OCS plan letter appeals to law, national interest

Bob Tippee

US oil and gas producers and contractors have resorted to basics in their efforts to expand leasing of federal land offshore. They're appealing to law and national interest.

Seven industry trade groups delivered this combination punch in a letter to Minerals Management Service officials. They were responding to the agency's proposed schedule and draft environmental impact statement for Outer Continental Shelf lease sales during July 2007-June 2012.

The 5-year plan calls for leasing in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico, Cook Inlet, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, North Aleutian basin, and possibly a small area off Virginia.

The groups pointed out in their letter that the prospective sales still cover less than 12% of the 1.7 billion acres under MMS management.

"The agency is being much too conservative," wrote the National Ocean Industries Association, Natural Gas Supply Association, Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association, Domestic Petroleum Council, Independent Petroleum Association of America, International Association of Drilling Contractors, and US Oil & Gas Association.

Their letter noted that the OCS Lands Act calls for lease sale schedules that "best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period" and specifies that an equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks be taken into account in leasing decisions.

"In order to complete the analysis required by conducting such 'equitable sharing' among the regions and determining the relative environmental risks, it is necessary to conduct a full analysis of all the OCS areas," the groups wrote.

Their letter also criticized the program and draft environmental impact statement for not considering the prospective "socioeconomic impacts" on citizens of all 50 states.

It called for analysis of "both producing energy from the offshore and of not producing energy from many areas of the offshore."

And it elaborated: "The resources of the OCS are owned by all Americans, and the hardship created by withholding our energy resources from people in middle America should be analyzed in the environmental impact statement and in the decision-making process."

These are polite ways of saying that leasing restricted to a small part of the OCS shirks law, cheats Americans, and therefore needs to grow.

(Online Nov. 24, 2006; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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