NOAA 2000-413
Contact: Scott Smullen


The Department of Commerce announced today that additional analysis by other federal agencies is necessary before it can address the merits of an appeal brought by Chevron U.S.A. Production Company regarding a proposed natural gas production project off the coast of Pensacola, Fla. The project would be located in the Gulf of Mexico, in an area of the outer continental shelf known as Destin Dome Unit 56. Additional information expected from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior will provide the secretary of commerce with important analyses regarding the potential long-term environmental effects of the proposed project. The appeal, brought to the secretary under the Coastal Zone Management Act, results from concerns raised by the state of Florida when it objected to the company's proposal.

In letters sent today to Chevron and the state of Florida, the department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration informed the two parties that the decision record will be held open to include two documents expected to be available by September 2000. The first is a biological opinion which will identify potential effects, if any, of the project on endangered or threatened species. Second, NOAA intends to include the Final Environmental Impact Statement being prepared by the Department of the Interior in the decision record. The EIS report will clarify whether the project should implement any of the environmental mitigation measures proposed in an earlier draft.

"Chevron's natural gas project cannot proceed without the completion of these two federal documents," explained NOAA General Counsel James Dorskind, "So, little additional time will be lost by either party."

In addition, to provide the secretary with further detailed analyses about water and air quality impacts, the decision record will be held open for EPA to act on permits requested for the project under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.

"We believe this approach will likely shorten the administrative appeals process by allowing the secretary to consider, all at one time, the multiple permits involved in the project's approval," said Dorskind.