Friday, June 29, 2012

"Proposed Final Program" For 5-Year OCS Leasing 2012-2017

Jun 28: Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau announced the release of a proposed final offshore oil and gas leasing program for 2012-2017 which they said "makes all areas with the highest-known resource potential -- including frontier areas in the Alaska Arctic – available for oil and gas leasing in order to further reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."

    According to an announcement, consistent with the President's direction, the Obama administration's Proposed Final U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program makes available areas focused on the most likely recoverable oil and gas resources that the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is estimated to hold. It schedules 15 potential lease sales for the five-year period, including 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the coast of Alaska.

    Secretary Salazar said, "Put simply, this program opens the vast majority of known offshore oil and gas resources for development over the next five years and includes a cautious but forward-looking leasing strategy for the Alaska Arctic. President Obama has made clear his commitment to expanding responsible domestic oil and gas production in America as part of this all-of-the-above energy strategy, and with comprehensive safety standards in place, this plan will help us to continue to grow America's energy economy and further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while protecting marine, costal and human health."

    The "Proposed Final Program" is designed to account for the distinct needs of the regions across the OCS, and considers a range of factors, including current and developing information about resource potential, the status of resource development and emergency response infrastructure, recognition of regional interest and concerns, and the need for a balanced approach to the use of the Nation's shared natural resources.

    BOEM Director Beaudreau said, "Offshore oil and gas leasing should not be 'one size fits all. For example, the area-wide leasing model that works for the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a long and consistent history of offshore exploration and development, is not suited to the Arctic. Within the Arctic, where significant resource potential exists, there are also substantial environmental challenges, and social and ecological concerns that warrant a different and more targeted approach that will focus leasing to offer the greatest resource potential while minimizing possible conflicts with environmentally sensitive areas and the native Alaskan communities that rely on the ocean for subsistence use."

    The 15 scheduled potential lease sales contained in the plan will occur in six planning areas – the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, the portion of the Eastern Gulf Of Mexico not currently under Congressional moratorium, and the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet Planning Areas offshore Alaska.

    The release indicates that the Proposed Final Program re-affirms existing protections for Arctic coastal areas by continuing to exclude certain areas from leasing, including a 25-mile buffer area near the coast of the Chukchi, as well as two subsistence whaling areas in the Beaufort near Barrow and Kaktovik, Alaska. The program also identifies an additional exclusion area in the Chukchi, near Barrow, that will not be made available for leasing because of input received from Native Alaskan communities and because the area is known to be of particular importance for subsistence hunting and fishing. With respect to all other areas in the Arctic that are open to oil and gas exploration and development in the Proposed Final Program, BOEM will identify targeted areas to offer in the lease sales based on information the agency will gather about industry interest, resource potential, subsistence hunting and fishing, wildlife, and environmental sensitivities.

    Secretary Salazar said, "We are taking a cautious approach to leasing in the Arctic that accounts for the Arctic's unique environmental resources and the social, cultural and subsistence needs of Native Alaskan communities, and draws from the best available science as well as any new information that we may learn from activity on current leases. When it comes to domestic production, the President has made clear he is committed to producing more oil and natural gas safely and responsibly. The numbers speak for themselves: every year the President has been in office, domestic oil and gas production is up, imports of foreign oil are down, and currently the nation is producing more oil than any time in the last eight years."

    As is mandated by the OCS Lands Act, the Proposed Final Program has been submitted to Congress. The Secretary may implement the Program in 60 days, however no further action is needed prior to its implementation, and BOEM is on track to hold the first sale under the new program later this year. Earlier this month, BOEM held a lease sale for nearly 39 million acres in the Central Gulf of Mexico, which attracted more than $1.7 billion in high bids for more than 2.4 million acres. That follows on a Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale held in December 2011, in which 21 million acres were offered for lease.

    The American Petroleum Institute (API)Group Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito described the Interior plan as "a continuation of the administration's discouraging pattern of delay and unnecessary restraint." He said, "Today's proposal will not allow us to realize the full benefits from safe and responsible development of America's oil and natural gas resources, continuing a pattern of delay and unnecessary restraint. For example, this plan pushes back the 2015 Beaufort lease sale, where leasing has already occurred, and makes more areas off limits than it makes available. A sensible long-term strategy would embrace and promote expanded oil and natural gas exploration and development to create new jobs and secure critical energy supplies for future generations. . .

