The Department of Interior’s regionwide auction scheduled next month in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is to include all available unleased areas in federal waters, an estimated 77.3 million acres, offshore Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Lease Sale 250, scheduled to be livestreamed on March 21 from New Orleans, would be the second under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing program for 2017-2022, federal officials said last Friday.

“American energy production can be competitive, while remaining safe and environmentally sound,” said Interior’s Vincent DeVito, counselor for energy policy. “People need jobs, the Gulf Coast states need revenue, and Americans do not want to be dependent on foreign oil.”

Included in the final notice of sale (FNOS) are about 14,776 unleased blocks in areas three miles to 231 miles offshore, in the Western, Central and Eastern planning areas of the GOM in water depths of nine-11,115-plus feet (three-3,400 meters).

Excluded from the lease sale are blocks subject to the Congressional moratorium established by the GOM Energy Security Act of 2006; blocks adjacent to or beyond the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the area known as the northern portion of the Eastern Gap; and whole blocks and partial blocks within the current boundary of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary offshore Texas.

The lease sale terms for next month’s auction are to include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region. Additionally, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees the offshore, has included fiscal terms that take into account market conditions and ensure taxpayers receive a fair return.

Terms include a 12.5% royalty rate for leases in up to 200 meters of water depth, and a royalty rate of 18.75% for all other leases issued.

The BOEM has estimated that the OCS contains about 90 billion bbl of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 Tcf of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas. The GOM OCS, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of more than 48 billion bbl of oil and 141 Tcf of gas.

Copies of the FNOS maps for Lease Sale 250 may be requested from the GOM Region’s Public Information Unit, 1201 Elmwood Park Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-4853.

Last month the Trump administration laid out its proposal for offshore drilling to be included in the regionwide OCS drilling plan for 2019-2024. The proposal, far from being finalized, as written would allow drilling in about 90% of the GOM. It has drawn widespread criticism from state officials in nearly every single state that could be impacted.