Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management?

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is an agency in the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) responsible for managing development of the nation's offshore resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way.

What is the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)?

The OCS is all submerged lands lying seaward of state coastal waters which are under U.S. jurisdiction.

What is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act?

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act assigns the Secretary of the Interior the responsibility for the administration of mineral exploration and development of the OCS. The Act empowers the Secretary to grant leases to the highest qualified responsible bidder on the basis of sealed competitive bids and to formulate regulations as necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act. The Act, as amended, provides guidelines for implementing an OCS oil and gas exploration and development program.

What is the process for leasing OCS oil and gas?

BOEM has oversight responsibility on oil and gas leasing activities within the OCS. Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a five-year oil and gas leasing program (5-Year Program) that consists of a five-year schedule of proposed lease sales that shows the size, timing, and location of leasing activity as precisely as possible. The process to develop a 5-Year Program includes: three separate comment periods, two separate draft proposals, a final proposal, and development of an environmental impact statement (EIS). This statutorily mandated process usually takes about two and a half years. After the Secretary of the Interior approves the Proposed Final Program, BOEM sends it to Congress. If Congress does not pass legislation to modify the proposal within 60 days, the 5-Year Program becomes final. View the Leasing 101 Guide. The current OCS oil and gas leasing statistics are updated and posted monthly in a Combined Leasing Status Report.

What are exploration plans and development plans?

An exploration plan (EP) and its supporting information must be submitted for BOEM approval before an operator (the company assigned by the lessee) may begin exploratory drilling on a lease. The EP sets out how the operator will explore the lease and describes all exploration activities planned by the operator, the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling, the location of each well, and other relevant information.

If the operator completes its exploration and discovers oil and/or natural gas, it must come to BOEM with a plan on how it is going to develop the prospect. This development plan will include how many wells and where these wells will be located, what type of structure will be used, and how it will get the oil and natural gas to shore.

BOEM has created a simplified flowchart outlining the approval process for an exploration plan and a development plan. The process involves reviews by BOEM and various federal and state agencies.

Track the status of Gulf of Mexico Plans.

What mandate does BOEM have for renewable energy?

The President announced on April 22, 2009, that the Interior Department completed the Final Renewable Energy Framework or rulemaking process to govern management of the Renewable Energy Program. The final rule establishes a program to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way for orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities, such as the siting and construction of offshore wind farms on the OCS as well as other forms of renewable energy such as wave, current and solar.

Key mandates for the Renewable Energy Program include safety; protection of the environment; coordination with affected state and local governments and Federal agencies; fair return for use of OCS lands; and equitable sharing of revenue with states.

What happened to the functions of the former Minerals Management Service (MMS)?

On May 19, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Secretarial Order dividing the Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three independent entities to better carry out its three missions of 1) ensuring the balanced and responsible development of energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf; 2) ensuring safe and environmentally responsible exploration and production and enforcing applicable rules and regulations; and 3) ensuring a fair return to the taxpayer from offshore royalty and revenue collection and disbursement activities.

MMS was renamed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), and a broad reorganization plan was implemented to facilitate the restructuring and transition of its offshore energy management responsibilities.

On October 1, 2010, the bureau completed the transfer of the revenue collection function. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue resides under the jurisdiction of DOI's Office of Policy, Management and Budget.

BOEMRE dissolved when the final stage of the reorganization became effective on October 1, 2011, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) were established.

BOEM functions include leasing, plan administration, environmental studies, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, resource evaluation, economic analysis and the renewable energy program.

BSEE functions encompass all field operations including permitting and research, inspections, offshore regulatory programs, oil spill response, and training and environmental compliance functions.