On March 15, 2016, as part of her duty under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced the release of a proposed Oil and Gas Leasing program for the 2017-2022 period. As explained within the preamble, this proposed program is the second of three proposals required to develop the 2017-2022 Oil and Gas Leasing program, which will replace the 2012-2017 program. The five-year program aims to provide information as to leasing opportunities for mineral exploration and development of offshore natural gas and oil while balancing the potential environmental impacts on the coastal zone and offshore. The proposed program is available for public comment through June 16, 2016.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) determined a potential of thirteen lease sales in six OCS planning areas, including ten potential leases sales in the Gulf of Mexico region and three in the Alaska region. The proposed program offers all available acreages in the central and western Gulf of Mexico planning areas as well as a narrow strip of water acreage at the edge of the eastern Gulf of Mexico “where infrastructure is best-established and there is strong adjacent state support and significant oil and gas resource potential.” A large part of the eastern planning area is under a Congressional moratorium that will expire on June 30, 2022.
In the Alaska region, the proposed program makes available for leasing the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea along the northern coast of Alaska. A 25-mile zone along the Chukchi and Chukchi Sea coasts is subject to a Presidential Moratorium in place since January 27, 2015. The determination of those three potential lease sales is part of a substantial collaborative effort “with North Slope communities to deconflict oil and gas activities from traditional and subsistence activities on the Arctic OCS.”
BOEM also considered the possibility of leasing offshore acreages of the Atlantic region before stepping back for various reasons. BOEM explained that “ocean-dependent tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and commercial shipping and transportation are established and important economic uses in and along the coast of the Mid- and South Atlantic Program Area . . . [and] could be potentially impacted by oil and gas activity.” Interestingly it also added that “though additional offshore production is arguably always beneficial to the U.S. economy, the current market of increased onshore production and persistently low oil prices reduces the need for oil and gas development in the Atlantic at this time.”
On March 23, 2016, BOEM announced in a Press Release that, under the 2012-2017 Oil and Gas Leasing program, “a total of 30 offshore energy companies submitted 148 bids . . . [and] the sum of all bids received totaled $179,172,819.” It also observed that no bids were submitted for the eastern planning area of the Gulf of Mexico.
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow