On September 29, 2023, BOEM announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the potential impacts of a representative oil and gas lease sale (Proposed Action) and the potential associated site and activity-specific OCS oil- and gas-related activities in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program (2024-2029 PFP) includes proposed OCS oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).
Gulf of Mexico Regional OCS Oil and Gas Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Regional OCS Oil and Gas Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed to examine a proposed potential oil and gas lease sale offered in Federal OCS waters that may be within BOEM’s GOM Western (WPA), Central (CPA), and the portion of the Eastern Planning Area (EPA) not subject to Presidential withdrawal. The EIS will focus its analysis on the potential environmental effects of OCS oil and natural gas leasing from a representative single proposed lease sale and associated OCS oil- and gas-related activities in the proposed lease sale areas. These planning areas encompass the areas offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
This analysis will be used to determine whether a conventional energy lease sale included in a National OCS Program (current and future) may be held. This analysis will also inform decisions for site and activity-specific OCS oil- and gas-related activity approvals and/or to help inform extraordinary circumstance reviews to ensure that categorical exclusions are used appropriately. Additionally, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis for those activities approvals may tier from this programmatic NEPA document.
Why is BOEM starting the Regional EIS Process Before the National OCS Program is Finalized?
BOEM must begin the formal lease sale planning process now due to the long lead time necessary to complete the process, which includes extensive environmental reviews, analysis, public input, and decision-making. This lead time is necessary to maintain the Secretary’s flexibility to potentially hold the first lease sale in the 2024–2029 Program by 2025.
Scoping is an integral part of the NEPA process, and the public is encouraged to participate and submit comments on the proposed action during the scoping period. Public comments are valuable when considering the potential environmental impacts of a proposed action and are also used in the development of alternatives, establishing the scope of analysis needed, creating potential mitigating measures, and determining data requirements and analysis procedures.
- The publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register on October 2, 2023, formally starts the 30-day public scoping period.
- All comments must be received by November 1, 2023, at 11:59 pm ET. Anonymous comments will not be accepted.
- There will be virtual scoping meetings to learn more about the GOM Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS and to provide comments on the scope of the analysis.
- October 17, 2023, at 6:00 pm CT https://kearnswest.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0SuNsbfcSCyiRJZyMNYBrw#/registration
- October 19, 2023, at 1:00 pm CT https://kearnswest.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NKlgoB17TLu8_bK-gcHViQ#/registration
Alternatives for the Proposed Action
BOEM plans to analyze four alternatives for the Proposed Action and would like the public’s input on the proposed alternatives, or additional alternative ideas. The proposed alternatives for analysis include the alternative listed below.
Alternative A – No Action. This alternative will analyze the cancellation of a single proposed GOM oil and gas lease sale.
Alternative B – Regionwide OCS Lease Sale. This alternative would allow for a proposed GOM lease sale including all available unleased blocks in the WPA, CPA, and EPA lease sale areas for oil and gas operations, with the following exceptions:
- whole and portions of blocks currently under Presidential withdrawal (The White House 2020)
- blocks that are adjacent to or beyond the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone (Extended Continental Shelf Area); and
- whole and partial blocks within the boundaries of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as of the July 2008 Memorandum on Withdrawal of Certain Areas of U.S. OCS from Leasing Disposition.
- correlates to Program Area 1 from the 2024-2029 Proposed Final Program and
- will analyze lease stipulations and other mitigating measures for environmental protection.
Alternative C – Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 Targeted Lease Sale Area. This alternative would allow for a proposed lease sale area within a reduced geographic area by excluding targeted areas from Alternative B. This alternative would include all available unleased blocks in the WPA, CPA, and EPA lease sale areas for oil and gas operations, with the following exceptions:
- blocks that were excluded from consideration under Alternative B;
- whole and partial blocks that are proposed to be subject to the Topographic Features Stipulation
- whole and partial blocks that are proposed to be subject to the Live Bottom (Pinnacle Trend) Stipulation
- whole and partial blocks that are proposed to be subject to the Blocks South of Baldwin County, Alabama, stipulation;
- whole and partial blocks that have been identified as Significant Sediment Resource Areas (SSRA);
- Wind Energy Area Options (Areas A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, and N) and final Wind Energy Areas (Areas I and M)
- whole and partial blocks within the Rice’s whale core distribution area
- whole and partial blocks within the Rice’s whale proposed critical habitat between the 100- and 400-meter (m) (328- and 1,312-foot [ft]) isobath.
