2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program
In light of the unexpected rapid escalation of oil prices from late 2007 through mid-2008, the BOEM (then MMS) began the preparation process well ahead of schedule by publishing a Request for Information on August 1, 2008, providing the next administration the flexibility to consider leasing in areas not on the 2007-2012 Program schedule. The Secretary announced the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for a 2010-2015 program on January 16, 2009. By the time Secretary Ken Salazar assumed office, prices had dropped by more than 50 percent from their peak and, on February 10, 2009, Secretary Salazar extended the DPP comment period for an additional 180 days to September 21, 2009, and hosted four regional meetings in order to provide additional time for input from states, affected communities, and other stakeholders.
As a result of the comment period extension and BOEM’s reconsideration of existing policies and regulations in response to the Deepwater Horizon event on April 20, 2010, the time period to be covered by the new program shifted from 2010-2015 to 2012-2017. The January 2009 DPP remains the first of three draft decisions for the program (now for 2012-2017) that will replace the existing 2007 2012 program. The second proposal is the Proposed Program, which was announced on November 8, 2011, accompanied by the Draft EIS.
As part of the strategy announced on December 1, 2010, the Bureau published a Notice of Scoping Meetings on the EIS modifying the OCS areas to be scoped for inclusion in the 5-year Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). These areas are the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, as well as the area of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico not included in the Congressionally-mandated leasing moratorium, and the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet, off Alaska. The Department announced that scoping meetings would be held in Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and the Washington, D.C., area during the month of February, with an extension of the public comment period to March 31, 2011. While the selection of areas to be included in the 5-year EIS will not be a final determination of the areas to be considered for leasing in the new 5-year schedule of proposed lease sales, any areas not analyzed in an EIS cannot be later considered for leasing in the 2012-2017 program. Most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico planning area remains under a Congressionally-mandated moratorium and is not proposed for leasing in either the 2007-2012 program or the 2012-2017 program. BOEM will move forward with an environmental analysis for potential seismic studies in the Mid- and South Atlantic planning areas, but no lease sales will be scheduled in the Atlantic until at least mid-2017.
The next step in the creation of the 2012-2017 program is the publication of a Proposed Final Program and final EIS.