Rob Bishop, 119 other House members ask Zinke to expand OCS leasing

The US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and 119 other House members, all but one of whom are Republicans, asked Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to increase US Outer Continental Shelf areas available for oil and gas leasing in the next 5-year management program. Rep. Gene Green from Houston was the single Democrat who signed the Aug. 16 letter, a committee staff member told OGJ.

The US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and 119 other House members, all but one of whom are Republicans, asked Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to increase US Outer Continental Shelf areas available for oil and gas leasing in the next 5-year management program. Rep. Gene Green from Houston was the single Democrat who signed the Aug. 16 letter, a committee staff member told OGJ.

In a series of actions at the end of June that were aimed at achieving not just US energy independence but dominance, President Donald J. Trump included development of a 2019-24 National OCS Program which would open more areas to leasing (OGJ Online, June 30, 2017).

Zinke immediately announced that the 2017-22 OCS program, which became final on Jan. 17, will remain in effect until the 2019-24 program is completed.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management published a request for information (RFI) in the July 3 Federal Register as the first step in developing the new OCS program. The 45-day comment period on that request was scheduled to end on Aug. 17.

“In the development of [the new] program, it is imperative that we fully consider development of all OCS lands, including those not part of the 2017-22 program, to ensure opportunities are not missed,” Bishop and the 119 other House members said.

The US onshore energy renaissance has made the US the world’s No. 1 oil and gas producer, “and our adversaries and rivals across the globe are paying attention,” their letter noted. “We have the opportunity to further secure our global position by encouraging exploration and leasing in new OCS areas and encouraging investment in traditional offshore development areas.”

Long lead times

Producing oil and gas from the OCS requires vast capital expenditures on long-term projects with long lead times, the federal lawmakers observed. “Just as today’s energy security is the result of production set in motion by decisions made years ago, the decisions on OCS leasing and development facing [the US Department of the Interior] today will lay the groundwork for our energy and national security for decades,” they said.

“Therefore, it is critical that leasing in the Gulf of Mexico continues and that we look for new energy resources in areas not included in the 2017-22 OCS leasing program,” their letter continued. “There is demonstrated interest in the leasing and development of previously excluded areas, and we must consider these areas for development to optimize our nation’s resource potential.”

The House members’ letter followed one that 36 Republican US senators sent Zinke toward the end of July expressing strong support for a new federal OCS management program and urging him to “carefully review those areas that were not included in the 2017-2022 Five-Year Program to ensure that opportunities are not missed” (OGJ Online, July 28, 2017).

Comments received during the RFI will be analyzed, summarized, and used to help prepare the Draft Proposed Program Decision Document, the first of three analytical proposals DOI uses to make decisions under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, according to information at BOEM’s web site.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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