WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has jumpstarted the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program for the US outer continental shelf. The action could give the next administration a two-year head start in expanding energy production from federal offshore jurisdictions, including some areas where a congressional ban had prevented oil and gas development, according to the Minerals Management Services (MMS).
President Bush lifted the Executive Withdrawal on oil and gas leasing operations on the OCS on July 14, calling on Congress to lift its ban that has been in place since 1982. He also urged Congress to enact legislation that would allow states to have a say regarding operations off their shores and to share in the resulting revenues.
Secretary Kempthorne has directed MMS to begin the initial steps for developing a new five-year program. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five-year program should consider. MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five-year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments, particularly on issues unique to each state.
The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 OCS planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action.
The areas under a congressional ban are estimated to contain an additional 18 Bbbl of oil and 76 tcf of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.
The Call for Information will be published in the Federal Register today. The full text of the notice and details on submitting comments will be included in the register announcement. All comments must be received by Sept. 15. More information is available athttp://www.doi.gov/ and at http://www.mms.gov/.