“This is a truly amazing moment in the energy sector…” – Secs. Perry, Zinke and Pruitt

At an event on Thursday, June 29, 2017, in order to help kick off what the Trump Administration has dubbed “Energy Week,” President Trump announced a public comment period for a new 5-year National Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke will open the public comment period on a program to spur drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). OCS operations are under the regulator BOEM–the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, within Zinke’s Interior Department.

“We are now on the cusp of a true energy revolution,” Trump told a crowd of executives, lobbyists and laborers at the Energy Department on Thursday, according to a story by Bloomberg. “We are a top producer of petroleum and the No. 1 producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we ever thought possible. We are really in the driver’s seat.”

The president said energy development would lead “millions and millions of jobs” and act as a force for peace around the world.

The five-year plan for the OCS—which will begin in the summer of 2017—was put into action on April 28th, following President Trump’s executive order on American Energy.

The public comment period itself will last for 45 days following the date of publication, July 3rd. Secretary Zinke said that, “developing a new National Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program that respects the environment and economic sensitivities…is critical to President Trump’s goal of American energy dominance.”

According to Acting Assistant Secretary Kate MacGregor, prior to the development of the new leasing program, 94% of the outer continental shelf was off-limits to development. The goal of the Secretary’s Order is to encourage domestic natural resource development.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act mandates that the Secretary of the Interior create a schedule—including size, timing, and location of auctions—of oil and gas lease sales in federal waters. The current National OCS Program schedules 11 potential lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, and one in the Cook Inlet in Alaska.

Administration interested in all of the OCS’s potential–Alaska, GOM, Pacific, Atlantic

The BOEM’s report notes that all portions of the OCS will be considered in the revised 5-year plan–including the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic regions.

During the Obama Administration, BOEM released a leasing program for the period from mid-2017 through mid-2022, including the 11 lease sales on the books now on the OCS during the five-year period: 10 in the Gulf of Mexico  region (occurring twice each year), 1 in the Cook Inlet planning area of the Alaska region (scheduled for 2021), and none in the Atlantic or Pacific regions.

Three sales proposed in earlier versions of the program—one in the Atlantic and two off Alaska—were not ultimately included in the program by the Obama administration. According to the Congressional Research Service in an analysis of the Five Year Program, any revision of the five-year program by the new administration could not provide for sales in areas that remained under congressional moratorium or presidential withdrawal.

However, on April 28, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of the Interior to review and consider revising the 2017-2022 program. President Trump’s executive order ended previous presidential withdrawals in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic regions, thus opening these areas for leasing consideration in a revised five-year program.

The options for the administration to alter the finalized five-year program are more constrained than those of Congress. The Secretary of the Interior’s review of the 2017-2022 leasing program under President Trump’s executive order must adhere to the program development process required by the OCSLA, which includes requirements for analysis, public input, and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The process typically takes two to three years. By ending previous presidential withdrawals in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic regions, President Trump’s executive order opened these areas for leasing consideration in a revised five-year program, legal challenges notwithstanding.

Legal Notice