Secretary Zinke Proposes Lease Sales For Nearly All U.S. Outer Continental Shelf

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has laid out the next step for developing the national Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. On January 4, 2018, Zinke announced proposed plans to make more than 90% of total OCS acreage and about 98% of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to be considered for future exploration and development.
Secretary Zinke

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands, and parks,” he said. “Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American energy dominance.”

Earlier this year, 155 members of both the U.S. House and Senate sent letters to Zinke in support of a new five-year plan that recognizes America’s potential for energy dominance. The draft proposed program includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas—19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic region. This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the national OCS program’s five-year lease schedule.

“This plan is an early signal to the global marketplace that the United States intends to remain a global leader in responsible offshore energy development and produce affordable American energy for many decades to come,” said Katharine MacGregor, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the U.S. Department of the Interior. “This proposed plan shows our commitment to a vibrant offshore energy economy that supports the thousands of men and women working in the offshore energy industry, from supply vessels to rig crews.”

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the secretary of the Interior, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to prepare and maintain a schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales in federal waters, indicating the size, timing, and location of leasing activity that would best meet national energy needs for the five-year period following program approval. In developing the national OCS Program, the secretary is required to achieve an appropriate balance among the potential for environmental impacts, for discovery of oil and gas, and for adverse effects on the coastal zone.