NOAA is responsible for the implementation of a number of environmental statutes, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Magnuson Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act, National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, for the protection of its trust resources. The Environmental Review and Coordination Section of the NOAA Office of General Counsel works to ensure that NOAA’s own programs comply with these statutes by working cooperatively with NOAA offices and staff, providing compliance training, preparing guidance documents and instructions, facilitating cross-line office collaboration and coordination, and reviewing and providing legal advice on compliance actions. GC ERC works cooperatively with other GC Sections and NOAA line offices to identify existing gaps in compliance and recommends and helps to implement strategies for ongoing compliance throughout NOAA.
In addition to supporting efforts to maintain overall compliance with trust resource statutes, GC ERC has additional specifically delegated responsibilities related to NOAA’s implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act. GC ERC’s Section Chief has been designated as NOAA’s NEPA coordinator, which, pursuant to NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A involves the following responsibilities:
- Assist decision makers and their staff in a cooperative manner in applying NEPA
- Develop, maintain, and revise agency-wide NEPA policy and procedures, including the Companion Manual
- Collect best practices to share with all decision makers
- Provide NEPA tools and training to Line and Staff Offices
- Serve as the interface on NEPA issues with the Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Commerce, and other federal agencies
- Convene a working group of all Line Office and Staff Office NEPA leads to facilitate the sharing of ideas and gain efficiencies, where appropriate, by collectively addressing cross-line-office NEPA issues
- Coordinate NOAA-wide NEPA reporting and NOAA-wide comments on NEPA documents prepared by other agencies
The Environmental Review and Coordination Section is currently staffed by a Section Chief (Katherine Renshaw) and two attorney-advisors, and supported by two contractors.