Interior drags heels on offshore oil and gas leasing

Written by Nick Blenkey
oil and gas sale leasing delays condemned by Congress members

Image: Architect of the Capitol

During testimony before the U.S Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said that, “despite delays in implementation from the previous administration,” the Interior Department will release the next step in the five-year offshore energy planning process, the proposed program, by June 30, 2022, which is the expiration of the current program. A proposed program is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development.

The National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program, developed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, establishes a five-year schedule for its oil and gas leasing program as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

“The previous administration stopped work on the new five-year plan in 2018, so there has been a lot to do to catch up. Varying, conflicting litigation has also been a factor,” said Secretary Haaland. “As we take this next step, we will follow the science and the law, as we always do. This requires a robust and transparent review process that includes input from states, the public and tribes to inform our decision-making. We take this responsibility seriously without any pre-judgment of the outcome.”


“Interior has had 16 months to fulfill its statutory obligation to develop and maintain an offshore oil and gas leasing program and it has failed,” said National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) president Erik Milito . “No other administration has failed in this way. Until now, every administration, whether Democrat or Republican, has recognized the critical, strategic advantages of continued U.S. offshore oil and gas production that are achieved through an uninterrupted national leasing program. The intentional obstruction and delays in U.S. energy development that we are now witnessing have devastating consequences for Americans at the gas pump, our national security, global geopolitics, our near- and long-term energy security, and high-paying jobs across the country.

“The ecosystem of companies, small and large, that team up to produce low carbon barrels of oil from the Gulf of Mexico for the benefit of American consumers are the same companies that are innovating the solutions for addressing the climate challenge. We need energy policy that is grounded in reality; that means we need policies that promote zero and low carbon energy and the development of oil and gas supplies here at home.”

The proposed program is the second of three lengthy phases of the development of a final leasing program. There will be a 90 day comment period on the Proposed Program, up to a 90 day comment period on the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, and a 60 day Congressional review period for the Proposed Final Program, along with the time it takes for the requisite work to finalize the program and environmental review.

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