U.S. offshore leasing plan limited to explored areas of Gulf of Mexico and Alaska Arctic
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau today announced the release of a proposed final offshore oil and gas leasing program for 2012-2017 that is mostly limited to the already-explored areas of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska Arctic.
The 15 scheduled potential lease sales contained in the plan will occur in six planning areas – the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, the portion of the Eastern Gulf Of Mexico not currently under Congressional moratorium, and the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet Planning Areas offshore Alaska.
In the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas, the Proposed Final Program includes annual area-wide sales of all available, unleased acreage, as has been the typical practice in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, two sales are scheduled within a portion of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.
The Proposed Final Program re-affirms existing protections for Arctic coastal areas by continuing to exclude certain areas from leasing, including a 25-mile buffer area near the coast of the Chukchi, as well as two subsistence whaling areas in the Beaufort near Barrow and Kaktovik, Alaska. The program also identifies an additional exclusion area in the Chukchi, near Barrow, that will not be made available for leasing because of input received from Native Alaskan communities and because the area is known to be of particular importance for subsistence hunting and fishing. With respect to all other areas in the Arctic that are open to oil and gas exploration and development in the Proposed Final Program, BOEM will identify targeted areas to offer in the lease sales based on information the agency will gather about industry interest, resource potential, subsistence hunting and fishing, wildlife, and environmental sensitivities.
As is mandated by the OCS Lands Act, the Proposed Final Program has been submitted to Congress. The Secretary may implement the Program in 60 days, however no further action is needed prior to its implementation, and BOEM is on track to hold the first sale under the new program later this year. Earlier this month, BOEM held a lease sale for nearly 39 million acres in the Central Gulf of Mexico, which attracted more than $1.7 billion in high bids for more than 2.4 million acres. That follows on a Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale held in December 2011, in which 21 million acres were offered for lease.