The U.S. Department of the Interior will release its proposal for offshore oil and gas lease sales for the next five years by the end of June, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told the U.S Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday.
The National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program, developed by the DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, establishes a five-year schedule for its oil and gas leasing program as required by law under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
The current five-year program, which was developed by the Obama Administration, will expire on June 30, 2022.
The Trump Administration had ability to devise its own plan, but planning was put on hold amid backlash from States who opposed drilling off their shores and a court ruling blocked drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.
In 2018, former President Trump famously proposed to open almost all U.S. coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling despite opposition from not only environmentalists but also members of his own party—perhaps most notably from Florida Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) who introduced legislation to ban offshore drilling off Florida’s coasts.
“The previous Administration stopped work on the new five-year plan in 2018, so there has been a lot to do to catch up,” Secretary Haaland testified to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Varying, conflicting litigation has also been a factor. As we take this next step, we will follow the science and the law, as we always do. This requires a robust and transparent review process that includes input from states, the public and Tribes to inform our decision-making. We take this responsibility seriously without any pre-judgment of the outcome.”
Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden paused the remaining offshore oil and gas lease sales under the current five-year program, but a Lousiana judge ordered the sales to resume, forcing the administration to hold its first lease sale in November only to have a federal judge in the District of Columbia nullify the results of the auction.
Instead, Biden Administration has pursued a plan for more offshore wind lease sales, with plans to hold up to seven offshore wind lease sales by 2025 in order to achieve its goal of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. So far, the Biden Administration has held two offshore wind leases, including one in the New York Bight that raised a record $4.37 billion and the Carolina Long Bay sale, held earlier this month, which raised $315 million.
More recently, last week the Biden Administration said it would scrap the three remaining oil and gas lease sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, citing a “lack of industry interest” and “conflicting court rulings.”
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