The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed a final environmental review that will serve to support decision-making with respect to oil and natural gas lease sales scheduled in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) over the next five years.

The final environmental impact statement provides baseline analysis in support of 10 lease sales scheduled in the Central and Western GOM planning areas between 2012 and 2017, and it evaluates baseline conditions and potential environmental effects of oil and natural gas leasing, exploration and development in those two offshore regions.

"The Gulf of Mexico is extremely important to the energy future of the United States, and offshore oil and gas activity there must be done safely and with safeguards for the environment," said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau.

In late June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the final version of the department's Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017, sticking to tried and true areas in the GOM and holding out delayed possibilities in Alaska (see Daily GPI, June 29).

The proposed program was first unveiled last fall (see Daily GPI, Nov. 9, 2011). As completed by BOEM it calls for scheduling 15 potential lease sales in six offshore areas, three of which comprise the GOM. Of those, 12 potential lease sales would be held for the Western and Central GOM, and the portion of the Eastern GOM not currently under a congressional moratorium (see Daily GPI, Dec. 2, 2010).

The program also calls for three potential lease sales in offshore Alaska. Sales would be held for planning areas in the Cook Inlet and Chukchi Sea in 2016, while one initially proposed for 2015 in the Beaufort Sea would be put off until 2017. There are no sales scheduled for the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts.

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