as an alternative planning approach for one region of the country. The Coast Guard will not dictate the prevention, response and/or mitigation strategies that a vessel owner or operator can propose where the NPC are inappropriate. L. Applicability of Salvage and Marine Firefighting Resources in Alternatives Two commenters recommended that salvage and marine firefighting resources should not be included in an alternative(s). The Coast Guard disagrees. Nothing in the regulations precludes the consideration of salvage and marine firefighting in a proposed alternative. Accordingly, in areas where salvage and marine firefighting national planning criteria are inappropriate, a vessel owner or operator may propose an alternative. One commenter requested to know if the Coast Guard intends on requiring salvage and marine firefighting equipment to be listed in the Coast Guard response resource inventory (RRI). The Coast Guard appreciates the commenter’s suggestion. The RRI is a voluntary option for certain response resource providers. The Coast Guard recommends that the response resources listed in alternatives be entered into the RRI. M. Content of Proposed Alternatives Submitted to the Coast Guard One commenter noted that the requirement to state each class of vessel and its associated worst case discharge volume and oil group is unnecessary. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 The Coast Guard agrees and modified the language in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines to reflect that an alternative may cover a single vessel or fleet of vessels and should state the vessel type(s) and oil volumes by type. One commenter felt that vessel tracking, administration of vessel of opportunity programs, vessel of opportunity training programs, and the requirement to assure five vessels are available are cost prohibitive, inconceivable, and unattainable. A related comment recommended that the Coast Guard consider clarifying that the examples listed in the alternative national policy guidelines and enclosures are not requirements, but examples. The draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines did not require any of the above programs or strategies but rather presented them as examples of strategies. To avoid further confusion, however, the Coast Guard removed these examples from the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. One commenter noted that an oil spill trajectory and fate analysis for the entire coastline of a vessel’s route within a VRP geographic specific appendix is an unreasonable requirement, costly, and adds no value to a proposed alternative. We wish to make clear that while there is no specific requirement for trajectories or fate analyses, these are useful for the Coast Guard’s evaluation of proposed alternatives and may appropriately be included in a plan holder’s environmental impact assessment. Two commenters noted a concern that documenting a vessel’s track line information was overly burdensome and goes beyond what is required by the regulations. In consideration of these comments, we revised the alternative planning criteria national guidelines to remove language that could be perceived as inconsistent with the regulations. The revised language recommends that proposed alternatives include a general description of the intended vessel operations, such as track lines and/or intended vessel routes. One commenter noted that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines should be written to ensure that exercises and verifications are conducted in conditions that reflect all intended seasonal operations. The Coast Guard notes that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines do not limit or otherwise prescribe the timing of exercises or verifications. The timing will ultimately be determined by PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 47979 the COTP as part of a risk-based decision process. One commenter stated that continual improvement on alternatives, with a focus on response resources, should be considered when reviewing an alternative. The Coast Guard agrees and notes that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines include these considerations, especially as part of the build-out plan. N. Submission Process for Alternatives One commenter noted that the term ‘‘administrator’’ is not defined in the VRP regulations. The Coast Guard agrees and defines the term ‘‘Alternative Planning Criteria Administrator’’ in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. One commenter noted that the Coast Guard’s timelines for accepting alternatives has not been in accordance with the regulatory timelines, and believes the Coast Guard should adhere to the review timeline in the regulations. The Coast Guard agrees that timely review is beneficial, and will work toward completing timely reviews of proposed alternatives. While the regulations in 33 CFR 155.1065(f) and § 155.5067(a) require submission of alternative planning criteria requests 90 days before the vessel intends to operate under a proposed alternative, the alternative planning criteria national guidelines recommend submission at least 180 days due to the myriad factors that must be evaluated, as well as the need for coordination and consultation in the review process. One commenter noted that the Coast Guard excluded the provision for Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators to submit alternative proposals. The Coast Guard agrees and has added ‘‘Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators’’ to the submission process in the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. One commenter noted that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines should address mechanisms to make revisions or improvements to an alternative after approval and/or an appeals process. The Coast Guard agrees. The alternative planning criteria national guidelines were updated to address revisions to submitted alternatives. Specifically, vessel owner or operators, or Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators, should submit any significant change that affects the information included in the accepted alternative(s) to the cognizant COTP. COTPs should endorse the proposed alternative and forward to Commandant Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG–MER) through the E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 47980 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES cognizant CG District and Area staff offices. O. Outreach One commenter stated that, while the Coast Guard has held meetings with local stakeholders and communities in Western Alaska, the Coast Guard has not reached out to the wider shipping community that will also be affected by the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. The commenter recommended that the Coast Guard establish an industry working group that includes the wider community in order to seek constructive input into these important issues, especially given the large number of international trading vessels that transit the Great Circle Route through Western Alaska. The Coast Guard agrees that input from stakeholders in every region is important and that is one of the reasons we requested public comment on the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines. The Coast Guard is interested in continuing the discussion on improving the alternative planning criteria national guidelines and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the subject at local area committee meetings, regional response team meetings, and other relevant forums. Two commenters supported improved communications between the Coast Guard and appropriate State environmental offices particular to response capability and alternatives. One commenter specifically mentioned that appropriate State environmental offices should be part of the approval and inspection/verification processes of alternatives. As Area Committee members, State environmental offices should be engaging with the Coast Guard on oil spill response planning, including response capability and alternatives. However, the Coast Guard is not abdicating its responsibility to evaluate, nor its decision making authority on the appropriateness of, proposed alternatives. One commenter suggested that the current procedure for accepting proposed alternatives has been inconsistent and has not been an inclusive process specific to State environmental offices ‘‘as required by regulation.’’ We believe it is important to clarify that our regulations do not impose such a requirement, but note that the alternative planning criteria national guidelines mention that COTPs may, in their discretion, consult with Area Committees, of which State environmental offices are members. Concerning consistency in the procedure for accepting proposed alternatives, one of the goals of these VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 alternative planning criteria national guidelines is to facilitate COTP consistency in the review of proposed alternatives. However, as noted above, not all proposed alternatives are the same; consequently, some proposals will generate more review and analysis than others. One commenter suggested that engagement with the local communities and stakeholders should continue beyond that which has already taken place as part of the implementation of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. The Coast Guard agrees. The Coast Guard is appreciative of the input received in the development of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines, and looks forward to continuing this dialogue at local area committee meetings, regional response team meetings, and other forums. Three commenters suggested that it is essential that the Coast Guard monitor and report periodically to the public on the status of oil spill response readiness for a COTP zone. One commenter specifically requested that the Coast Guard require Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators or planholders to provide public summaries of the progress made toward closing response gaps and an evaluation of the prevention and risk reduction measures specified in the alternative. The Coast Guard COTPs, in coordination with