Following a series of initiatives outlined on Thursday by President Trump, the Department of the Interior (DOI) readied a public comment period for a new five year offshore leasing program that would open more of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas drilling.
"The Trump administration is dedicated to energy dominance, growing the economy and giving the public a say in how our natural resources are used, and that's exactly what we are doing by opening up the request for information and a new five-year plan," said Acting DOI Assistant Secretary Kate MacGregor. Trump announced his initiatives during what the White House dubbed as "energy week" in an address Thursday at a Department of Energy event to underscore how the country can become more independent and dominant when it comes to energy.
The 45-day public comment period would kick off an extensive period of analysis that typically takes two or three years to prepare a new five year program. It's the first step in preparing the 2019-2024 OCS leasing program. The 2017-2022 program would remain in effect until the new one is implemented.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it would evaluate all 26 of the OCS planning areas during the first stage of the process and is requesting comments on all the areas located in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific oceans and offshore Alaska. Much of those areas are currently off limits to oil and gas leasing. Late last year, President Obama invoked a law governing the OCS and withdrew vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from future oil and natural gas drilling.
Thursday's announcement builds on an order signed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this year for Trump's "America-first" strategy. The president signed an executive order in April to reverse the ban on oil and gas leasing in several offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. It directed BOEM to rewrite the OCS leasing plan and reconsider several regulations governing offshore activities.
Using the information it receives during the comment period, BOEM will prepare a draft proposed leasing program, followed by a proposed program and then a final program. The bureau will consult with stakeholders throughout the process and continue seeking public input.
The notice of public comment will be published in the Federal Register on July 3 and comments will be accepted after that until Aug. 17 electronically or in written form, deliverable to BOEM National Program Manager Kelly Hammerle at 45600 Woodland Road-VAM-LD, Sterling, VA 20166.