The Interior Department's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) said it has fined Apache Corp. approximately $2.72 million for "knowing or willful" submission of false information. The civil penalty stems from an ONRR audit that found the producer was improperly deducting transportation costs on its Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Section 6 leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The Section 6 leases at issue to not allow for transportation deductions from royalty payments, the ONRR said. ONRR auditors ordered Apache in May 2010 to stop claiming the transportation deductions on its Section 6 leases and to pay back the deductions. While Apache complied and paid the additional royalties, in August 2010 it began deducting transportation costs from its royalty payments on those same Section 6 leases. In July 2011, ONRR's Audit and Compliance Management Program referred the matter to the Office of Enforcement, which issued the civil penalty in late September after concluding its investigation.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed the final environmental impact statement for two proposed oil and natural gas lease sales in the area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico that is not subject to congressional moratorium. Lease Sales 225 and 226, which are scheduled to be held in March 2014 and March 2016, would make 658,000 acres in the eastern Gulf available to producers. The two lease sales would be held in a "small sliver off the Central Gulf, which is adjacent to the Eastern Gulf," said BOEM spokeswoman Caryl Fagot. The sales would be part of the 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf leasing program, which includes 12 potential lease sales in the Western, Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico.