DOI Announces Fewest Oil & Gas Lease Sales in History in the Gulf of Mexico

Consistent with the requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) concerning offshore conventional and renewable energy leasing, the Department of the Interior releases the Proposed Final Program and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2024–2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program).

The Proposed Final Program includes a maximum of three potential oil and gas lease sales – the fewest oil and gas lease sales in history – in the Gulf of Mexico Program Area scheduled in 2025, 2027 and 2029. In compliance with the terms of the IRA, these three proposed lease sales are the minimum number that will enable the Interior Department to continue to expand its offshore wind leasing program through 2030.

The reduction of the next National OCS Program to a maximum of three potential lease sales will bring the Federal offshore oil and gas program in line with the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and meet the IRA’s requirements for future offshore renewable energy leasing. The areas considered for leasing and number of potential lease sales in the 2024-2029 Proposed Final Program have been significantly narrowed from the previous administration’s original proposal of 47 lease sales off all coastal areas in the U.S. over a five-year period. The previous proposal presented risks to local coastal economies – particularly for communities along the east and west coast where offshore oil and gas development has not been authorized in decades, if ever.

The IRA does not allow the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to issue a lease for offshore wind development unless the agency has offered at least 60 million acres for oil and gas leasing on the OCS in the previous year. The three potential sales in the Proposed Final Program will enable the Department’s offshore wind energy program to continue to issue offshore wind leases, ensuring continued progress towards the administration’s goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to building a clean energy future that ensures America’s energy independence,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Proposed Final Program, which represents the smallest number of oil and gas lease sales in history, sets a course for the Department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities.” 

The National OCS Program released will limit leasing to the Gulf of Mexico OCS, where there is existing production and infrastructure. This area includes the portions of the Western, Central and Eastern GOM planning areas not currently under presidential withdrawal.

Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to establish a schedule of lease sales for a five-year period by balancing specific factors of OCS regions and selecting the size, timing and location of OCS lease sales that best meet regional and national energy needs and considers the impact of oil and gas exploration on the marine, coastal and human environments.

Before finalizing the new National OCS Program, BOEM carefully considered the more than 760,000 comments received in response to the Proposed Program and Draft Programmatic EIS.

Next Steps for the National OCS Program

Publication of the Proposed Final Program and Final Programmatic EIS in the Federal Register will initiate a 60-day waiting period that is required before the Secretary can formally approve the program and finalize the Record of Decision. 

BOEM will also publish a Call for Information and Nominations (Call) regarding the potential future Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sales included in the 2024–2029 National OCS Program in the Federal Register. The publication of the Call will initiate a 30-day comment period, during which BOEM will seek comments from industry on interest in the areas proposed for leasing, including nominations or indications of interest in specific lease blocks within the area; and from additional parties regarding geological, environmental, biological, archaeological and socioeconomic conditions, use conflicts, or other information that could affect potential leasing and development. Information submitted in response to the Gulf of Mexico Call will be used to help determine which blocks within the Gulf of Mexico Program Area may be offered for leasing, prioritize areas with greater potential for oil and gas development, develop potential lease terms and conditions, identify potential use conflicts and mitigation measures, and assist in BOEM’s planning and environmental review process.

BOEM will also publish a Notice of Intent to prepare a Programmatic EIS in the Federal Register, to analyze the potential impacts of a representative lease sale in the GOM during the 2024–2029 National OCS Program, as well as ongoing and potential associated site and activity-specific oil- and gas-related activity approvals.

These documents, as well as the economic analysis underlying them, are available for public inspection in the Federal Register or on BOEM’s website.

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