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Interior Criticized for Releasing Scant Information on OCS Plan

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue criticized the Obama administration for its failure to provide more information on its draft five-year leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and to reach an agreement with coastal states on the sharing of royalties from offshore production.

"As governor, I support development of a range of domestic energy resources to meet our energy needs and enhance our national security. However, I also believe it is imperative that the states have the ultimate say in developing energy resources off their coasts and a share in the revenue," Perdue told Salazar.

Comments on Interior's proposed five-year (2010-2015) leasing plan, which anticipates three oil and natural gas lease sales off the Atlantic Coast (potentially two off the coast of North Carolina and one offshore Virginia), were due last week.

"Without knowing with greater specificity the possible locations of the proposed sales, it is difficult to offer substantive comments or to develop an informed position on such sales. This is especially true for the Atlantic Coast, where the waters were long closed to drilling by congressional and presidential actions and where there is minimal experience with productive offshore leases," Perdue said.

"We know a great deal about our coast and its ecosystems and ecology, [but] we lack other basic knowledge, including the extent and location of available oil and gas resources. While the geologic and geophysical exploratory activities overseen by MMS [Minerals Management Service] in this area may yield some important information, we will not have access to this information in time to inform our comments" on the draft leasing plan, she added.

Moreover, "the issue of revenue sharing for offshore oil and gas leases off the Atlantic Coast remains unresolved at the federal level. Simply put, no state can or should make decisions that could forever alter the state of its coast and economy without a firm commitment as to its share of the revenue...I strongly encourage you to postpone any binding decisions on oil and gas leasing activities in this region until this question is resolved."

In related action, Perdue last Monday announced that she established a panel to examine the state's offshore energy resources, including oil, gas, wind and other renewable resources. The panel will analyze and report on the feasibility of tapping the offshore energy sources, and will identify the benefits and areas of concern about these energy resources. It also will review any MMS proposals that include leasing off the coast of North Carolina.

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