When: Friday, July 1, 2022
WASHINGTON —As the second step in a three-step planning process, the Home Office today released the “Proposed Schedule” for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for the years 2023-2028.
“Today, based on the work of my team and my leadership, the Home Office invites the public to comment on a proposed offshore leasing program that will chart our course over the next five years. This is of the second stage of a three-step planning process to determine whether or how many offshore oil and gas lease sales are to be made over the next five years. The proposed plan offers several options ranging from no sale from lease to 11 lease sales over the next five years. Like the current program finalized in 2016, it removes federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from review while inviting the public to 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 authorize drilling or development “, said Secretary Deb Haaland. “From day one, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to moving to a clean energy economy. Today, we offer the American people an opportunity to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing. Now is the time for the public to have a say in our future.”
The publication of the Proposed Program follows the 2018 publication of the Proposed Draft Program (DPP) and is the second of three steps required before the Home Secretary can approve the final program. Following publication in the Federal Register, the Department of the Interior will seek public comment on the proposed program and accompanying draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS).
The DPP released in 2018 by the previous administration proposed 47 lease sales in 25 of the SCO’s 26 planning areas. Under the proposed program announced today, the Secretary has significantly reduced the area considered for lease to the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, where there is existing production and infrastructure.
The inclusion of an area or potential lease sale in the proposed program does not mean that it will be included in the final OCS National Program. However, any area or sale not included in the proposed program will not be considered for inclusion in the final OCS National Program 2023-2028.
Following the release of the DPP under the previous administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reviewed over 2 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 groups, and the public.
All materials – including the proposed program, a map of program areas, instructions for commenting on the proposed program and draft PEIS, and information on how to register for upcoming virtual meetings, can be found at BOEM’s website.
Next steps for the 2023-2028 program
The proposed program includes no more than ten potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and one potential lease sale in the northern portion of the Cook Inlet planning area off Alaska, which is the same as in the five-year program finalized in 2016. These potential lease sales, including in the GOM, could be further refined and targeted, based on public feedback and analysis, prior to program approval. The final schedule may also include fewer potential rental sales, including no rental sales.
Following this public comment opportunity, BOEM will prepare a final proposed program and a final ISSP, which will include an analysis of the size, timing, location and number of potential lease sales in the proposed program. These can be further reduced or areas can be excluded. There is then a minimum period of 60 days before the secretary can approve the program and finalize the record of decision.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The federal government cannot proceed with offshore lease sales without the development and approval of a final program in accordance with Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The OCSLA authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to schedule lease sales for a five-year period by balancing factors specific to OCS regions and selecting the size, timing and location of OCS lease sales that best meet regional and national energy needs and considers the impact of oil and gas exploration on the marine, coastal and human environments. There is no requirement under the OCSLA that mandates sales in any location, and the law prescribes no specific timeline for developing a five-year plan.
When approving an OCS National Program, the OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary to consider eight factors, including:
- Geographical, geological and ecological characteristics of SCO regions.
- Equitable sharing of development benefits and environmental risks between regions.
- The relative needs of national and regional energy markets.
- Other uses of ocean resources and OCS.
- Expressed industry interest in oil and gas development.
- Laws, objectives and policies of affected states as identified by governors.
- Environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of the different areas of the OCS.
- Environmental and predictive information for different areas of the SCO.
The proposed program reflects the Secretary’s careful consideration of these factors.