API, NOIA hope BOEMRE studies don't jeopardize 2011 leasing

The American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association separately expressed concern that supplementary environmental impact statements (SEISs) the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement announced on Nov. 10 could lead to Gulf of Mexico lease sales currently scheduled for 2011 being canceled.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 16 -- The American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association separately expressed concern that supplementary environmental impact statements (SEISs) the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement announced on Nov. 10 could lead to Gulf of Mexico lease sales currently scheduled for 2011 being canceled.

“If that happens, 2011 would be the first year since 1965 when no federal lease sale is held in the gulf,” API Upstream Director Erik Milito told reporters in a Nov. 15 teleconference.

In a statement issued a few hours later, NOIA Pres. Randall B. Luthi said time is running down for BOEMRE to complete preparation of the SEISs for the sales to take place in a timely manner. “There is barely enough time before Lease Sale 216 is scheduled to occur in the central gulf in March 2011,” he said.

BOEMRE published a notice that it intends to prepare SEISs for western planning area Sale No. 218 and central planning area Sale No. 222 in the Nov. 10 Federal Register. It mistakenly did not include Sale No. 216, which will be added in a correction filed for Federal Register publication.

The US Department of the Interior agency said it determined that SEISs are appropriate for the three lease sales in order to consider new information and circumstances arising from the Apr. 20 Macondo well blow out, rig explosion, and subsequent oil spill. The analysis will focus on updating baseline conditions and potential environment effects of oil and gas leasing, exploration, development, and production in the two gulf planning areas, it said.

Hearings scheduled
No decision has been made on possibly canceling any lease sales to conduct the studies, a DOI source told OGJ. BOEMRE has scheduled public hearings for Nov. 16 in New Orleans, Nov. 17 in Houston, and Nov. 18 in Mobile, Ala., to discuss preparing the proposed SEISs.

“We hope work can be done quickly and do a thorough environmental analysis. But we’re concerned this could take all of 2011 and the industry would have no opportunity to lease tracts in the gulf,” Milito said.

API understands BOEMRE’s objectives, Milito said, adding, “Given that the agency has done significant, thorough studies in the past and is merely supplementing them, we hope its work now can be done sooner rather than later.”

Luthi, who was director of BOEMRE’s predecessor agency, the US Minerals Management Service, during George W. Bush’s second presidential term, said NOIA members are ready to assist with information for Sale No. 216’s SEIS.

The time frame also is slipping on the upcoming 2012-17 5-year US Outer Continental Shelf program, he continued. “Given that it takes 18-24 months to prepare a 5-year plan, we should be seeing some forward movement out of DOI,” Luthi said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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