The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) last week issued a call for information and nominations for potential Oil and Gas Lease Sale 242, proposed for the Beaufort Sea Planning Area off Alaska in 2017.
The 45-day call seeks to gather information about specific areas within the Beaufort Sea Planning Area that have the most promising oil and gas resource potential, while also increasing the agency’s understanding about environmentally sensitive habitats and important social and cultural uses – including vital Alaska Native subsistence activities – that also exist within the area.
Issuing the call is an early step in the bureau’s targeted approach to leasing offshore Alaska, as established in the Department of the Interior’s 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program. The call does not indicate a final decision about any areas that may be offered for lease in the future.
“There is significant oil and gas potential in the Beaufort Sea, but this part of the Arctic Ocean is also a unique and sensitive environment that is critically important to the subsistence needs of Alaska Native communities on the North Slope,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “Any consideration of future leasing must be done in a way that identifies not only the areas that have resource potential, but also those areas that must be protected for wildlife and traditional uses.”
Consistent with the targeted leasing approach, the call is designed to provide BOEM with information about interest in offshore oil and gas leasing by requesting that industry identify specific blocks in the Beaufort Sea Program Area that appear promising for oil and gas exploration and development.
The call requests that industry rank its interest in particular areas according to five levels of priority, ranging from “critical interest” to “no interest.” If a nomination falls outside the area BOEM has determined to have a high hydrocarbon potential, the nominating company will be required to provide detailed information about the basis for its level of interest in the nominated area, including a summary of the relevant geologic, geophysical and economic information.
The call asks all interested parties for comments relevant to BOEM’s analysis of areas for potential leasing as well as areas that should be considered for exclusion from leasing due to conflicting values, uses or environmental concerns. Interested parties are encouraged to be as specific as possible in explaining why an area should be excluded or leased under special conditions and provide applicable supporting information. Comments might include information about geological conditions, such as bottom hazards; archaeological sites on the seabed or near shore; multiple uses of the area, including navigation and subsistence; and other socioeconomic, biological or environmental information.
BOEM will make decisions about potential areas for leasing after evaluating industry interest in the resource potential of specific areas and continuing its analysis of scientific information and traditional knowledge regarding environmental issues and potential conflicts with uses such as subsistence activities. Any future lease sale in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area would also undergo thorough environmental reviews and consultations under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws. BOEM will coordinate closely with other relevant federal agencies, the State of Alaska and local governments, Alaska Native tribes and organizations, and other key stakeholders throughout this process.
The call for information and nominations is available on the BOEM website at: www.boem.gov/ak242. The call will appear in the Federal Register’s public reading room Monday, July 28; and be published in the Federal Register Tuesday, July 29. Comments on the call are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted to BOEM in accordance with the instructions in the Federal Register notice.