the local area committee, can determine appropriate information sharing procedures to address oil spill response readiness. Additionally, the Coast Guard RRI may be a useful tool, where resource providers may voluntarily list response resources to facilitate this awareness, including the resources listed in alternatives. One commenter suggested that the Coast Guard make available for public comment submitted alternatives, including alternatives submitted for renewal, before making its final approval determination. The Coast Guard is appreciative of this suggestion. However, we believe that initiating a public comment process for submitted alternatives would significantly impede the timely review of alternatives. P. Miscellaneous Comments One commenter expressed concern with the aggressive timeline associated with updating and re-submitting existing alternative planning criteria to align with the updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines. The Coast Guard agrees. Vessel owner or operators, or Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators, of currently existing alternative planning criteria may request an extension from the Coast PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Guard for up to six months beyond the date of expiration. One commenter recommended that the Coast Guard post response contracts online and provide local communities with funding to assist with the outreach effort needed to gain local knowledge and expertise in the contract review of alternatives in VRPs. Posting response contracts online would create significant delays in the Coast Guard’s review of submitted alternatives. This is because parties to the contract would have to redact business proprietary information, and the Coast Guard, as the entity that is posting the information, would have the responsibility of reviewing the redactions to ensure the content was acceptable for posting. We believe these additional steps would significantly impede the timely review of alternatives. Regarding the suggestion to provide funding to organizations to assist in outreach efforts, the Coast Guard does not have the legal authority to provide funding to organizations. However, engagement with local area committees, or regional response teams, offer a means to help build awareness of, and further strengthen, current strategies and response capabilities to address removal of a worst case discharge, or substantial threat of such a discharge. Two commenters suggested that they believe competition created by accepted alternatives, and in general, competition within the oil spill prevention and response markets, is a good thing. This comment is outside the scope of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines as the purpose of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines is to provide guidance for the development and submission of alternatives with the goal of increasing response capacity. One commenter offered that competition created in alternative planning criteria has led to response capability reductions. The Coast Guard has no authority to control market competition; therefore, this comment is outside the scope of the alternative planning criteria national guidelines. Three commenters stated that additional resources not listed in a vessel response plan or alternative plan will not be made available to respond to an incident. These comments are outside the scope of the updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines. One commenter suggested that VRP requirements, including alternatives, should include vessels on innocent passage. This comment is outside the scope of the updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines. E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Rules and Regulations This notice is issued under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 552(a). Joseph B. Loring, Captain, Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy. [FR Doc. 2017–22333 Filed 10–13–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA–R03–OAR–2017–0413; FRL–9969–48– Region 3] Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; West Virginia; 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Direct final rule. AGENCY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking direct final action to approve revisions to the State of West Virginia state implementation plan (SIP). The revisions update the effective date by which the West Virginia regulations incorporate by reference the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), additional monitoring methods, and additional equivalent monitoring methods. This update will effectively add the following to the West Virginia SIP: The 2015 ozone NAAQS, monitoring reference and equivalent methods pertaining to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and course particulate matter (PM10), and it will revise the ozone monitoring season, the Federal Reference Method (FRM), the Federal Equivalent Method (FEM), and the Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations (PAMS) network. The SIP revision will also change a reference from the ‘‘West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection,’’ to the ‘‘Division of Air Quality.’’ EPA is approving these revisions in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA). DATES: This rule is effective on December 15, 2017 without further notice, unless EPA receives adverse written comment by November 15, 2017. If EPA receives such comments, it will publish a timely withdrawal of the direct final rule in the Federal Register and inform the public that the rule will not take effect. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–R03– OAR–2017–0413 at https:// jstallworth on DSKBBY8HB2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:58 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 www.regulations.gov, or via email to stahl.cythia@epa.gov. For comments submitted at Regulations.gov, follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or removed from Regulations.gov. For either manner of submission, 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. 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, please contact the person identified in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. For 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: Joseph Schulingkamp, (215) 814–2021, or by email at schulingkamp.joseph@ epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background On June 13, 2017, the State of West Virginia through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) submitted a formal revision to West Virginia’s SIP pertaining to amendments of Legislative Rule, 45 CSR 8—Ambient Air Quality Standards. The SIP revision consists of revising the effective date of the incorporation by reference of 40 CFR parts 50 and 53. II. Summary of SIP Revision and EPA Analysis West Virginia has submitted this SIP revision to update the State’s incorporation by reference of 40 CFR part 50, which contains the Federal NAAQS, and 40 CFR part 53, which contains the ambient air monitoring reference methods and equivalent reference methods. Currently, the version of 45 CSR 8 in the West Virginia SIP incorporates by reference 40 CFR parts 50 and 53 as effective on June 1, 2013; this SIP revision will update the effective date to June 1, 2016. In the June 13, 2017 SIP submittal, WVDEP submitted amendments to the PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 47981 legislative rule which include the following changes: To section 45–8–1 (General), the filing and effective dates are changed to reflect the update of the legislative rule; to section 45–8–3 (Adoption of Standards), the effective dates for the incorporation by reference of 40 CFR parts 50 and 53 are changed; to section 45–8–4 (Inconsistency Between Rules), the reference to the ‘‘West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection,’’ is changed to the ‘‘Division of Air Quality.’’ West Virginia has amended 45 CSR 8 to revise the filing and effective dates of the rule to May 15, 2017 and June 1, 2017 respectively. The effective date of the incorporation by reference of 40 CFR parts 50 and 53 changed from June 1, 2013 to June 1, 2017. EPA finds the revised version of 45 CSR 8 with new effective dates incorporating by reference 40 CFR parts 50 and 53, as well as the changes to the reference of the state air agency, are in accordance with requirements in section 110 of the CAA. This update will effectively add the following to the West Virginia SIP: The 2015 ozone NAAQS, monitoring reference and equivalent methods pertaining to PM2.5, CO, and PM10, and it will revise the ozone monitoring season to March 1st through October 31st, the FRM, the FEM, and the PAMS network. III. Final Action EPA is approving the amendments to Legislative Rule, 45 CSR 8—Ambient Air Quality Standards, into the West Virginia SIP pursuant to section 110 of the CAA. EPA is publishing this rule without prior proposal because EPA views this as a noncontroversial amendment and anticipates no adverse comment. However, in the ‘‘Proposed Rules’’ section of this Federal Register, EPA is publishing a separate document that will serve as the proposal to approve the SIP revision if adverse comments are filed. This rule will be effective on December 15, 2017 without further notice unless EPA receives adverse comment by November 15, 2017. If EPA receives adverse comment, EPA will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register informing the public that the rule will not take effect. EPA will address all public comments in a subsequent final rule based on the proposed rule. EPA will not institute a second comment period on this action. Any parties interested in commenting must do so at this time. Please note that if EPA receives adverse comment on an amendment, paragraph, or section of this rule and if that provision may be severed from the remainder of the rule, E:\FR\FM\16OCR1.SGM 16OCR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 198 (Monday, October 16, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 47975-47981]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-22333]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Coast Guard

