The Northeast Ocean Plan

The Northeast Ocean Plan (the “Plan”) was developed pursuant to Executive Order 13547 “Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes” (July 19, 2010), which adopted the White House Council on Environmental Quality  “Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force,” and established the National Ocean Policy.  On December 1, 2016, the National Ocean Council (whose Director is Massachusetts’ own Deerin Babb-Brott) certified that the Plan is consistent with the National Ocean Policy.  The Plan is advisory and for use with the companion Northeast Ocean Data Portal, which contains thousands of maps of the components of the marine ecosystem and human activities.  It is hoped the Plan and Data Portal will enhance agency decision-making, encourage the compatibility of ocean uses, and promote healthy ocean ecosystems.

All six New England States (even landlocked Vermont) are signatories.  State and federal agencies will consider the relevant data and information in the Plan to inform decision-making regarding activities such as:

  • Offshore wind energy leasing and development
  • Wave and ocean current energy facilities
  • Offshore oil and gas planning, leasing and development
  • Offshore sand extraction
  • LNG facilities
  • Disposal of dredged material
  • Navigational impacts (aquaculture, cables, pipelines)

The States pledge to use the Plan “which may depend in part on federal agencies’ commitment to the Plan and timely update of its data and information.”  Given the Trump administration’s anti-science mindset, the order to approve the Dakota Access shale oil and Keystone XL natural gas pipelines without full environmental reviews, the promise to cut federal agencies’ budgets, and to repeal, replace or modify environmental regulations (including those related to the ocean), the Plan and Portal may be useful to applicants and state agencies, but may gather dust until the Presidential pendulum swings back toward environmental protection.