House committee drafts bill to replace 2012-17 OCS program

The US House Natural Resources Committee unveiled legislation on July 9 that would replace the 5-year US Outer Continental Shelf program the US Department of the Interior announced on June 28 with a more aggressive plan. The committee said it will mark up the bill—HR 6082—on July 18.

Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) noted that Congress has 60 days after DOI develops a proposed final 5-year OCS program to review it. He said the Obama administration’s current 2012-17 program represents a significant step backward by putting 85% of the OCS off-limits for oil and gas leasing and effectively reimposing congressional moratoriums that were withdrawn and presidential withdrawals that expired in late 2008.

“The legislation that the committee will act on would replace the energy-restricting and job-limiting Obama plan with a responsible, robust offshore drilling plan that will create new jobs by safely opening new areas known to possess the greatest offshore energy resources,” Hastings said.

“[It] specifically provides for opening offshore Virginia to drilling, with the first of several lease sales starting in 2013,” he continued. “President Obama cancelled a lease sale off Virginia scheduled for 2011 and [his] plan doesn’t allow energy production off Virginia until 2017 or later.”

The current 5-year OCS program schedules 12 lease sales in the central and western Gulf of Mexico and portions of the eastern gulf not covered by a congressionally negotiated moratorium, as well as two sales toward the end of the period in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas following extensive scientific reviews of potential impacts and one in Cook Inlet if there is enough industry interest.

HR 6083’s proposed schedule calls for one lease sale in 2012, seven in 2013 (including one off Southern California restricted to existing infrastructure), six in 2014, four in 2015, six in 2016, and three in 2017. In addition to Virginia and Southern California, new OCS leasing areas would include the North and Mid-Atlantic, the Eastern gulf, and the North Aleutian basin. Hastings said the bill would provide for specific environmental impact statements for each sale and coordinate oil and gas activities with national defense needs.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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