On Friday, the Department of the Interior issued the proposed program for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for years 2023-2028.
The program includes no more than 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one potential lease sale in the northern portion of the Cook Inlet Planning Area offshore Alaska, which is the same as in the Five-Year Program finalized in 2016. These potential lease sales, including in the Gulf, could be further refined and targeted, based on public input and analysis, prior to program approval. The Final Program also may include fewer potential lease sales, including no lease sales.
“Today, based on my team’s work and my direction, the Department of the Interior is inviting the public to comment on a proposed offshore leasing program that will chart our course forward over the next five years," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, said in a statement. "This is the second step in a three-step planning process to determine whether or how many offshore oil and gas lease sales to hold over the next five years. The proposed plan puts forward several options from no lease sales up to 11 lease sales over the next five years.
"Like the current program finalized in 2016, it removes from consideration the federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts while inviting public comment on 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet off south-central Alaska," Haaland continued. "A proposed program is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development. From day one, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy. Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing. The time for the public to weigh in on our future is now."
Release of the proposed program follows the 2018 publication of the draft proposed program (DPP) and is the second of three required steps before approval the final program. Following publication in the Federal Register, the Interior Department will seek public comment on the proposed program and the accompanying Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).
The DPP released in 2018 by the Trump administration proposed 47 lease sales across 25 of 26 OCS planning areas. Under the proposed program announced Friday, the secretary significantly narrowed the area considered for leasing to the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, where there is existing production and infrastructure.
Inclusion of an area or a potential lease sale in the proposed program does not mean that it will be included in the final National OCS Program. However, any area or sale not included in the proposed program will not be considered for inclusion in the final 2023–2028 National OCS Program.
Following publication of the DPP during the Trump administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) considered more than two 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 advocacy groups, and the public.
All materials and information on how to register for the upcoming virtual meetings, can be found on BOEM’s website.
After the public comment period, BOEM will prepare a proposed final program and final PEIS, which will include analysis of the size, timing, location, and number of potential lease sales in the proposed program. Those may be further narrowed or areas could be excluded. There is then a minimum 60-day period before the Interior Department can approve the program and finalize the record of decision.