33 CFR Part 155

[Docket No. USCG-2016-0437]


Update to Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines

AGENCY: Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security.

ACTION: National guidelines; update.

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

SUMMARY: The Coast Guard announces the availability of the updated 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines for vessel response 
plans (VRPs). These national guidelines provide the maritime industry 
with updated information on developing and submitting alternative 
planning criteria (alternatives). Furthermore, they facilitate 
consistency in the Coast Guard's review of proposed alternatives.

DATES: The updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines 
are available on October 16, 2017. The Coast Guard recommends that new 
alternatives and alternatives submitted for renewal follow the updated 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines. Requests for 
extension of currently accepted alternatives may be approved for a 
period not to exceed six months from the date of expiration.

ADDRESSES: MER Policy Letter 01-17: Alternative Planning Criteria 
National Guidelines for Vessel Response Plans is available in our 
online docket at http://www.regulations.gov, and on https://homeport.uscg.mil under Environmental > Vessel Response Plan Program. 
Comments and material received from the public, as well as documents 
mentioned in this notice of availability, are in our online docket at 
http://www.regulations.gov and can be viewed by following that Web 
site's instructions.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information about this

[[Page 47976]]

document, call or email CDR Kevin Boyd, U.S. Coast Guard, Office of 
Marine Environmental Response, telephone 202-372-1226; email 
Kevin.C.Boyd@uscg.mil.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Table of Contents

I. Abbreviations
II. Background
III. Response to Comments

I. Abbreviations

CFR Code of Federal Regulations
CG-543 U.S. Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance
COTP Captain of the Port
D17 U.S. Coast Guard District 17 in Alaska
MSIB Marine Safety Information Bulletin
NPC National Planning Criteria
VRP Vessel Response Plan
U.S. United States

II. Background

    The alternative planning criteria national guidelines provide the 
maritime industry with guidance on developing and submitting 
alternatives in accordance with the regulations. Tank and nontank 
vessels meeting the applicability requirements in 33 CFR 155.1015 and 
155.5015 must submit vessel response plans (VRPs). If a vessel owner or 
operator believes the national planning criteria (NPC) provided in 33 
CFR part 155 are inappropriate for the areas in which the vessel 
intends to operate, the vessel owner or operator can submit an 
alternative(s) pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f) and 155.5067. In August 
2009, the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) published CG-543 Policy Letter 
09-02, ``Industry Guidelines for Requesting Alternate Planning Criteria 
Approval, One Time Waivers and Interim Operating Authorization.'' The 
purpose of CG-543 Policy Letter 09-02, was to provide guidance to the 
maritime industry in proposing an alternative for tank vessel response 
plans pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f). In September 2013, the Coast 
Guard published a final rule for nontank vessel regulations in 33 CFR 
part 155, subpart J (78 FR 60100). This final rule made the NPC in 33 
CFR part 155 applicable to thousands of additional vessels across the 
U.S., including geographic areas with limited commercially available 
response resources. In 2015, D17 published a draft Marine Safety 
Information Bulletin (MSIB) that provided guidance for proposed 
alternative submissions and expectations within Alaskan waters, with a 
focus on nontank vessel traffic. Given the multitude of comments 
concerning alternative planning criteria, especially from various 
sectors of the maritime industry on the draft D17 MSIB, the Coast Guard 
determined it would be best to update the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines to provide a foundation inclusive of both tank and 
nontank vessel communities and that applied nationally. Between 2016 
and 2017, the Coast Guard drafted an update to the alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines, and made this available for public 
comment.

