A new rule for oil and gas production in federal offshore waters now provides rights-of-use and easement, allowing companies easier access to areas adjacent to their leases, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

According to the MMS, complex operations in deep waters have created situations where companies have requested use of several square miles for purposes related to a lease or a pipeline. The final rule requires lessees to pay a rental fee when they obtain an easement, and it also increases the amount pipeline right-of-way holders pay. The rule, published by MMS last week, also establishes fees on a per-acre basis.

“The changes will provide equity for the public by charging a fair rental fee for companies that request and are granted use of what can sometimes be a very large area,” said MMS Director Johnnie Burton.

When a company requires use of an area for a platform in connection with a pipeline or requires use of an off-lease area for purposes related to the operation of the lease, the company may obtain use of the area. Without this change in the regulations, there is no charge for a right-of-use and easement and the charge for an area associated with a pipeline right-of-way is a flat fee.

MMS said it had received five comment letters on its proposed rule. One from an oil and gas company said the rental fees were too high. The other four, including one from seven different associations representing the natural gas and oil industry, and two from oil and gas companies, supported the rule. The rule includes a yearly rental of $5 per acre affected in water depths less than 200 meters and $7.50 per acre per year in deeper water. A minimum annual rental will be charged based on 90 acres. Therefore, the minimum rental is $450 per year in water less than 200 meters deep and $675 per year in deeper water.

For more information on the final rules, visit the web site at www.mms.gov.

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