- would exclude several areas for environmental protection purposes and avoid conflicts with other ocean uses and
- would satisfy the requirement in the Inflation Reduction Act by offering an aggregate of at least 60 million acres for offshore oil and gas leasing within a 12-month period prior to issuing offshore wind energy leases.
Alternative D –Targeted Lease Sale Area with Additional Exclusions. This alternative would allow for a proposed lease sale area within a smaller geographic area than Alternative C by excluding additional areas for environmental considerations and marine spatial planning. Alternative D would allow for a proposed GOM lease sale, including all available unleased blocks in the WPA and CPA lease sale areas for oil and gas operations, with the following exceptions:
- blocks that were excluded from consideration under Alternatives B and C;
- whole and partial blocks in the EPA of the GOM;
- additional whole and partial blocks of the Gulf of Mexico Wind Leasing Call Area
- whole and partial blocks in coastal OCS waters shoreward of the 20-m (66-ft) isobath to avoid additional stressors to coastal stocks of bottlenose dolphin;
- whole and partial blocks around the expanded Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as of March 22, 2021
- whole and partial blocks identified by the Department of Defense as mission incompatibility areas.
- will exclude additional targeted portions of the WPA, CPA, and EPA that have been identified as sensitive for marine spatial planning and environmental protection and
- would not, on its own, provide sufficient acreage to satisfy the aggregate lease acreage requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Potential Effects of OCS Oil- and Gas-Related Activities and Programmatic Issues Considered for the Analysis
BOEM plans to analyze the potential effects of OCS oil- and gas-related activities and wants the public’s input. BOEM is considering analyzing:
- Air Emissions and Pollution
- Discharges and Wastes
- Bottom Disturbance
- Coastal Land Use/Modification
- Lighting and Visual Impacts
- Offshore Habitat Modification
- Socioeconomic Changes and Drivers
- Unintended Releases into the Environment
- Response Activities
- Strikes and Collisions
BOEM also plans to analyze programmatic issues in the Programmatic EIS and wants the public’s input. BOEM is considering:
- Climate Change
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Space-Use Conflicts
- Non-OCS Oil- and Gas-Related Activities
- Natural Processes
Resources Considered for Analysis
BOEM plans to analyze several resources in the Gulf of Mexico to determine the impacts of a proposed OCS oil and gas lease sale and wants the public’s input. BOEM is considering analyzing:
- Air Quality
- Water Quality
- Coastal Communities and Habitats
- Benthic Communities and Habitats
- Pelagic Communities and Habitats
- Fishes and Invertebrates
- Marine Mammals
- Sea Turtles
- Commercial Fisheries
- Recreational Fishing
- Recreational Resources
- Cultural, Historic, and Archaeological Resources
- Land Use and Coastal Infrastructure
- Economic Factors
- Social Factors Including Environmental Justice
Greenhouse Gas Analysis
BOEM will be conducting a greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis for the GOM Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS and wants the public’s input on the methodology and analysis. BOEM’s Analysis of a proposed GOM oil and gas lease sale includes consideration of GHG emissions and associated social costs (the GHG Analysis). The GHG Analysis for the proposed action will be similar in structure to that found in Chapters 1, 2, and 4 of the Economic Analysis Methodology for the 2024-2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program.
- BOEM’s Global GHG Emissions Analysis: The components of the global GHG emissions analyzed are captured in the table below:
|Proposed Action: new OCS oil and gas production from a single representative lease sale||Quantified||Quantified||Quantified|
|No Action Alternative: all domestically consumed substitutes of forgone OCS oil and gas production (onshore, gross imports, renewables, reduced domestic demand)||Quantified||Quantified||Quantified|
|Foreign Oil Market Change due to a decrease in global oil prices under the Proposed Action||Quantified*
(New since previous lease sale analysis)
|Under consideration but unavailable at this time*||Quantified|
|Substitutes for Oil in Foreign Markets (natural gas, coal, biofuels, renewables, reduced demand)||Not available at this time given available resources *||Not available at this time given available resources *||Not available at this time given available resources *|
Key: *= Foreign oil production and consumption are not modeled as dynamically as domestic oil production and consumption. The Market Simulation Model’s (MartketSim) estimate of the shifts in foreign oil markets does not include cross-price effects. See Memorandum: Capabilities of MarketSim and the OECM for the Estimation of GHG Emissions Impacts
- Social Costs of GHG Emissions: After estimating GHG emissions, BOEM then estimates their social costs of GHG Emissions Analysis
- The Social Cost of GHG Emissions (SC-GHG) is an estimate of the economic costs associated with an increase in GHG emissions above baseline conditions.
