Lease Sale 261 for oil and gas exploration tracts in the Gulf of Mexico is now set for Dec. 20, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced Nov. 16.
A Final Notice of Sale will be available for public inspection Nov. 17 and will be published Nov. 20 in the Federal Register, the agency said. If BOEM follows standard form, the deadline for bids will be the day before the sale date. BOEM will live stream the opening of bids at 9 a.m. Central time Dec. 20.
BOEM was bowing to a Nov. 14 order of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The order required the agency to go ahead with the sale and to do so without the additional restrictions announced in August that excluded about 6 million acres from the sale acreage and imposed limits on oil and gas ship movements (OGJ Online, Nov. 15, 2023).
"Pursuant to direction from the court, BOEM will include lease blocks that were previously excluded due to concerns regarding potential impacts to the Rice’s whale population in the Gulf of Mexico,” the agency said. “BOEM will also remove portions of a related stipulation meant to address those potential impacts from the lease terms for any leases that may result from Lease Sale 261.”
The “related stipulation” concerned sharply limiting ship speeds and restricting nighttime ship movements, but only for craft involved in oil and gas work.
The court of appeals ruling had the effect of upholding a preliminary injunction issued by the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana that struck down the acreage exclusions and ship movement stipulations.
The district court found that an injunction was warranted because the industry plaintiffs and the state of Louisiana were likely to succeed at trial in their charges that BOEM violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Administrative Procedure Act in the way BOEM tacked on acreage restrictions and ship restrictions without adequate justification.