Enhancements to Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sales Process

The Department of the Interior's Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (Program), 2012 to 2017, introduces several enhancements to the Alaska OCS lease sale process.  An oil and gas lease sale allows qualified bidders to compete for exclusive rights to explore blocks in federal waters off Alaska.  Successful bidders who are awarded an OCS lease may then submit an exploration plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to obtain approval to explore those leased tracts for oil and gas resources.  Three oil and gas lease sales are scheduled for the Alaska OCS under the Program - the Chukchi Sea in 2016; Cook Inlet in 2016; and the Beaufort Sea in 2017.
The enhancements to the sale process include:

  • "targeted leasing" with the objective of moving away from area-wide sales in favor of a more geographically distinct proposal having high resource potential, clear indications of industry interest, and reflecting appropriate environmental protection and the interests of other users of the OCS;
  • an interactive mapping tool to display geospatial data and ongoing activities and studies occurring in the areas being considered for leasing; and
  • a mitigation/program tracking table to show how BOEM is considering the comments and information received at each stage of the OCS lease sale process.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will work closely with stakeholders to implement the enhancements to the program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is targeted leasing?
The targeted leasing strategy for the Arctic adopted with the Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 2012 to 2017, will identify areas considered for leasing that have high resource potential and clear indications of industry interest while appropriately weighing environmental protection and subsistence use needs.  The overall goal is to focus oil and gas leasing on the most promising blocks, while protecting important Arctic habitats and critical subsistence activities.  BOEM is instituting targeted leasing for Lease Sale 237, scheduled in 2016, in the Chukchi Sea program area and Lease Sale 242, scheduled in 2017, in the Beaufort Sea program area.

How does targeted leasing differ from area-wide leasing?
The Call for Information and Nominations (Call) requests that industry provide specific information to support its nominations of areas to be considered for leasing.  In addition, the Call solicits comments from stakeholders to identify areas that should not be considered for leasing or considered only under special conditions.  BOEM is seeking greater justification from industry for nominations and more specificity from commenters about areas recommended for exclusion or leased under special conditions.  Finally, the Call is issued prior to, rather than concurrent with, the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.  This process will help BOEM create a more geographically distinct proposal for analysis in the environmental impact statement.  BOEM hopes to lessen controversial issues and demonstrate its commitment to targeted leasing strategy early in the process.  The process will allow local communities and other stakeholders to focus attention on a more compact proposed lease sale area, allowing them to concentrate their limited resources toward developing more detailed and relevant comments.

Why was the change to targeted leasing from area-wide leasing made?
The Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 2012-2017, stated that while BOEM has determined that it is appropriate to continue area-wide leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM will not be conducting area-wide leasing in the Arctic, consistent with rigorous internal analysis as well as a number of outside recommendations to develop alternative leasing approaches for Arctic areas. Instead, oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic under the Program would be geographically targeted in scope to achieve an appropriate balance between making resources available, while limiting conflicts with environmentally sensitive areas and subsistence use.  Conflicts will be reduced by making certain determinations from the outset about which blocks within the program areas are most suitable for consideration of leasing, and removing other blocks from consideration at the Area Identification decision.
Does this mean that there will be a lease sale?
No. The publication of the Call in the Federal Register does not indicate a decision to lease in the Chukchi Sea.  The Call for Information and Nominations is the first step in a multiple-step lease sale process.  The Call asks industry, the public and key stakeholders about geologic, biological, archaeological, subsistence and/or or socio-economic conditions that may affect potential leasing and development decisions.  The decision whether or not to hold the sale will be made much later in the sale process.
Has the area for the lease sale been determined?
No.  The Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 2012 to 2017, schedules one lease sale in the Chukchi Sea program area and one lease sale in the Beaufort Sea program area.  The Call for Information and Nominations will provide information that BOEM will use in the Area Identification decision.  The Area Identification will become the proposed action for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.  BOEM will commence the NEPA process by publishing the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in the Federal Register.  Following publication of the environmental impact statement, BOEM will then publish a Proposed Notice of Sale, followed by a Final Notice of Sale, assuming the decision is made to proceed with the sale.

How are you using my comments on the Five Year Program?
The decision to pursue targeted leasing in the Arctic results from comments the Department of the Interior received from the public during the Five Year Program process.  Comments that related to the size, timing, and location were considered during the adoption of the Final Proposed Program.  BOEM then added comments related to alternatives, mitigations, temporal and spatial deferrals for individual program areas related to the Mitigation/Program Tracking Table on BOEM's website.  Those comments will be considered during the applicable stage of the OCS oil and gas lease sale process.  The table will be updated to inform stakeholders of how their input is addressed in relation to the Call.