While far from satisfied with the Obama administration's five-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing program, a coalition of five governors representing coastal states said they would not block the plan and hope to work closely with the administration to expand offshore access.

"We do not seek to cause further delay or otherwise impair the implementation of the current proposed final leasing program, even with its reduced scope, because it remains the only mechanism for the federal government to continue to offer any OCS lease sales now that the 2012-2017 program has been issued. But we continue to ardently desire constructive engagement with the administration to explore ways to expand OCS access in parallel with the 2012-2017 program," wrote Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell in a recent letter to President Obama.

The governors said the administration's plan falls short by failing to expand adequate access to resource-abundant areas in the Arctic and open the Mid- and South-Atlantic regions to leasing. "Both of these decisions appear to have been made without proper consultation from the states, as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and without sufficient explanation for the reversal in decision from previous plans.

The coalition initially expressed its concerns in a letter on March 13, prior to the release of the five-year plan. "Unfortunately, to date no member of the coalition has received a response from your administration on the March 13 letter, and we are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of communication from the federal government on critical matters that affect our coastal development."

This lack of consultation has lead to a "highly disappointing" 2012-2017 leasing plan, the coastal governors said.

The administration's final leasing program, which was released in June, proposes 15 leases sales in six offshore areas. Twelve of the potential lease sales would be held in the Western and Central GOM and the portion of the Eastern GOM not currently under a congressional moratorium (see Daily GPI, June 29). Three of the potential lease sales are scheduled for offshore Alaska in the Cook Inlet, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

"The final plan...removes millions of acres in the Arctic from leasing in order to form 'study areas,' raising the likelihood that these Arctic lease sales may never occur," the coalition said.

The Obama leasing plan has come under attack from industry because it does not include lease sales off the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. The administration took that action despite the fact that the "bipartisan leadership in Virginia has indicated clearly its support for a leasing program in the Atlantic and has thoroughly addressed the administration's concerns about safety and spill containment infrastructure and coordination with military operations in the area."

The Obama administration's five-year leasing plan was rejected by the House last month (see Daily GPI, July 26). But the vote, which was symbolic in nature, won't stop the administration from moving forward with its leasing plan. The House passed its own legislation to significantly expand leasing in the OCS during the five-year period. Two similar bills have been offered by Republicans in the Senate.

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