The National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for oil and gas development establishes a schedule of oil and gas lease sales proposed for planning areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The Program specifies the size, timing, and location of potential leasing activity that the Secretary of the Interior determines will best meet national energy needs. Currently BOEM is working under the 2017-2022 National OCS Program.
The first step in the development process, a Request for information, was published in the Federal Register on July 3, 2017, with a 45-day comment period that ended on August 17, 2017.
Next, BOEM will publish the second of three proposals, the Proposed Program, with a 90-day comment period. Following the conclusion of the 90-day comment period, BOEM will prepare the last of three proposals, the Proposed Final Program. Following the publication of the Proposed Final Program, the Secretary must wait a minimum of 60-days prior to approving the National OCS Program.
As required by the OCS Lands Act, a Program to cover the years 2017-2022 has been developed and approved.
The first step in the development process, a Request for Information (RFI), was published in the Federal Register on June 16, 2014, with a 45-day comment period that was extended by 15 days and closed on August 15, 2014.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) was the first proposal in the staged preparation process of the new Program. The DPP was published on January 29, 2015, with a 60-day comment period that closed on March 30, 2015.
On March 15, 2016, the second proposal, the Proposed Program (PP), was published with a 90-day comment period that closed on June 1, 2016.
On November 18, 2016, the final proposal, the Proposed Final Program (PFP), was published. The PFP schedules 11 potential lease sales in two program areas in all or parts of 4 OCS planning areas: 10 sales in the combined Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Program Area, and one sale in the Cook Inlet Program Area offshore Alaska. No lease sales are scheduled for the Pacific or Atlantic OCS.
Sixty days after the transmittal of the Proposed Final Program to the President and Congress, the Secretary approved the 2017-2022 Program.
The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the 2017-2022 Oil and Gas Program
The implementation of the 2017-2022 Program could have economic, social, or environmental impacts. To evaluate these potential impacts, BOEM prepared an environmental analysis following the process prescribed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement: Volume I, Volume II (EIS) was released on March 18, 2016 and the Final Programmatic: Volume I, Volume II (EIS) was released on November 18, 2016. The Programmatic EIS included an analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the activities that could result from activities associated with the schedule of lease sales under the 2017-2022 Program (referred to as the Proposed Action in the Programmatic EIS). It also considered a reasonable range of alternatives and potential opportunities for mitigation, both of which could reduce or eliminate potential impacts from the Proposed Action.
On January 17, 2017, the Secretary of the Interior approved the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program and issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Programmatic EIS. In approving the Program, the Secretary chose Alternative C (the Preferred Alternative) from the Final Programmatic EIS. The ROD identifies Alternative D, the No Action, as the environmentally preferable alternative. In addition, the ROD outlines programmatic mitigation measures that will apply to all sales that occur during this Program in areas where the mitigation measures are applicable. These mitigation measures include the Protection of Biologically Sensitive Underwater Features in the Gulf of Mexico and implementation of a Conflict Management Plan for lease sales in Alaska (Cook Inlet). The Secretary has also directed BOEM to analyze a seasonal restriction on seismic surveys and exploration for drilling for Cook Inlet Lease Sale 258.