The Interior Department should keep “all options on the table” when choosing the timing and location of the lease sales to be included in the next five-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing program for 2007-2012, five oil and natural gas groups told Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

“We represent thousands of companies, both majors and independents, engaged in all sectors of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry…Preparation of a plan governing the management of the natural gas and oil resources on the Outer Continental Shelf is, therefore, of critical interest to us,” wrote the National Ocean Industries Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, U.S. Oil & Gas Association, Domestic Petroleum Institute and the Natural Gas Supply Association in a Feb. 7 letter to Norton.

“There is great concern about energy supply in this county…The Department of Interior now has the opportunity to begin an open, public process, guided by statute, that could provide access to increased supplies of natural gas and oil for the United States…We urge you to begin by keeping all options on the table and seeking the broadest possible range of information and input,” they said.

Specifically, “we ask that the department begin the request for comments solicitation by seeking information for all planning areas, as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.”

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