The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it plans to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed offshore oil and gas lease sale to be held next year for tracts offshore Alaska.

In a notice of intent published in Friday’s edition of the Federal Register, BOEM said the proposed auction would include all available blocks in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area, which consists of 11,876 whole and partial lease blocks covering about 65 million acres.

BOEM is accepting written public comments on the EIS through Dec. 17, and plans to hold four public scoping meetings from Dec. 3-6. The bureau also said it was seeking public comments on draft alternatives for offshore whaling, environmentally important areas and deepwater exclusions.

“The EIS will focus on the potential effects of leasing, exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas in the proposed lease sale area,” BOEM said. After the EIS is completed and Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management decides to move forward with the lease sale, that the “decision and the details related to the lease sale, including the lease sale area and any mitigation, will be announced in a record of decision and final notice of sale.”

Under a 2019-2024 draft proposed program unveiled in January, 47 lease sales were to be conducted in 25 of 26 federal planning areas, including 19 sales in offshore Alaska. Of those, three were to be held in the Beaufort. BOEM issued a call for information and nominations for a 2019 Beaufort lease sale in March.

Last month, BOEM gave conditional approval to a subsidiary of Hilcorp Energy Co. to develop an offshore oil and gas production facility, aka Liberty Island, in the Beaufort.