III. Response to Comments

    On May 27, 2016, the Coast Guard published a notice announcing the 
availability of a draft update to the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines in the Federal Register (81 FR 33685). On August 
16, 2016, the Coast Guard published in the Federal Register a notice 
announcing a public meeting and an extension to the comment period 
until September 23, 2016 (81 FR 54584). The public meeting was held on 
September 21, 2016, in Anchorage, Alaska. On January 10, 2017, the 
Coast Guard published a notice announcing the reopening of the comment 
period until April 10, 2017 (82 FR 3016). In conjunction with the 
reopened comment period, additional public meetings were held to 
further the dialogue and awareness of the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines with federal, state, tribal, and local communities, 
especially in remote areas of Alaska including Bethel, Dillingham, 
Kotzebue, Nome, Utqiagvik, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor.
    In summary, the Coast Guard received 49 electronic submissions 
during the two public comment periods. In addition, the Coast Guard 
heard statements from 12 speakers at the public meeting convened in 
Anchorage on September 21, 2016. From the electronically submitted 
comments and the statements, the Coast Guard received approximately 200 
individual comments.
    The Coast Guard appreciates the amount of time that federal, state, 
tribal, and local government entities, as well as private industry, 
committed throughout the two public comment periods to provide input. 
The value of all comments and feedback received in this process cannot 
be overstated. We carefully considered all of the input received when 
drafting the final revision to the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines. A summary of all comments, and the Coast Guard's 
response to them, is available in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov, and on https://homeport.uscg.mil under 
Environmental > Vessel Response Plan Program.

A. Alternatives as a Temporary Versus a Permanent Solution

    The Coast Guard received 25 comments recommending that the 
alternatives permitted under 33 CFR 155.1065 and 155.5067 be accepted 
as permanent equivalencies with the National Planning Criteria (NPC) 
found in 33 CFR part 155. The Coast Guard disagrees. The Coast Guard 
views the allowance for alternatives to the response standards required 
in 33 CFR part 155 as a bridging strategy to future NPC compliance. The 
Coast Guard does acknowledge, however, that some operating areas, 
especially remote areas, may require long-term alternatives.
    Particular to the NPC as an end state, one commenter noted that 
there exists an assumption by the Coast Guard that meeting the NPC is 
the only acceptable option for planning and responding to marine 
casualties that pose a threat of pollution, and that this assumption is 
flawed. We do not agree that there is an assumption that meeting the 
NPC is the only acceptable option for planning and responding to marine 
casualties that pose a threat of pollution. Such an assumption is 
contrary to the purpose and intent of the regulations that allow 
alternative planning criteria.

B. Prevention Measures

    The Coast Guard received 21 comments stating that the Coast Guard, 
in the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines, is 
abandoning prevention measures. Another commenter stated that the 
updated guidelines suggest that tracking and monitoring capability 
could take the place of the need to plan for resource capability. The 
Coast Guard disagrees. Prevention measures are fully acceptable when 
included in an alternative, but do not equal the value of response and 
recovery-based strategies at the time of an incident. Language in the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines that may have led to 
the impression that prevention measures, such as vessel tracking and 
monitoring, could take the place of resource capability was removed.
    Specific to prevention measures, one commenter believes that a 
conflict exists between the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines and the regulations. Specifically, the commenter points out 
that the guidelines include very specific requirements for a tracking 
and monitoring system. In consideration of this comment and to avoid 
the perception of creating new requirements, the Coast Guard has 
amended the draft national guidelines to

[[Page 47977]]

no longer include tracking and monitoring systems as a specific 
prevention measure within an alternative. However, we consider tracking 
and monitoring systems as a helpful tool for both response and 
prevention strategies.
    One commenter noted that vessel tracking and monitoring is not 
necessary for all alternatives. The Coast Guard agrees. The alternative 
planning criteria national guidelines do not mandate the use or 
inclusion of vessel tracking and monitoring in proposals for 
alternatives.

