The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Monday announced that it will open a comment period and hold a series of public scoping meetings to collect information to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for two proposed oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico’s (GOM) Eastern Planning Area.

The lease sales — Nos. 225 and 226 — were proposed as part of the 2012-2017 leasing program. Planning for an EIS relating to these potential lease sales does not constitute a final decision about whether they will be included in the five-year leasing program, according to BOEM.

The area for the proposed sales includes 657,905 acres that are more than 120 miles off the coast of Alabama and Florida, where there are currently active leases and known or anticipated hydrocarbon potential. The eastern GOM is considered to be rich in natural gas resources, but the federal government has kept much of the area off limits to producers over the years.

Some areas in the eastern GOM — such as the Straits of Florida — are not included in the 2012-2017 leasing program because they are under a congressionally mandated leasing moratorium until June 30, 2022.

“BOEM will use this information [collected] to help determine the scope of the issues to be addressed in the environmental impact statement, and to identify and evaluate potential environmental effects related to the proposed sales,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau.

The agency has scheduled a number of meetings — Tallahassee, FL (April 3); Panama City Beach, FL (April 4); Spanish Fort, AL (April 5); and at the BOEM’s regional office in New Orleans, LA (April 9) — to hear comments from the public.The public also may submit comments via e-mail at boemegomeis@BOEM.gov, or in writing to Gary D. Goeke, chief regional assessment section, Office of Environment (MS 5410), BOEM, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Blvd., New Orleans, LA, 70123-2394.

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