Department of Interior Issues Proposed Leasing Program

Department of Interior Issues Proposed Leasing Program
The proposed plan puts forward several options from no lease sales up to 11 lease sales over the next five years.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has issued a proposed program for the 2023-2028 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

The DOI outlined that the release of the proposed program follows the 2018 publication of the draft proposed program and is the second of three required steps before the Secretary of the Interior can approve the final program. Following publication in the Federal Register, the DOI will seek public comment on the proposed program and the accompanying Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the organization noted.

After the release of the draft proposed program during the previous administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management considered more than two million comments from the public and stakeholders, including governors, federal agencies, state agencies, local agencies, energy and non-energy industries, Tribal governments, non-governmental organizations including environmental advocacy groups, and the public, the DOI highlighted.

The draft proposed program released in 2018 by the previous administration proposed 47 lease sales across 25 of 26 OCS planning areas, the DOI outlined. Under the proposed program, the Secretary “significantly” narrowed the area considered for leasing to the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, the DOI stated. Inclusion of an area or a potential lease sale in the proposed program does not mean that it will be included in the final program, the DOI outlined, adding that the proposed program includes no more than 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one potential lease sale in the northern portion of the Cook Inlet Planning Area offshore Alaska.

These potential lease sales, including in the Gulf of Mexico, could be further refined and targeted, based on public input and analysis, prior to program approval and the final program also may include fewer potential lease sales, including no lease sales, the DOI warned.

“Based on my team’s work and my direction, the Department of the Interior is inviting the public to comment on a proposed offshore leasing program that will chart our course forward over the next five years,” Secretary Deb Haaland said in a DOI statement.

“This is the second step in a three-step planning process to determine whether or how many offshore oil and gas lease sales to hold over the next five years. The proposed plan puts forward several options from no lease sales up to 11 lease sales over the next five years,” Haaland added.

“Like the current program finalized in 2016, it removes from consideration the federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts while inviting public comment on 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet off south-central Alaska. A proposed program is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development,” Haaland continued.

Commenting on the DOI’s proposed five year program for federal offshore leasing, American Petroleum Institute (API) Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs, Frank Macchiarola, said, “at a time when Americans are facing record high energy costs and the world is seeking American energy leadership, … [this] announcement leaves open the possibility of no new offshore lease sales, the continuation of a policy that has gone on for far too long”.

“Because of their failure to act, the U.S. is now in the unprecedented position of having a substantial gap between programs for the first time since this process began in the early 1980s, leaving U.S. producers at a significant disadvantage on the global stage and putting our economic and national security at risk,” Macchiarola added.

Also commenting on the DOI’s latest move, National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Erik Milito said, “the Biden administration must act swiftly to finalize and implement the offshore oil and gas leasing program”.

“We are in the middle of a substantial, unnecessary, and avoidable gap in offshore leasing that is having serious impacts for both near-term and long-term investment in U.S. energy production. The gap in offshore lease sales – and all of the negative impacts associated with reduced domestic production – will continue for the foreseeable future until a final leasing program is in place and lease sales resume,” Milito added.

“The proposed leasing plan is just one step in the process, and it is imperative that the administration act without any further delays and finalize the program as proposed, without reduced acreage. At a time of historic tightness in the global oil marketplace and associated high prices for Americans, we need energy policies that promote continued and growing supplies from U.S. producing regions,” Milito continued.

Energy Workforce & Technology Council CEO Leslie Beyer said, “I applaud the Department of Interior for finally releasing its five-year offshore leasing plan, which they are required to do by law, however, it contains much ambiguity and uncertainty for the industry, signaling a plan for 11 lease sales, but not guaranteeing any lease sales”.

“Also, the plan limits access to two of our bordering oceans. If the administration’s goal is truly to bring down energy costs and provide energy security for our nation, the Department should be expanding offshore drilling access to boost production to meet demand instead of limiting leases and continuing to disincentivize domestic production,” Beyer added.

Rigzone has shown this article to the DOI asking if the organization would like to send over a comment for inclusion. The DOI has not yet responded to Rigzone at the time of publication.

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com


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