The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday. There is an existing 2007-2012 lease sale plan, originally proposed by the Bush administration and now slightly modified by the Obama administration, and a 2012-2017 lease sale plan.
Neither the 2007-2012 five-year plan nor the 2012-2017 plan will include any oil and gas lease sales off the West Coast.
Current Five-Year Plan (2007-2012):
- The Gulf of Mexico: Four proposed lease sales there will continue to go forward. Details on one of these sales will be announced tomorrow.
- Virginia: A proposed lease sale there will continue to go forward if warranted by environmental review, which will take about a year to complete.
- Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska: Leases for the drilling of five exploratory wells will continue to go forward. Three production leases will not go forward at this time. President Obama has asked the U.S. Geological Survey to undertake a special analysis of the sensitivity of drilling in the Arctic, which will inform future drilling decisions there.
- Cook Inlet, Alaska: Proposed lease sales there will continue to go forward.
- Bristol Bay, Alaska: Proposed lease sales there will not go forward, and President Obama will sign a formal withdrawal of any leasing authority in this area.
Revised Five-Year Plan (2012-2017):
- Mid and South Atlantic: The new five-year plan includes seismic testing and environmental review of areas south of Delaware to determine if drilling is appropriate. If this information supports going forward with drilling, there will also be another lease sale-specific environmental review before any final decisions are made about whether or not to offer leases in this area.
- Gulf Coast of Florida: The new five-year plan includes environmental review of an area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico close to 125 miles off the Gulf Coast of Florida. About 2/3 of the oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is believed to be located in this area. Drilling in this area could not proceed without a Congressional amendment to GOMESA. The Department of the Interior said that the Department of Defense was consulted in selecting this area, but didn't say whether or not the DOD was now comfortable with the possibility of drilling occurring there.
- Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska: Additional lease sales will be proposed in these areas.
More details on the Minerals Management Service offshore oil drilling plans can be found on the MMS website.