Citing the need to proceed cautiously on oil and natural gas activity in the federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department plans to postpone until later this year public scoping meetings for the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the upcoming five-year (2012-2017) leasing plan.

“We remain focused on responding to the BP oil spill and implementing strong reforms that are raising the bar for the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the successor agency to the troubled Minerals Management Service.

“At the appropriate time we will begin the process of engaging the public, conducting environmental analysis and looking ahead to where and how to responsibly develop oil and gas resources under the next five-year program,” he said.

The Obama administration in April published a notice of intent to prepare an EIS for the 2012-2017 oil and gas leasing plan that called for expanding development of the entire Gulf of Mexico (GOM), with a focus on the gas-rich eastern GOM; increasing exploratory activity in new frontier areas, such as the Mid-Atlantic (offshore Virginia) and South Atlantic regions and Alaska OCS areas (see Daily GPI, April 1).

A Federal Register notice will be published later this year announcing a new public comment period on the EIS along with the dates and locations for scoping meetings.

Comments received during the public comment period that closed on June 30 and comments received under the new public comment period will all be considered by the BOEMRE as part of the EIA scoping process, according to the agency.

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