WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) reintroduced the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Act (SEA Act) to increase efficiency in the lengthy permit approval processes that have caused setbacks and delays for those working to preserve America’s rapidly deteriorating coastline, interrupted U.S. Naval operations and deterred offshore oil and gas exploration.
The bill reduces excessive government regulations developed over more than 45 years under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
“Government-imposed regulations continue to overwhelm hardworking Americans, diminishing efficiency and stunting productivity. In our region specifically, unnecessary permit approval delays have halted critical restoration projects, hindered offshore drilling and unnecessarily redirected military resources to comply with excessive regulations,” Johnson said in a statement. “The SEA Act will cut bureaucratic red tape to ensure timely and fair permit approval processes, promoting innovation and unleashing our businesses.”
The SEA Act is supported by the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, National Offshore Industry Association and International Association of Drilling Contractors.
Jason McFarland, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, said in an emailed statement, “IADC thanks Congressman Johnson for his leadership in reintroducing the SEA Act to clarify and streamline the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The U.S. OCS holds the promise of vast natural energy resources, with BOEM estimating as much as 89.9 billion barrels of oil and 327.5 trillion cubic feet of gas yet to be discovered. This bill paves the way for seismic permitting to efficiently locate said resources, as well as decrease permitting delays and increase regulatory efficiency, a win for both government and industry.”
The International Association of Geophysical Contractors said in a statement, “The IAGC hails the introduction of the SEA Act by Congressman Mike Johnson and applauds his continued leadership and insight in elevating the modernization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in this Congress. We encourage the House to support this legislation which modernizes the law to bring more efficiencies and certainty to the permitting process while maintaining existing protections for marine mammals. The offshore geophysical and exploration industry commends Congressman Johnson for his efforts to accomplish what any reasonable person would expect of a federal regulatory program: transparent standards, firm timelines, efficient process and elimination of redundancy. Indeed, the only basis for opposing this bill would be an antagonism to efficient federal processes and a desire for the ambiguities and inefficiencies that create opportunities for delay and litigation.”
National Offshore Industry Association released the following statement, “The SEA Act is the right step towards a scientifically-based and politically-neutral permitting process. The wide range of ocean stakeholders, including the U.S. Navy and coastal restoration groups, who hold more than 230 active Incidental Harassment Authorizations underscore the need for a MMPA that is free from an overly burdensome and duplicative permitting regime. This modernization of the MMPA is a better way for a process that is currently mired in bureaucratic determinations.”
When enacted in 1972, the MMPA was intended to manage interactions between marine mammals and commercial fishing operations in an effort to halt population declines of some of our treasured marine mammals. The SEA Act clarifies a permitting process known as Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs), required by the MMPA, and increases regulatory efficiency by removing additional secondary review and administrative processes under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Key Components of the SEA Act:
- Sets a Permitting Timeframe: The bill sets a clear framework for permits to be accepted or denied by the secretary of the appropriate agency.
- Authorizes More Approvals: The secretary has 120 days after an application has been deemed complete to issue the authorization allowing for activity to begin; if not, the authorization will be deemed approved on the terms stated in the application.
- Creates a Science-Based Extension: The bill allows the option to extend certain permits for more than a year if there has been no substantial change to the marine mammal population.
- Removes Duplication: The bill eliminates the duplicative process currently in place surrounding the Endangered Species Act (ESA), exempts MMPA-covered marine mammals from the requirement of additional, less rigorous standards used in the ESA process and prohibits any related federal activity from the ESA’s consultation requirement as applied to marine mammals.