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Interior Department Proposes to Open Offshore Atlantic Region to Oil and Gas Leasing

The Department of the Interior today announced that it will publish for public comment a draft proposed Five-Year Program (“DPP”) governing the leasing of offshore oil and gas for 2017 through 2022.  Interior’s DPP will follow the current 2012-2017 Five-Year Program (“current program”).

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Interior may not issue new offshore oil and gas leases unless the sale areas are included in the program then in effect.  In deciding which areas to include within the DPP, the Interior Secretary must balance a variety of factors, including but not limited to geographical, geological, and ecological characteristics, relative environmental sensitivities, expressions of interest by industry to develop oil and gas reserves, and impacts on surrounding marine activities. 

Interior’s DPP would schedule the majority of lease sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico, and other areas where leasing activity has been ongoing under the current program.  For the first time in decades, it would open the mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions where coastal states generally support offshore oil and gas leasing and development.  To accommodate environmental concerns, Interior is proposing a 50-mile buffer for these areas.  The DPP also contemplates new lease sales offshore Alaska, but excludes certain areas designated for marine mammal protection.  To the disappointment of the oil and gas industry, the DPP does not include areas in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (offshore Florida).  The Pacific region and other areas off-limits in the current program likewise would remain unavailable for leasing.

The process to adopt a Five-Year Program is multi-phased and takes several years to complete.  There are multiple opportunities for governors of affected coastal states, local jurisdictions, and the public generally to comment on the evolving program, which is accompanied by the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  If adopted, the DPP would not commit the government to actually conduct any lease sales; those would be separate decisions that would, among other things, require independent NEPA review.  Nevertheless, it is important for industry and other commenters to weigh in on the recently-announced DPP to assist Interior in making the statutorily required balancing decisions, and to ensure that Interior retains in its final program all of the areas available in the DPP.  Comments are due by March 28, 2015.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC


About this Author

James M. Auslander, Environmental Law Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

James (Jamie) Auslander’s legal practice focuses on environmental, natural resources, and administrative law and litigation.  Mr. Auslander represents numerous major and small businesses, trade associations, and state agencies in a wide range of regulatory and litigation matters, both national and local in scope.  He serves clients in all phases of a case, including internal compliance, administrative proceedings and negotiations, and litigation when necessary.

Mr. Auslander devotes a significant part of his practice to counseling and litigation...

Peter Schaumberg, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge and Diamond Law Firm

Peter J. Schaumberg's practice focuses on issues related to development of energy and mineral resources on Federal lands offshore and onshore.  He counsels major multinational corporations, domestic companies, and leading industry trade associations regarding development and operations on the Outer Continental Shelf and on Federally-managed lands onshore, including oil & gas, solar, wind and geothermal resources.  Mr. Schaumberg also advises mining company and trade association clients on matters related to development of hard-rock mineral resources on public lands.  He is a highly recognized authority with respect to royalty reporting and payment issues for Federal mineral leases offshore and onshore, and for Indian leases.  Mr. Schaumberg has successfully represented numerous clients in administrative proceedings before the United States Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals.

(202) 789-6043
John Cossa, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge and Diamond Law Firm

John Cossa’s practice focuses on issues related to the development of energy and mineral resources on federally-managed lands. He advises clients on matters related to the leasing and development of oil and gas, wind, solar, and mineral resources both onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf. Mr. Cossa also counsels clients on compliance with applicable operations, environmental, and safety regulations, agency notices and orders.

(202) 789-6093