Interior maps path to oil and gas lease sales

Sept. 6, 2021

The Interior Department has told a court that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will post lists of “scoping” parcels by Aug. 31 for consideration in oil and gas lease sales this year.

Interior also told the court that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will submit a record of decision on Lease Sale 257 in the Gulf of Mexico by Aug. 31 and will publish a sale notice in September.

For both the onshore and offshore lease sales, the time frames indicate the sales will occur in the fourth quarter.

Interior’s action comes in compliance with an injunction issued in June by the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, which ordered Interior to end its leasing moratorium in order to comply with the Mineral Leasing Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act (OGJ Online, June 16, 2021).

Interior informed the court Aug. 24 of the department’s followup plans and issued a public summary of the plans.

Onshore, offshore steps

After BLM state offices post the scoping parcels, there will be 30-day scoping comment period, after which BLM will conduct environmental reviews of parcels.

“Following this review, state offices will identify any eligible parcels and applicable stipulations in lease sale notices posted later this year,” Interior said.

That timing should mean the sales will occur some time in the fourth quarter. The process does not assure oil and gas companies of which parcels will be put up for sale, leaving the potential for frustration over the number and quality of the sale opportunities.

Interior noted that Lease Sale 257 by BOEM cannot take place sooner than 30 days after publication of the notice, expected in September. That will move the sale for Gulf of Mexico tracts into October at the earliest.

A sale in Cook Inlet, on the southern coast of Alaska, also will occur, Interior said.

“This fall, BOEM also will issue and take comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzing Lease Sale 258 in Cook Inlet,” the department said.

Interior accompanied the announcement with a reminder of the discretion allowed to it in the details of such sales.

The department said it “will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under law to conduct leasing in a manner that fulfills Interior’s legal responsibilities, including to take into account the programs’ documented deficiencies.”

Interior said it continues to work on a programmatic analysis to determine what changes “may be necessary to meet the President’s targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”