C. Regulatory Overreach of the Alternative Planning Criteria National 
Guidelines

    One commenter perceived that the Coast Guard was requiring the 
tracking of vessels to be employed in a proposed ``response vessel of 
opportunity'' network. The Coast Guard disagrees and notes that the 
mention of vessel of opportunity tracking was an example of a process 
that an alternative might consider/propose. Nevertheless, language in 
the alternative planning criteria national guidelines was removed that 
may have led to the impression that tracking of vessels was required in 
a proposed ``response vessel of opportunity'' network.
    Seventeen comments suggested that the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines represent regulatory overreach and an attempt to 
side-step the rulemaking process. The Coast Guard disagrees. The 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines do not create any 
substantive legal requirements on the regulated population. Under 
current Coast Guard regulation, owners and operators of both tank 
vessels (33 CFR 155.1065(f)) and nontank vessels (33 CFR 155.5067) may 
propose alternative frameworks when such vessel owner or operator 
believes that the national planning criteria are inappropriate for the 
areas in which the vessel intends to operate. The alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines afford a flexibility currently permitted 
by regulation. Therefore, they are not a rulemaking subject to notice 
and comment under the Administrative Procedure Act. We are providing 
these guidelines for the purpose of clarifying existing regulations.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ ``Agencies rely on guidance to clarify regulatory text or 
statutes, to respond to the questions of affected parties in a 
timely way, and to inform the public about complex policy 
implementation topics.'' GAO report on Regulatory Guidance Processes 
(April 2015).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On a related note, several commenters suggested that the language 
in the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines is 
overly prescriptive or confusing, and therefore creates binding 
requirements with the ``force and effect'' of law. Examples include the 
use of definitions that either do not exist within, or are inconsistent 
with, the regulations. In consideration of these comments, and as noted 
above, we revised the alternative planning criteria national guidelines 
to remove language that could be perceived as inconsistent with or not 
covered by the regulations. The Coast Guard also removed the four draft 
enclosures.

D. Economic Assessment as an Element of the Request

    Thirty-eight comments were received on the economic analysis to be 
submitted with the alternative planning criteria request, as set out in 
33 CFR 155.5067. Several of these comments highlighted the potential 
for increased commodity and capital investment costs. Some of these 
comments also communicated that the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines may result in significant increases in costs (for 
example, transportation of freight and fuel delivery by barges, 
transportation, home heating fuel costs of end users including native 
villages and other small communities in Alaska, oil spill equipment 
build-out costs, and contract and membership costs associated with the 
joining of multiple local spill response organizations as a solution to 
comply with the updated national guidelines).
    Foremost, the Coast Guard appreciates the comments received 
concerning the economic impact of alternative planning criteria and 
associated national guidelines. The Coast Guard takes these comments 
very seriously, and will carefully evaluate the economic impact 
assessments that plan holders or Alternative Planning Criteria 
Administrators submit as part of their proposed alternative(s) in 
accordance with 33 CFR part 155.

E. Coast Guard Sector/COTP Involvement in the Review Process of 
Alternatives

    Four comments noted that the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines seem to remove the local Sector from decision making on 
proposed alternatives. The Coast Guard disagrees. While CG-MER is the 
ultimate decision making authority on proposed alternative planning 
criteria, local COTPs have a responsibility to review all proposed 
alternatives within their area of responsibility and provide an 
endorsement. This responsibility is set forth in 33 CFR 155.5067(a) for 
nontank vessels and the same responsibility applies in practice to tank 
vessels pursuant to 33 CFR 155.1065(f).

F. Local Area Committee Involvement in Review Process of Alternatives

    The Coast Guard received 21 comments regarding the inclusion of 
local Area Committees as part of the process for reviewing proposed 
alternatives. Specifically, the concern is that the Coast Guard intends 
to route proposed alternatives via Area Committees for approval. In 
consideration of these comments, we have modified the language in the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines that could have led 
to the misimpression that the Coast Guard intends to seek Area 
Committee approval. The Coast Guard changed this language to reflect 
that local Area Committees may be included in a COTP's evaluation of 
proposed alternatives. Area Committees, however, do not approve 
alternatives.
    Additional comments questioned the legal authority under which Area 
Committees may be involved in the evaluation of alternatives. Area 
Committees were established as part of the National Planning and 
Response System created pursuant to Section 311 of the FWPCA (33 U.S.C. 
1321(j)). Area Committees represent an essential element of oil spill 
and hazardous substance contingency planning. Further, there is nothing 
in the legislation that would limit or prevent the Coast Guard from 
consulting with Area Committees on proposed alternatives.
    Two comments suggested that the COTP and local Area Committee 
should coordinate with the other federal and state entities including 
the Regional Response Team, National Strike Force Coordination Center, 
and the District Response Advisory Team, and the State of Alaska to 
ensure a comprehensive review of the gaps identified in alternative 
planning criteria submissions. The Coast Guard agrees, and notes the 
requirements for consultation with such entities in accordance with the 
National Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Contingency Plan (40 CFR 
part 300). The local Area Committee, under the direction of the Federal 
On-scene Coordinator (who is generally the COTP in the coastal zone), 
is responsible for directing the development of the Area Contingency 
Plan (ACP). In accordance with 40 CFR 300.210, ACPs are prepared by an 
Area Committee consisting of federal, state, and local agencies and in 
consultation with regional response teams and other appropriate 
entities. With respect to

[[Page 47978]]

evaluating proposed alternatives, although consultation with Area 
Committees is not required by the VRP regulations, COTPs, in their 
discretion, may consult with Area Committees, which may include the 
review of gaps identified in proposed alternatives.
    A related comment suggested that local Area Committees be informed 
by the Coast Guard when it receives a proposed alternative. As 
mentioned above, COTPs maintain the discretion to consult with the 
local Area Committee on proposed alternatives.
    One commenter acknowledged the Coast Guard's stated intent to 
coordinate with Area Committees, District Response Advisory Teams, and 
Coast Guard Sectors in its review of proposed alternatives. However, 
the commenter suggested that it is not clear how these public 
involvement procedures will work in practice, especially when the Coast 
Guard has indicated that some alternatives may be approved in fewer 
than 90 days. While our regulations say that alternatives should be 
submitted to the Coast Guard 90 days before a vessel intends to operate 
under the proposed alternative, we recognize that not all proposed 
alternatives are the same. Some alternatives may warrant more analysis 
than others. In recognition of this, the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines recommend submission of proposed alternatives at 
least 180 days before a vessel intends to operate under the proposed 
alternative.

