WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015 – While imposing new restrictions on oil and gas drilling off northern Alaska, the Obama administration unveiled the next steps in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing program for 2017-2022.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 14 potential lease sales in eight planning areas – 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic.
“The safe and responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources is a key part of the President’s efforts to support American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “This is a balanced proposal that would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop.”
President Obama – using his authorities under the OCS Lands Act – also designated portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as off limits from consideration for future oil and gas leasing in order to protect areas of critical importance to subsistence use by Alaska Natives, as well as for their unique and sensitive environmental resources. In December, President Obama used this same authority to place the waters of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development, protecting an area known for its world-class fisheries and stunning beauty.
“We know the Arctic is an incredibly unique environment, so we’re continuing to take a balanced and careful approach to development,” said Jewell. “At the same time, the President is taking thoughtful action to protect areas that are critical to the needs of Alaska Natives and wildlife.”
The Interior Department pointed out that four of the five areas withdrawn by President Obama were previously excluded from leasing in the current 2012-2017 oil and gas program; three of the five were also excluded by the prior Administration.
Those areas include the Barrow and Kaktovik whaling areas in the Beaufort Sea, and a 25-mile coastal buffer and subsistence areas in the Chukchi Sea. The withdrawal also includes the biologically rich Hanna Shoal area in the Chukchi Sea, which has not previously been excluded from leasing. Extensive scientific research has found this area to be of critical importance to many marine species, including Pacific walruses and bearded seal
Release of the draft is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final offshore leasing program for 2017-2022. Before the program is finalized, Interior officials emphasized that the public will continue to have multiple opportunities to provide input.
The Draft Proposed Program and the Notice of Intent to Develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available for public comment for 60 days following the publication of the documents in the Federal Register. For more information, including maps, go to: http://www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program/
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