2017-2022 Proposed Final Program Frequently Asked Questions - General

General Alaska Atlantic Gulf of Mexico Pacific Additional Questions

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What is the Proposed Final Program?

The Proposed Final Program is the third and final proposal to develop a schedule of potential lease sales for the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

Why does BOEM prepare the Five-Year Program for Oil and Gas Leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)?

Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare and maintain a schedule of proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas lease sales determined to best meet national energy needs for the five years following approval of the schedule. The Five-Year Program provides a schedule of potential oil and gas lease sales, indicating the size, timing, and location of proposed leasing activity. The current Five-Year Program for 2012–2017 expires in August 2017.

What are the next steps in the Five-Year Program development process?

Following the publication of the Proposed Final Program (PFP) and the Final Programmatic EIS, under Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), there is a 60-day period following submission of the PFP to Congress and the President, after which the Secretary may approve the final 2017-2022.

What areas are included in the Proposed Final Program?

The Proposed Final Program proposes sales in four planning areas—three in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska.

Where are lease sales proposed?

The Proposed Final Program schedules 11 potential lease sales for the 2017–2022 period in four planning areas – 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of Alaska. (See Lease Sale Schedule for details.)

How does this Proposed Final Program differ from the current (2012-2017) program?

There are two main differences. One difference in the 2017-2022 program is that we are proposing to hold ten region-wide sales comprised of the Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico unleased acreage not subject to moratoria or otherwise unavailable, instead of separately offering the Central and Western areas in two annual sales and periodic sales in the Eastern area. Additionally, no sales will be held in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and the Cook Inlet Program area has been reduced as compared to the 2012-2017 Program area.

How does the Proposed Final Program differ from the Proposed Program?

The main difference between the Proposed Final Program and the Proposed Program is the removal of proposed lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

How many comments did BOEM receive on the Proposed Program?

BOEM received more than 1.83 million comments on the Proposed Program from the public, various stakeholders, including numerous environmental and other NGOs, government entities (e.g., local municipalities, county, state, and elected officials), local businesses, industry, academic institutions, and tribes and tribal organizations from Alaska. The comments expressed a full spectrum of views on offshore leasing. BOEM also received about 75,000 comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

How many public meetings were held?

There were 13 public meetings on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement in the Gulf of Mexico area and in Alaska.

Did the Secretary take the comments received into consideration when making decisions on the Proposed Final Program?

Yes, public input is an integral part of the national oil and gas leasing program development process. Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act specifies a multi-step process of consultation and analysis that must be completed before the Secretary may approve a new Five-Year Program. This process requires the Secretary to consider, among other factors, comments and concerns of States, local governments, industry, and tribes, as well as public input.

How many opportunities did the public have to weigh in on this proposed Five-Year Program?

There were multiple opportunities for the public to provide comments during the program preparation process—three under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and two under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Public comments were reviewed at each of the following steps:

Past Opportunities

1. Issuance of an initial Request for Information and Comments (Received approximately 500,000 comments).

2. Issuance of the Draft Proposed Program (over a million comments received).

3. Scoping period, which included public meetings, prior to preparing a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (23 public scoping meetings and almost 380,000 comments received)

4. Issuance of the Proposed Program (over 1.83 million comments received.)

5. Issuance of the Draft PEIS, concurrent with the issuance of the Proposed Program, (13 public meetings and about 75,000 comments received.)

What factors are considered when deciding where and when to hold a lease sale?

Pursuant to Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, there are eight factors considered in determining size, timing and location of leasing:

1. Geographic, Geological, and Ecological Characteristics

2. Equitable Sharing of Developmental Benefits and Environmental Risks

3. Location with Respect to Regional and National Energy Markets and Needs

4. Location with Respect to Other Uses of the Sea and Seabed

5. Interest of Potential Oil and Gas Producers

6. Laws, Goals, and Policies of Affected States

7. Environmental Sensitivity and Marine Productivity

8. Environmental and Predictive Information

The size, timing and location decisions made by the Secretary of the Interior also must, to the maximum extent practicable, balance the potential for environmental damage, the potential for the discovery of oil and gas, and the potential for adverse impact on the coastal zone.

Is there a priority of importance for the eight factors and/or the balancing decision elements?

No. There is no priority as to the importance of the eight factors. Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires that the Secretary consider them all in making decisions. The Court has stated that the Act vests the Secretary with discretion to weigh the elements so as to “best meet national energy needs.”

Can a lease sale be cancelled once the Program is finalized?

Yes. Once a Final Program is approved, the Secretary has discretion to cancel or delay a lease sale as well as to narrow the geographic scope of a proposed leasing area, without developing a new program.

Can a lease sale be added once the Program is finalized?

The Department of the Interior cannot offer an area for lease or add an additional lease sale within an area without it being included in an approved Five-Year Program. However, the geographic scope of a lease sale area can be narrowed and a lease sale can be cancelled during the implementation of a Five-Year Program.

What actions could a future administration take to alter this Program before it is implemented?

Once completed, any significant revisions to the Program would require undertaking a new Five-Year Program planning and development process. The process to develop this Five-Year Program was initiated in June 2014.

The inclusion of an area in the Proposed Final Program or in an approved program, however, does not necessarily mean that the area will be offered in a lease sale. There are several subsequent decision points available for reducing the area offered or cancelling a sale.

Are some areas of the OCS off-limits for potential oil and gas development?

Yes. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA) placed portions of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off-limits to oil and gas leasing through June 30, 2022. Specifically, leasing is prohibited in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of Florida; all of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico east of 86 degrees, 41 minutes West longitude; and a portion of the Central Gulf of Mexico within 100 miles of Florida.

Pursuant to Section 12 of the OCS Lands Act, on December 16, 2014, President Obama withdrew the North Aleutian Basin (including Bristol Bay) in Alaska, for a time period without a specific expiration, from consideration of leasing for the purposes of oil and gas exploration, development, or production.

Also pursuant to Section 12 of the OCS Lands Act, on January 27, 2015, President Obama withdrew portions of the Alaskan Arctic planning areas from future oil and gas leasing consideration for a time period without specific expiration. These Presidential withdrawals included a 25-mile coastal buffer, subsistence use area, and the Hanna Shoal (lying within the contours of the 40-meter isobath) in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area and the Barrow and Kaktovik whaling areas in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area.

Similarly, all National Marine Sanctuaries were withdrawn, for a time period without a specific expiration, by President Clinton on June 12, 1998.

How much oil and gas is on the OCS?

The Bureau estimates that the entire OCS contains approximately 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil (bbo) and 327 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas (leased and unleased – mean estimate). In total, the Proposed Final Program makes available nearly one half of the estimated undiscovered technically recoverable OCS oil and gas resources and approximately 70 percent of the economically recoverable resources at an oil price of $40 per barrel.