US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced the proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing program for 2012 to 2017, which makes available for exploration and development more than 75% of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources estimated in federal offshore areas.
The program includes six offshore areas where there are currently active leases and exploration and where there is known or anticipated hydrocarbon potential. It schedules 15 potential lease sales for the 2012 to 2017 period – 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the coast of Alaska.
“Expanding safe and responsible oil and gas production from the OCS is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home,” Mr Salazar said. “This five-year program will make available for development more than three-quarters of undiscovered oil and gas resources estimated on the OCS, including frontier areas such as the Arctic, where we must proceed cautiously, safely and based on the best science available.”
The proposed program reflects the need for a regionally tailored approach to offshore development that accounts for issues such as current knowledge of resource potential, adequacy of infrastructure, including oil spill response capabilities, and the need for a balanced approach to using natural resources.
“A key part of safe and responsible development of our oil and gas resources is recognizing that different environments and communities require different approaches and technologies. In Alaska and off its coast, the proposed program recommends that the current inventory of already-leased areas in the Arctic should be expanded only after additional evaluations have been completed, and in a manner that accounts for the Arctic’s unique environmental resources and the social, cultural and subsistence needs of Native Alaskan communities,” deputy secretary David J Hayes said.
Included in the proposal are lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but the single sales are scheduled late in the five-year period to facilitate further scientific study and data collection and longer-term planning for spill response preparedness and infrastructure. The proposal suggests that any lease sale in the Arctic be tailored to protect sensitive environmental resources, including those accessed by Native Alaskans for subsistence uses.
The proposal will be open for public comment and consideration. A proposed final program and a final environmental impact statement will be submitted to the president and Congress after public comment and review periods.