G. Geographic Extent of Alternatives

    Twenty-seven comments highlighted concern over the Coast Guard's 
intent to allow for alternatives that address a geographic area smaller 
than the entire extent of a COTP zone. Specifically, comments 
questioned the Coast Guard's authority to accept an alternative that 
only partially covers a COTP zone. Additionally, one comment forecasted 
a ``compliance quagmire'' if a patchwork of alternatives is allowed to 
exist within a COTP zone. The Coast Guard appreciates these concerns, 
but disagrees. The Coast Guard will continue to evaluate alternatives 
that adequately address areas where the NPC are inappropriate. The 
regulations specify that an alternative can be submitted for the 
geographic area(s) where the vessel intends to operate. See 33 CFR 
155.1065(f) and 155.5067(a).
    One commenter noted the belief that the alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines requirement to consider ``any and all'' 
environmental impacts of not meeting the NPC requirements is 
unreasonable, particularly for large and remote areas (e.g. Western 
Alaska). The Coast Guard agrees in part and disagrees in part. Previous 
alternative planning criteria policy guidance for tank vessels, as well 
as the existing regulations for nontank vessel response plans, require 
that proposed alternatives should, at a minimum, contain an 
environmental impact assessment (CG-543 Policy Letter 09-02 and 33 CFR 
155.5067(b)). To keep within the scope of the regulatory requirements, 
the Coast Guard reworded the guidelines to emphasize that an 
environmental impact assessment should, at a minimum, be included in 
the submission of an alternative. Additionally, to ensure compliance 
with 33 CFR 155.1030 and 155.5030, proposed alternatives should 
highlight sensitive areas from the applicable Area Contingency Plan(s) 
in their environmental impact assessment.
    One commenter proposed that Alaska be given its own planning 
standards given the physical, environmental, and geographic challenges 
unique to Alaska. We wish to point out that both the tank and nontank 
VRP regulations allow for the planning criteria to be tailored for a 
specific geographic location when the vessel owner or operator believes 
that the NPC are inappropriate for the areas they intend to operate.

H. Strategic Plan Replaced With Build-Out Plan

    Seven comments reflected concern regarding the submission of a 
``strategic plan'' as part of the proposed alternative(s). 
Additionally, some commenters asked how the Coast Guard would use and 
evaluate such a plan. We recognize the misunderstanding: We did not 
intend to refer to the company's strategic business plan, but rather a 
strategic plan for eventually meeting the NPC. In consideration of 
these concerns, we have revised the guidelines by replacing the phrase 
``strategic plan'' with ``build-out plan'' to avoid the misimpression 
that industry business planning processes should be submitted as part 
of a proposed alternative. The build-out plan is a means by which a 
plan holder can address how they will build up response capability to 
meet the NPC. The Coast Guard has consistently stated that the intent 
of alternative planning criteria is to gradually build-up response 
capability in remote areas. See, Final Rule on ``Nontank Vessel 
Response Plans and Other Response Plan Requirements'' (78 FR 60099). 
The build-out plan is not a formal, organizational, strategic plan, but 
rather a detailed description of the measureable steps towards 
compliance with the NPC. The Coast Guard will review build-out plans in 
its review of submitted alternatives. Additionally, the Coast Guard 
will review achievement of build-out plan goals in its review of 
alternatives submitted for renewal.

I. Enforcement and Evaluation

    The Coast Guard received 10 comments regarding the enforcement of 
alternative planning criteria, including concerns over the Coast 
Guard's ability to ensure compliance, especially in remote areas. The 
Coast Guard recognizes that remote areas may be challenging to frequent 
and regular verification efforts; nevertheless, at the discretion of 
the COTP, the Coast Guard will exercise its authority to verify 
compliance with approved alternatives.
    One commenter recommended the Coast Guard add clarity as to what 
level of response capability, and future expanded capability, the Coast 
Guard will be seeking prior to approving future alternatives. The Coast 
Guard will evaluate the adequacy of response capabilities listed in 
alternatives, including expanded response capability addressed in the 
build-out plan. The Coast Guard's evaluation includes verifying that 
response resources are adequate in the areas intended, and that the 
alternative will provide an equivalent oil spill removal capacity. 
Additionally, alternatives are subject to equipment inspections, 
personnel training verifications, and exercise evaluations, including 
validation of build-out plan milestone achievement.

J. Policy Necessity

    Two commenters questioned the need for the alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines, noting that the CG-543 Policy Letter 09-
02 and MSIB 03-14 for Western Alaska were clear, concise, and simple. 
The CG-543 Policy Letter 09-02 was a national policy that only covered 
tank vessels. MSIB 03-14 was issued by the COTP for Western Alaska and 
specific to the Western Alaska COTP zone. The Coast Guard saw a need 
for a national policy that covers both tank and nontank vessels on 
alternative planning criteria.
    One commenter noted that the Coast Guard's approval of an 
alternative plays a critical role in the level of environmental 
protection provided in the region. The Coast Guard agrees and notes 
that an environmental impact assessment is one of the elements that an 
owner or operator of a tank or nontank vessel should, at a minimum, 
include for the Coast Guard's consideration in determining whether to 
accept an alternative(s).
    One commenter suggested that the policy reflect the stated 
regulation; that an alternative can be submitted for consideration any 
time that the vessel

[[Page 47979]]

owner or operator feels the NPC are inappropriate or unattainable for 
reasons beyond their control or, when a vessel owner or operator can 
demonstrate that the alternative will provide an equivalent or superior 
level of response and/or protection as the NPC. The Coast Guard agrees 
in part and disagrees in part. The Coast Guard agrees that the 
alternative planning criteria may be submitted when an owner or 
operator believes the NPC are inappropriate for the area in which the 
vessel intends to operate. The Coast Guard does not agree, nor do the 
regulations in 33 CFR part 155 contemplate, the use of an 
alternative(s) where the NPC can be met.

K. Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment Consideration in Alternatives

    One commenter noted that the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment 
(AIRA) and the response model contained therein are better suited to 
the Alaskan region than compliance with the regulations. The Coast 
Guard disagrees. The AIRA presents one possible response model as an 
alternative planning approach for one region of the country. The Coast 
Guard will not dictate the prevention, response and/or mitigation 
strategies that a vessel owner or operator can propose where the NPC 
are inappropriate.

L. Applicability of Salvage and Marine Firefighting Resources in 
Alternatives

    Two commenters recommended that salvage and marine firefighting 
resources should not be included in an alternative(s). The Coast Guard 
disagrees. Nothing in the regulations precludes the consideration of 
salvage and marine firefighting in a proposed alternative. Accordingly, 
in areas where salvage and marine firefighting national planning 
criteria are inappropriate, a vessel owner or operator may propose an 
alternative.
    One commenter requested to know if the Coast Guard intends on 
requiring salvage and marine firefighting equipment to be listed in the 
Coast Guard response resource inventory (RRI). The Coast Guard 
appreciates the commenter's suggestion. The RRI is a voluntary option 
for certain response resource providers. The Coast Guard recommends 
that the response resources listed in alternatives be entered into the 
RRI.

M. Content of Proposed Alternatives Submitted to the Coast Guard

    One commenter noted that the requirement to state each class of 
vessel and its associated worst case discharge volume and oil group is 
unnecessary. The Coast Guard agrees and modified the language in the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines to reflect that an 
alternative may cover a single vessel or fleet of vessels and should 
state the vessel type(s) and oil volumes by type.
    One commenter felt that vessel tracking, administration of vessel 
of opportunity programs, vessel of opportunity training programs, and 
the requirement to assure five vessels are available are cost 
prohibitive, inconceivable, and unattainable. A related comment 
recommended that the Coast Guard consider clarifying that the examples 
listed in the alternative national policy guidelines and enclosures are 
not requirements, but examples. The draft alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines did not require any of the above programs or 
strategies but rather presented them as examples of strategies. To 
avoid further confusion, however, the Coast Guard removed these 
examples from the alternative planning criteria national guidelines.
    One commenter noted that an oil spill trajectory and fate analysis 
for the entire coastline of a vessel's route within a VRP geographic 
specific appendix is an unreasonable requirement, costly, and adds no 
value to a proposed alternative. We wish to make clear that while there 
is no specific requirement for trajectories or fate analyses, these are 
useful for the Coast Guard's evaluation of proposed alternatives and 
may appropriately be included in a plan holder's environmental impact 
assessment.
    Two commenters noted a concern that documenting a vessel's track 
line information was overly burdensome and goes beyond what is required 
by the regulations. In consideration of these comments, we revised the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines to remove language 
that could be perceived as inconsistent with the regulations. The 
revised language recommends that proposed alternatives include a 
general description of the intended vessel operations, such as track 
lines and/or intended vessel routes.
    One commenter noted that the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines should be written to ensure that exercises and verifications 
are conducted in conditions that reflect all intended seasonal 
operations. The Coast Guard notes that the alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines do not limit or otherwise prescribe the 
timing of exercises or verifications. The timing will ultimately be 
determined by the COTP as part of a risk-based decision process.
    One commenter stated that continual improvement on alternatives, 
with a focus on response resources, should be considered when reviewing 
an alternative. The Coast Guard agrees and notes that the alternative 
planning criteria national guidelines include these considerations, 
especially as part of the build-out plan.

N. Submission Process for Alternatives

    One commenter noted that the term ``administrator'' is not defined 
in the VRP regulations. The Coast Guard agrees and defines the term 
``Alternative Planning Criteria Administrator'' in the alternative 
planning criteria national guidelines.
    One commenter noted that the Coast Guard's timelines for accepting 
alternatives has not been in accordance with the regulatory timelines, 
and believes the Coast Guard should adhere to the review timeline in 
the regulations. The Coast Guard agrees that timely review is 
beneficial, and will work toward completing timely reviews of proposed 
alternatives. While the regulations in 33 CFR 155.1065(f) and Sec.  
155.5067(a) require submission of alternative planning criteria 
requests 90 days before the vessel intends to operate under a proposed 
alternative, the alternative planning criteria national guidelines 
recommend submission at least 180 days due to the myriad factors that 
must be evaluated, as well as the need for coordination and 
consultation in the review process.
    One commenter noted that the Coast Guard excluded the provision for 
Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators to submit alternative 
proposals. The Coast Guard agrees and has added ``Alternative Planning 
Criteria Administrators'' to the submission process in the alternative 
planning criteria national guidelines.
    One commenter noted that the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines should address mechanisms to make revisions or improvements 
to an alternative after approval and/or an appeals process. The Coast 
Guard agrees. The alternative planning criteria national guidelines 
were updated to address revisions to submitted alternatives. 
Specifically, vessel owner or operators, or Alternative Planning 
Criteria Administrators, should submit any significant change that 
affects the information included in the accepted alternative(s) to the 
cognizant COTP. COTPs should endorse the proposed alternative and 
forward to Commandant Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy 
(CG-MER) through the

[[Page 47980]]

cognizant CG District and Area staff offices.

