The Biden Administration has announced the next steps towards holding two offshore oil and gas lease sales—one in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Cook Inlet, Alaska—to comply with provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the next steps on Wednesday.
For Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 259, BOEM has now published a Proposed Notice of Sale, which it plans to publish in the Federal Register in the coming days. The Inflation Reduction Act directed BOEM to hold Lease Sale 259 by March 31, 2023.
The proposed NOS will give stakeholders the opportunity to submit comments and recommendations to BOEM regarding the size, timing and location of the lease sale.
With reference to the Cook Inlet (Alaska) Lease Sale 258, which is required by the end of the year, BOEM has published Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzing the potential impacts of the sale.
The Final EIS calls for offering 193 unleased OCS blocks spanning 958,202 acres within the Cook Inlet planning area. It defers the 17 OCS blocks wholly or partially overlapping beluga whale and northern sea otter critical habitats; and applies additional mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts to the beluga whales and their critical habitat and feeding areas, sea otters and their critical habitat, and the gillnet fishery.
The lease sales would be the second and third oil and gas sales during the Biden Administration. President Biden had previously put a pause on oil and gas leasing as part of his administration’s effort to combat climate change. However, a judge’s ruling forced the lease sales to continue, leading to a November 2021 oil and gas sale in the Gulf of Mexico. Later, another judge nullified the results of that sale, ruling that the Biden Administration failed to properly account for the auction’s climate change impact.
Since then the results have been reinstated with the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August, thanks to a provision buried in the law requiring the reinstatement of November 2021 lease sale and three others; the one in Cook Inlet and two more in the Gulf of Mexico.
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