The Obama administration on January 27, 2015, unveiled an Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program to sell offshore drilling leases in Atlantic and Arctic waters, garnering criticism from industry supporters and environmentalists alike. The current plan governing leasing of federal land expires in August 2017, and the new plan by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) would cover the 2017–22 timeframe.
The BOEM’s draft leasing program would offer sales for drilling leases off the shores of certain Atlantic states, an activity not seen since about 1984. The broadly outlined program would offer 14 sales of offshore drilling leases: 10 in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The possible Alaska and Atlantic auctions would likely be scheduled near the end of the 2017–22 timeframe to allow companies to properly research the new territory prior to committing operational resources.
The draft program makes certain environmental considerations, protecting the northeastern part of Florida’s coast. It also designates 9.8 million acres of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in Alaska as off-limits to future oil and gas leaning, to create a 25-mile coastal buffer in the Chukchi Sea to protect the Chuckchi Ahann Shoal area, which is home to a high concentration of marine life. Four of the five Arctic areas affected by Obama’s announcement were already excluded from leasing under the government’s current leasing plan.
The program is subject to a number of public-approval hearings, but does not require congressional approval.
Keywords: energy litigation, drilling, Atlantic coast, Alaska, Interior Department, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, BOEM
Kristen W. McDanald is with Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, L.L.P. in Houston, Texas.