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ENCK, VALERIE, and C. L. SHERROD, Horizon Environmental Services, Inc., Austin, TX

Abstract: Wetlands Regulation and the Oil and Gas Industry in the Gulf Coast Region

The distribution and areal extent of freshwater and marine wetlands in the Gulf Coast Region make it difficult to develop significant hydrocarbon resources without affecting wetlands. This presentation focuses on demystifying the potentially complicated, expensive, and time-consuming rigors of dealing with wetland regulations for oil and gas exploration and development. Thorough knowledge of regulatory processes is invaluable for designing and implementing permittable and cost-effective projects with minimum time delays. This paper will impart an understanding of the regulatory requirements, permitting processes, and project management practices to ensure regulatory compliance with minimal constraints.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers administers permitting for both Section 10 Rivers and Harbors Act (navigable waters) and Section 404 Clean Water Act (wetlands and waters of the United States) under a combined process. Threshold criteria, limitations, and benefits of federal permits for industry specific activities are addressed. Emphasis is placed on the most relevant Nationwide Permits (Numbers 6, 12, 14, and 26) and regional permits available through individual Corps districts.

Penalties for noncompliance with federal wetland regulation include "cease and desist" orders, removal of constructed facilities, restitution for jurisdictional areas impacted, after-the-fact permits, fines of up to $25,000/day/violation, or referral to the United States Attorney General's Office for civil or criminal prosecution. Penalties are significant and can "break" an otherwise profitable project. Therefore, up-front compliance through knowledge, careful planning and project management, and agency coordination can make wetland regulation as painless and cost effective as possible. 

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90924©1999 GCAGS Annual Meeting Lafayette, Louisiana