O. Outreach

    One commenter stated that, while the Coast Guard has held meetings 
with local stakeholders and communities in Western Alaska, the Coast 
Guard has not reached out to the wider shipping community that will 
also be affected by the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines. The commenter recommended that the Coast Guard establish an 
industry working group that includes the wider community in order to 
seek constructive input into these important issues, especially given 
the large number of international trading vessels that transit the 
Great Circle Route through Western Alaska.
    The Coast Guard agrees that input from stakeholders in every region 
is important and that is one of the reasons we requested public comment 
on the draft alternative planning criteria national guidelines. The 
Coast Guard is interested in continuing the discussion on improving the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines and welcomes the 
opportunity to discuss the subject at local area committee meetings, 
regional response team meetings, and other relevant forums.
    Two commenters supported improved communications between the Coast 
Guard and appropriate State environmental offices particular to 
response capability and alternatives. One commenter specifically 
mentioned that appropriate State environmental offices should be part 
of the approval and inspection/verification processes of alternatives. 
As Area Committee members, State environmental offices should be 
engaging with the Coast Guard on oil spill response planning, including 
response capability and alternatives. However, the Coast Guard is not 
abdicating its responsibility to evaluate, nor its decision making 
authority on the appropriateness of, proposed alternatives.
    One commenter suggested that the current procedure for accepting 
proposed alternatives has been inconsistent and has not been an 
inclusive process specific to State environmental offices ``as required 
by regulation.'' We believe it is important to clarify that our 
regulations do not impose such a requirement, but note that the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines mention that COTPs 
may, in their discretion, consult with Area Committees, of which State 
environmental offices are members. Concerning consistency in the 
procedure for accepting proposed alternatives, one of the goals of 
these alternative planning criteria national guidelines is to 
facilitate COTP consistency in the review of proposed alternatives. 
However, as noted above, not all proposed alternatives are the same; 
consequently, some proposals will generate more review and analysis 
than others.
    One commenter suggested that engagement with the local communities 
and stakeholders should continue beyond that which has already taken 
place as part of the implementation of the alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines. The Coast Guard agrees. The Coast Guard 
is appreciative of the input received in the development of the 
alternative planning criteria national guidelines, and looks forward to 
continuing this dialogue at local area committee meetings, regional 
response team meetings, and other forums.
    Three commenters suggested that it is essential that the Coast 
Guard monitor and report periodically to the public on the status of 
oil spill response readiness for a COTP zone. One commenter 
specifically requested that the Coast Guard require Alternative 
Planning Criteria Administrators or planholders to provide public 
summaries of the progress made toward closing response gaps and an 
evaluation of the prevention and risk reduction measures specified in 
the alternative. The Coast Guard COTPs, in coordination with the local 
area committee, can determine appropriate information sharing 
procedures to address oil spill response readiness. Additionally, the 
Coast Guard RRI may be a useful tool, where resource providers may 
voluntarily list response resources to facilitate this awareness, 
including the resources listed in alternatives.
    One commenter suggested that the Coast Guard make available for 
public comment submitted alternatives, including alternatives submitted 
for renewal, before making its final approval determination. The Coast 
Guard is appreciative of this suggestion. However, we believe that 
initiating a public comment process for submitted alternatives would 
significantly impede the timely review of alternatives.

P. Miscellaneous Comments

    One commenter expressed concern with the aggressive timeline 
associated with updating and re-submitting existing alternative 
planning criteria to align with the updated alternative planning 
criteria national guidelines. The Coast Guard agrees. Vessel owner or 
operators, or Alternative Planning Criteria Administrators, of 
currently existing alternative planning criteria may request an 
extension from the Coast Guard for up to six months beyond the date of 
expiration.
    One commenter recommended that the Coast Guard post response 
contracts online and provide local communities with funding to assist 
with the outreach effort needed to gain local knowledge and expertise 
in the contract review of alternatives in VRPs. Posting response 
contracts online would create significant delays in the Coast Guard's 
review of submitted alternatives. This is because parties to the 
contract would have to redact business proprietary information, and the 
Coast Guard, as the entity that is posting the information, would have 
the responsibility of reviewing the redactions to ensure the content 
was acceptable for posting. We believe these additional steps would 
significantly impede the timely review of alternatives. Regarding the 
suggestion to provide funding to organizations to assist in outreach 
efforts, the Coast Guard does not have the legal authority to provide 
funding to organizations. However, engagement with local area 
committees, or regional response teams, offer a means to help build 
awareness of, and further strengthen, current strategies and response 
capabilities to address removal of a worst case discharge, or 
substantial threat of such a discharge.
    Two commenters suggested that they believe competition created by 
accepted alternatives, and in general, competition within the oil spill 
prevention and response markets, is a good thing. This comment is 
outside the scope of the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines as the purpose of the alternative planning criteria national 
guidelines is to provide guidance for the development and submission of 
alternatives with the goal of increasing response capacity.
    One commenter offered that competition created in alternative 
planning criteria has led to response capability reductions. The Coast 
Guard has no authority to control market competition; therefore, this 
comment is outside the scope of the alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines.
    Three commenters stated that additional resources not listed in a 
vessel response plan or alternative plan will not be made available to 
respond to an incident. These comments are outside the scope of the 
updated alternative planning criteria national guidelines.
    One commenter suggested that VRP requirements, including 
alternatives, should include vessels on innocent passage. This comment 
is outside the scope of the updated alternative planning criteria 
national guidelines.

[[Page 47981]]

    This notice is issued under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 552(a).

Joseph B. Loring,
Captain, Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy.
[FR Doc. 2017-22333 Filed 10-13-17; 8:45 am]
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