The Trump administration is taking steps to open up almost the entire offshore continental shelf for oil and gas exploration and production.
The US Department of Interior said that proposed National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2014 would make over 90 per cent of OCS acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available for future exploration and development.
The program would also create the largest lease sales in US history.
By contrast, the current program puts 94 per cent of the OCS off limits from an order implemented by former President Barak Obama following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said.
“(The) announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”
The Draft Proposed Program includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic Region.
“American energy production can be competitive while remaining safe and environmentally sound,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank.
“Public input is a crucial part of this process, and we hope to hear from industry groups, elected officials, other government agencies, concerned citizens and others as we move forward with developing the 2019-2024 National OCS Program.”
A 60-day comment period will follow after the draft proposed program has been published in the Federal Register. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will conduct public meetings with stakeholders across the United States, including Alaska, from January 16.