DOI Plans to Expand
Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
January 5, 2018
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke took the next step for responsibly
developing the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing
Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024, which proposes to make
over 90 percent of the total OCS acreage and more than 98 percent of
undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal
offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and
development. By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the
OCS off limits. In addition, the program proposes the largest number of
lease sales in U.S. history.
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental
Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and
energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the
conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” said Secretary
“Today's announcement lays out the options that are on the table
and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with
mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will
take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is
we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still
powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance"
Earlier this year, 155 Members of both the U.S. House of Representatives
and the U.S. Senate sent letters to Secretary Zinke in support of a new
5-year plan that recognizes America’s potential for energy dominance.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 47 potential lease sales in 25
of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the
Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region.
This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National
OCS Program’s 5-year lease schedule.
“By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas
exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from
aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” said
Vincent DeVito, Counselor for Energy Policy at Interior. “This decision
could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and
gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich
Release of the DPP is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a
final National OCS Program for 2019-2024. Today's draft proposal was
informed by approximately 816,000 comments from a wide variety of
stakeholders, including state governments, federal agencies, public
interest groups, industry, and the public. Before the program is
finalized, the public will have additional opportunities to provide
input. The 2017-2022 Five Year Program will continue to be implemented
until the new National OCS Program is approved.
“This plan is an early signal to the global marketplace that the United
States intends to remain a global leader in responsible offshore energy
development and produce affordable American energy for many decades to
come,” said Katharine MacGregor, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Land and Minerals Management. “This proposed plan shows our
commitment to a vibrant offshore energy economy that supports the
thousands of men and women working in the offshore energy industry, from
supply vessels to rig crews.”
Inclusion of an area in the DPP is not a final indication that it will
be included in the approved Program or offered in a lease sale, because
many decision points still remain. By proposing to open these areas for
consideration, the Secretary ensures that he will receive public input
and analysis on all of the available OCS to better inform future
decisions on the National OCS Program. Prior to any individual lease
sale in the future, BOEM will continue to incorporate new scientific
information and stakeholder feedback in its reviews to further refine
the geographic scope of the lease areas.
“American energy production can be competitive while remaining safe and
environmentally sound,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank.
“Public input is a crucial part of this process, and we hope to hear
from industry groups, elected officials, other government agencies,
concerned citizens and others as we move forward with developing the
2019-2024 National OCS Program.”
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the Secretary of the
Interior, through BOEM, to prepare and maintain a schedule of proposed
oil and gas lease sales in federal waters, indicating the size, timing,
and location of leasing activity that would best meet national energy
needs for the five-year period following Program approval. In developing
the National OCS Program, the Secretary is required to achieve an
appropriate balance among the potential for environmental impacts, for
discovery of oil and gas, and for adverse effects on the coastal zone.
BOEM currently manages about 2,900 active OCS leases, covering almost
15.3 million acres – the vast majority in the Gulf of Mexico. In fiscal
year 2016, oil and gas leases on the OCS accounted for approximately 18
percent of domestic oil production and 4 percent of domestic natural gas
production. This production generates billions of dollars in revenue for
state and local governments and the U.S. taxpayer, while supporting
hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Gulf of Mexico:
The DPP includes 12 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most
productive basins in the world and where oil and gas infrastructure is
well established. The draft proposal continues the current approach to
lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico by proposing 10 biannual lease sales
in those areas of the Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico that
are not subject to Congressional moratorium or otherwise unavailable,
and two sales in the portions of the Eastern and Central Gulf of Mexico
after the expiration of the Congressional moratorium in 2022. This is
the first time the majority of the Eastern GOM Planning Area would be
available for leasing since 1988.
The DPP proposes 19 lease sales in the Alaska Region (3 in the Chukchi
Sea, 3 in the Beaufort Sea, 2 in Cook Inlet, and 1 sale each in 11 other
program areas in Alaska). These 11 program areas consist of the Gulf of
Alaska, Kodiak, Shumagin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Bowers Basin,
Aleutian Basin, Navarin Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Norton Basin, and Hope
Basin. No sales are proposed in the North Aleutian Basin Planning Area
that has been under Presidential withdrawal since December 2014.
The DPP proposes 7 lease sales in the Pacific Region (2 each for
Northern California, Central California, and Southern California, and 1
for Washington/Oregon). There have been no sales in the Pacific Region
since 1984. Currently there are 43 leases in producing status in the
Southern California Planning Area.
The DPP proposes 9 lease sales in the Atlantic Region (3 sales each for
the Mid- and South Atlantic, 2 for the North Atlantic, and 1 for the
Straits of Florida). There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983
and there are no existing leases.
conjunction with the announcement of the DPP, the Department is also
publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Draft Programmatic
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in accordance with the National
Environmental Policy Act.
Public meetings will be held around the country starting on January 16,
2018, to receive comments on the DPP and to inform the Draft
Programmatic EIS. Specific dates, times, and venues will be posted on
BOEM’s website at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/.
Using the information received from these public meetings, BOEM will
prepare a Proposed Program (PP), which will be published for public
comment, to be followed by a Proposed Final Program (PFP). In addition,
the Department will prepare a Draft Programmatic EIS to be published
concurrently with the PP, and a Final EIS with the PFP.
The DPP and the NOI will be available for public comment for 60 days
following the publication of the documents in the Federal Register.