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Key Modifications Based on Ongoing Reforms, Unparalleled Safety and Environmental Standards, and Rigorous Scientific Review
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced an updated oil and gas leasing strategy for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Based on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Department has raised the bar in the drilling and production stages for equipment, safety, environmental safeguards, and oversight. In order to focus on implementing these reforms efficiently and effectively, critical agency resources will be focused on planning areas that currently have leases for potential future development. As a result, the area in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that remains under a congressional moratorium, and the Mid and South Atlantic planning areas are no longer under consideration for potential development through 2017. The Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, the Cook Inlet, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic will continue to be considered for potential leasing before 2017.
“As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill we learned a number of lessons, most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime,” said Secretary Salazar. “As that regime continues to be developed and implemented, we have revised our initial March leasing strategy to focus and expend our critical resources on areas with leases that are currently active. Our revised strategy lays out a careful, responsible path for meeting our nation's energy needs while protecting our oceans and coastal communities.”
Consistent with the President's Executive Order on National Ocean Policy, today's modified plan also confirms many actions announced in March, including environmental analysis to determine whether seismic studies should be conducted in the Mid and South Atlantic, and rigorous scientific analysis of the Arctic to determine if future oil and gas development could be conducted safely.
Lease sales in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico under the 2007-2012 program are currently scheduled to begin in approximately 12 months, after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) completes appropriate environmental analyses that take into account effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Analyses and public meetings will also take place to help determine if additional lease sales in these areas should proceed as part of the 2012-2017 program.
In connection with today's announcement, BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich stated that he is in the process of completing an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through which NOAA will collaborate with BOEMRE in the environmental analyses for OCS planning.
Interior and BOEMRE remain committed to working with all relevant partners and stakeholders as we enact and build upon key reforms in this vital industry.
A map of the Revised Alaska OCS Oil and Gas Strategy is HERE.
A map of the Revised Lower 48 OCS Oil and Gas Strategy is HERE.
GULF OF MEXICO
Lease sales in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico under the 2007-2012 program are currently scheduled to proceed in late 2011 or early 2012, after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) completes appropriate environmental analyses.
Interior will also soon begin public meetings and environmental analysis to inform decisions about when and where lease sales in portions of the Gulf of Mexico currently not under congressional moratorium will be held during 2012-2017.
Most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico planning remains under a Congressionally-mandated drilling moratorium and is not proposed for leasing in either the 2007-2012 program or the 2012-2017 program.
Offshore drilling in Alaska is under careful review and consideration by the Department of the Interior and BOEMRE. These efforts include scientific and environmental studies, public meetings, and additional analysis of oil spill response capabilities in the Arctic.
BOEMRE will soon begin to hold public meetings in Alaska to gather important public input and information for an environmental impact statement that will help inform Secretary Salazar's decision on whether and where to schedule Alaska lease sales under the 2012-2017 program. The public meetings will cover the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Cook Inlet planning areas.
Decisions about the 2012-2017 program will be informed by an ongoing United States Geological Survey (USGS) assessment of resources, risks, and environmental sensitivities in Arctic areas, and input from other federal agencies, including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Though no further lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas will be held under the 2007-2012 program, BOEMRE will continue to honor existing leases in the Arctic. Currently, one application to drill (APD) in the Arctic is pending before BOEMRE. The APD, submitted by Shell, proposes to drill one exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea in the summer of 2011. BOEMRE is processing that permit request. The Bureau is preparing additional environmental analysis of the area in light of Shell's permit application. BOEMRE is working closely with other federal agencies that also must approve aspects of the proposed drilling activity, including NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency.
If Shell's proposed drilling operation is approved, BOEMRE would have safety personnel on site throughout the drilling operation to monitor the operation and hold them accountable for compliance with BOEMRE's drilling safety and environmental regulations.
MID AND SOUTH ATLANTIC
Because the potential oil and gas resources in the Mid and South Atlantic are currently not well-known, Interior will move forward with an environmental analysis for potential seismic studies in the Mid and South Atlantic OCS to support conventional and renewable energy planning. No lease sales will be scheduled in the Atlantic in the 2007-2012 program or in the 2012-2017 program.
For more information about the offshore oil and gas strategy announced today, visit www.doi.gov.