- BOEM applies separate per-metric-ton SC-GHG values for each of the three main GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).
- New since last lease sale analysis:
- Estimates of the increase in foreign oil’s upstream GHG emissions and their social costs
- Expanded chapter on uncertainty to include quantification of net-zero pathways potential effect on substitutions and GHG emissions.
Comments on the NOI may be submitted in one of the following ways:
Through the Regulations.gov web portal:
- Navigate to http://www.regulations.gov and under the Search tab, in the space provided, type in Docket ID: BOEM-2023-0046 to submit comments and to view other comments already submitted. Or go directly to: https://www.regulations.gov/search?filter=BOEM-2023-0046.
- Oral testimony during a virtual scoping meeting scheduled for:
- October 17, 2023, at 6:00 pm CT https://kearnswest.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0SuNsbfcSCyiRJZyMNYBrw#/registration
- October 19, 2023, at 1:00 pm CT https://kearnswest.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NKlgoB17TLu8_bK-gcHViQ#/registration
*Note that comments will be time limited
Questions to consider when making comments:
- What environmental resources could be affected by OCS oil- and gas-related activities?
- What do you think are the environmental issues of concern?
- Do you have any feedback on the proposed alternatives or additional alternatives to consider?
- What scientific or technical information should BOEM include in its analysis?
- Are there any clarifications or additional questions BOEM can help answer regarding the concept of energy market substitution as it relates to the GHG analysis?
- Are the differences between the analyses of domestic and foreign energy market GHG emissions clear? If not, what questions do you have?
- Is there additional technical information that BOEM should consider in the GHG analysis?
For additional information on the NEPA process and how to have your voice heard, visit https://ceq.doe.gov/docs/get-involved/citizens-guide-to-nepa-2021.pdf.
For additional tips on providing helpful comments, please visit BOEM Comment Tips Letter.
All in-scope comments (whether written or oral) will be organized, summarized, and addressed in the GOM Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS.
For media questions email: email@example.com
During the scoping period, BOEM will hold two virtual scoping meetings where the public will learn more about the environmental review process and have an opportunity to ask questions and provide scoping comments for the draft GOM Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS. The virtual scoping meetings will be held on:
- October 17, 2023, at 6:00 pm
- October 19, 2023, at 1:00 pm
Programmatic Description of the Potential Effects from Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil- and Gas-Related Activities: A Supporting Information Document
- This document is intended to provide subject-matter experts, decisionmakers, and the public with a broad characterization of the Gulf of Mexico OCS, the potential activities associated with oil and gas leasing on the Gulf of Mexico OCS, other activities and environmental factors not associated with OCS oil and gas leasing, and how these various activities and factors might interact with resources in the physical, biological, and human environments. This document is intended to assist with streamlining future environmental documents prepared by BOEM under NEPA, such as Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leasing EISs by providing supporting information that can be incorporated by reference, consistent with the Council on Environmental Quality’s NEPA implementing regulations. The Area of Analysis includes the Federal OCS waters of the Gulf of Mexico that are within BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico WPA, CPA, and EPA. The Area of Analysis also includes the State waters and coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. This document analyzes the potential effects to air and water quality; coastal, benthic, and pelagic habitats and communities; fishes and invertebrates; birds; marine mammals; sea turtles; commercial fisheries; recreational fishing; recreational resources; archaeological resources; economics; land use; and other social factors.
- This document compiles information that describes the biological resources of the GOM region and then explores these resources’ vulnerability to BOEM-regulated activities associated with the exploration and development of oil and gas, marine minerals, and renewable energy. This background report may inform future internal and external efforts to describe GOM habitats and associated biological resources. This document will also inform future potential impact assessments of BOEM’s programmatic activities prepared under NEPA. BOEM intends to use this document to inform future outreach processes with other Federal agencies and Tribal governments. Importantly, this document does not replace the NEPA process or obligations to consult. BOEM will only use this document as a more in-depth and technical reference for public NEPA documents.
- The objective of this document is to establish a current, comprehensive discussion describing the regulations that govern the environmental reviews for BOEM and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s offshore activities involving oil, natural gas, renewable energy, and marine minerals in the GOM. It provides a framework of regulations and policies addressed in NEPA documents required for the OCS oil and gas leasing program. Historically, these regulations and policies were discussed in past NEPA documents for BOEM’s oil and gas lease sales, which contributed to lengthy documents.
This Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Assessment serves as the initiation of a Programmatic EFH Consultation between BOEM’s New Orleans Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for oil- and gas-related activities on the Gulf of Mexico OCS. Pursuant to Section 305(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Federal agencies are required to consult with NMFS on any action that may result in adverse effects to EFH. The NMFS published the final rule implementing the EFH provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (50 CFR part 600) on January 17, 2002. Certain OCS activities authorized by BOEM may result in adverse effects to EFH and require consultation.
- The Proposed Final Program phase of the National OCS Program provides a final national analysis of the potential lease sales in the 2024-2029 Program, which the Secretary can consider in making future decisions.
- This final programmatic environmental impact statement (Final Programmatic EIS) describes and analyzes the potential environmental impacts that could result from leasing, exploration, production, and decommissioning associated with lease sales contemplated in the 2024-2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program (Proposed Final Program). This document was prepared in accordance with NEPA (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq.) and implementing regulations. This analysis encompasses the 25 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management OCS oil and gas planning areas included in the Draft Proposed Program (released in January 2018) and considers a range of alternatives, as analyzed in the Draft Programmatic EIS (released in July 2022). The Final Programmatic EIS informed the Secretary’s Third Proposal and Proposed Final Program, which was released concurrently with the 2024–2029 National OCS Program Programmatic EIS.
BOEM is the agency in the Department of the Interior that oversees science-informed management of oil and gas, renewable energy, and mineral resources on the OCS. BOEM currently manages more than 2,000 active OCS oil and gas leases, covering nearly 11 million acres — the vast majority of which are in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) consists of all submerged lands (the seafloor) lying seaward of State waters. The OCS consists of about 2.5 billion acres, which is more than the total land area of the entire United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. BOEM divides the OCS into 26 planning areas. Planning areas are administrative divisions used as the initial basis for considering what areas to lease.
A lease sale is the process by which BOEM provides qualified bidders the right to bid for and obtain a lease on the OCS. BOEM may hold oil and gas lease sales within an approved National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program at the Secretary’s discretion. In accordance with BOEM’s regulations and 30 CFR part 556, and the procedures set forth in a Final Notice of Sale (which is published at least 30 days prior to a lease sale), bids are submitted to BOEM in advance in a sealed envelope; on sale day, the high bids on each block are read aloud publicly. No bids are accepted or rejected by BOEM at that time. After the sale day, BOEM has 90 days to evaluate the bids to ensure the receipt of fair market value, and the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission conduct an anti-trust review of the lease sale. If all requirements are met, BOEM can then issue leases to the winning bidders. A lease is an agreement issued pursuant to the OCS Lands Act that authorizes exploration for, and development and production of, oil, gas, and other mineral resources such as sulfur, sand, gravel, and salt. Oil and gas leases are offered competitively as OCS blocks, which are 9 square miles (3 miles on a side). Before conducting a lease sale or authorizing any activities conveyed through an issued lease, BOEM conducts a review under NEPA and numerous other environmental laws to ensure that the activities will be conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner, and that the interests of key stakeholders are considered. Additional information is available at https://www.boem.gov/oil-gas-energy/leasing.
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (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 that is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs” and gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to grant leases for the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas on the OCS.
The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a 5-year schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales. The 2024-2029 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program will provide the next schedule of lease sales. While the National OCS Oil and Gas Program provides a framework and general guide for leasing during the Program’s term, BOEM conducts region-specific reviews by Program Areas (i.e., the portions of the OCS planning areas that remain in consideration for leasing during the National OCS Oil and Gas Program development process).
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed in 1970 and requires Federal agencies to consider potential environmental impacts of and alternatives to any major action they propose. These regulations were updated in April 2022 (87 FR 23453). The NEPA process includes opportunities for public review and comment on these evaluations.
BOEM will conduct a region-specific NEPA review for the Gulf of Mexico Program Area 1 by preparing a Gulf of Mexico Regional Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (GOM Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS). This Programmatic EIS will analyze the potential impacts of a representative oil and gas lease sale and the potential associated site- and activity-specific OCS oil- and gas-related activity approvals from a representative single lease sale in available areas of the WPA, CPA, and EPA of the GOM.
The planning areas are for administrative purposes only. They originated with the first program (1980-1985) after the 1978 Amendments to the OCS Lands Act called for a Program. Before that, lease sales were strictly individually based, and the areas offered were due to industry nominations or as BOEM (then the Minerals Management Service) deemed necessary. A very limited number of blocks were offered for lease in a lease sale. When the OCS Lands Act required a way to compare areas that may or may not be smaller than regions, planning areas were created. Not all of the OCS had a planning area in the beginning, and some have changed names and area boundaries over time.
For more information, refer to BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico OCS Regulatory Framework technical report.