US BOEM offshore leasing program prioritizes GoM, proposes new Atlantic area

Jan. 28, 2015
US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced the next step in the development of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.

Offshore staff

WASHINGTON, DC – US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced the next step in the development of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.

The draft proposed program (DPP) includes 14 potential lease sales in eight planning areas: 10 sales in theGulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in a portion of the mid- and south Atlantic.

“This is a balanced proposal that would make available nearly 80% of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop,” Jewell said.

Release of the draft is an early step in a multi-year process to develop afinal offshore leasing program for 2017-2022.

“The draft proposal prioritizes development in theGulf of Mexico, which is rich in resources and has well-established infrastructure to support offshore oil and gas programs,” Jewell said. “We continue to consider oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and propose for further consideration a new area in the Atlantic Ocean, and we are committed to gathering the necessary science and information to develop resources the right way and in the right places.”

The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare afive-year program that includes a schedule of potential oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity as determined to best meet national energy needs, while addressing a range of economic, environmental and social considerations.

BOEM manages about 6,000 active OCS leases, covering more than 32 million acres – the vast majority in the Gulf of Mexico.

Parts of Alaska off limits

Using his authorities under the OCS Lands Act, Obama designated portions of the Beaufort andChukchi seas as off limits from consideration for future oil and gas leasing in order to protect areas of critical importance to subsistence use by Alaska natives, as well as for their unique and sensitive environmental resources. In December, Obama used this same authority to place the waters of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development.

For more information, visit:

Response from NOIA

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) is pleased that the Department of the Interior has released the 2017-2022 draft proposed offshore oil and natural gas leasing program but expresses concern over its unnecessary and counterproductive limits that may jeopardize America’s long term energy security. Our members are encouraged by the decision to further analyze the mid- and south-Atlantic areas, which have not been included in a leasing program for over two generations. 

“In fact, over 85% of the OCS has been shuttered to exploration for decades, so the consideration of new areas in the Atlantic is a step in the right direction. However, we remain disappointed that more areas that are currently off-limits were taken off the table for consideration as part of this five-year program, and that the total number of lease sales has been reduced from the previous program rather than increased. We are also concerned by additional restrictions in the plan, like the 50-mi buffer zone off the Atlantic,” said National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi in response to the proposed program.

“While other countries are moving ahead, it is disappointing that the administration is not taking this opportunity to include additional OCS areas in their draft plan. For example, while it is gratifying to see sales considered off the coast of Alaska, the administration’s plan for the Alaska offshore continues to hobble the people of Alaska and the overall energy portfolio of the United States. Instead of a robust plan for potential development in an area that holds immense resource potential, the plan actually reduces the areas available for further analysis. This is a political plan, not a plan based on science and resource data. While the certainty of sales is a small step forward, removing Alaska’s opportunity to recognize its resource potential is a giant leap backward that also unnecessarily restricts America’s ability to become more energy sufficient and to firmly establish leadership in the world energy arena.

“Likewise, the omission of the rest of the Atlantic, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific also demonstrates a continued lack of long-term vision for energy security and reliability.

“Despite the opportunities it misses, the draft proposed program is a small step in the right direction. NOIA and our members look forward to participating in the commenting and hearing process,” Luthi concluded.