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.

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 mandate does BOEM have for conventional energy development?

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act established the OCS as "a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public, which should be made available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs." It gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to grant leases for the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas on the OCS.

What mandate does BOEM have for marine minerals development?

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act provides the authority to manage minerals on the OCS and the requirement to provide environmental oversight.