“Areas that were considered too expensive to develop a year ago are no longer necessarily out of reach based on improvements to technology and safety,” he noted.
President Bush lifted the Executive Withdrawal on oil and gas leasing operations on the OCS on 13 July, calling on Congress to lift its ban that has been in place since 1982. He also urged Congress to enact legislation that would allow states to have a say regarding operations off their shores and to share in the resulting revenues.
Because of the current energy situation and the president’s action, Secretary Kempthorne has directed the MMS to begin the initial steps for developing a new five-year program that accurately reflects the nation’s needs. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five-year program should consider. MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five-year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments.
The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 OCS planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area, although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action.
The OCS currently provides 27% of US domestic oil production and 15% of domestic natural gas production — most of that from the Gulf of Mexico. The areas under a congressional ban contain an additional 18 billion bbl of oil and 76 trillion cu ft of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.
Those numbers are considered conservative estimates because little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past quarter of a century because of the congressional ban. Interior’s estimates are based on available data. Estimates tend to increase as technology improves and exploration activities occur.
This initiative uses the process mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978 (286.05 KB PDF file), which give the Secretary of the Interior authority to develop “out-of-cycle” leasing programs and requires various procedural steps, including several rounds of public comment and multiple environmental reviews.
The Call for Information will be published in the Federal Register on 1 August 2008. The public may submit comments during the next 45 days by using MMS’ Public Connect online commenting system or by mail to:
Five-Year Program Manager
Minerals Management Service (MS-4010)
381 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170