    "We must move past policies that undermine the mission of supplying Americans with the energy they need. While vitally important, the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico areas included in this proposed offshore program are not 'new' areas. We look to the administration and Congress to begin working on a new plan that opens areas in the Eastern Gulf, the Pacific, and the Atlantic, such as offshore Virginia and South Carolina, where we continue to see bipartisan support for new offshore leasing."

    U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee commented on the plan saying, "The leasing plan released today falls far short of what's needed to get America's faltering economy back on track. It removes nearly 90 percent of the acreage previously available for energy exploration. While it offers the possibility of two lease sales in the Arctic, it substantially delays them and raises the possibility that they might not happen at all. The final plan unilaterally takes millions of acres in the Arctic off the table, in the form of buffer zones and so-called 'study areas.'
    "The administration also continues to ignore calls for lease sales off the coast of states such as Virginia and South Carolina, despite strong support from those states. While the administration resists opening any new acreage, nearly every country bordering our waters is showing no such hesitation. Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas, Canada and Russia are all moving ahead. It's time to roll up our sleeves and put Americans back to work producing the energy we need to be competitive. Hesitation and delay will not right our economy."

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said the Plan "closes 85 percent of America's offshore areas to energy production." He said, "The Obama Administration has neglected their duty to provide a roadmap for America's offshore energy future by tossing aside a plan to expand production and failing to produce a plan of their own for three and a half years. Today, the Obama Administration has announced a bleak future for American energy production by keeping 85 percent of America's offshore areas under lock and key and refusing to open any new areas to drilling. This plan re-imposes the drilling moratoria lifted in 2008, hurts job creation and keeps new areas of American energy production sidelined. . ."

    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee, praised the DOI Plan for offering a "balanced five year oil and gas drilling plan for America's oceans."  He said, "At a time when U.S. oil production is at an 18-year high, this drilling plan is the responsible way to continue to support domestic production, while leaving time to put in place proper safety and environmental protections. While Republicans pass bills in Congress to give away all of our public lands available to drill within just a few short years, the Obama administration knows that an 'oil-above-all' policy serves no one's interests, unless you are an oil company executive. By keeping the East Coast off limits to drilling, this plan also recognizes the widespread opposition to placing oil rigs up and down our Atlantic Coast."

    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) issued a statement saying, "The U.S. is home to some of the largest energy reserves in the world, yet today the Obama administration announced it will lock away the vast majority of these resources for another five years. This plan essentially reinstates the offshore drilling ban that was lifted in 2008. The president's plan is a step backwards, opening no new areas for energy leasing and only further delaying domestic production projects. While the president claims to support 'all of the above,' his policies seem more accurately described as advancing 'nothing from below.'"

    Oceana's senior Pacific director, Susan Murray said, "Today's news is a mixed bag. BOEM has taken one step forward by stating a commitment to better science, but it has taken two steps backward by including lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.  It is just common sense -- we should not be proceeding without basic science or demonstrated response capability." Jacqueline Savitz, VP for North America at Oceana said, "Sadly, our government has released yet another plan on how to drill for more oil and gas, without making any effort to develop a plan for the desperately needed transition to clean energy. We have known for a decade that we need to shift from fossil fuels, yet there is still no analysis of how to minimize our reliance on oil and gas. Instead the government keeps promoting risky offshore drilling that jeopardizes the health of the entire Gulf and Arctic regions. Encouraging clean energy investments would create jobs without risking people's lives and livelihoods. Instead, this plan sets us up for another devastating oil spill, which endangers human lives, coastal economies and marine life."

    Access a release from DOI with links to complete and extensive information on the Proposed Final Program (click here). Access the Five Year Program website for more information including alternative and mitigation tracking table and regionally-tailored interactive maps (click here). Access the release from API (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Hastings (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Upton (click here). Access a release from Oceana (click here). [#Energy/OCS)

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