Interior Secretary Signs America-First Offshore Energy Strategy
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke last week signed two orders aimed at unleashing US offshore energy potential. The first order directs the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to develop a new five-year plan for oil and gas exploration in offshore waters and reconsider a number of regulations governing those activities. The second order establishes the position of Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy to coordinate the Interior Department’s energy portfolio.
Secretarial Order 3350 directs BOEM to immediately develop a new Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program with full consideration given to leasing offshore Alaska, mid- and south-Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. It also directs BOEM to work with the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service to expedite authorization requests for seismic surveys to understand the extent of US energy potential. The order also ceases all activities to promulgate the proposed Offshore Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance Rule.
The order also directs BOEM and BSEE to review a host of other rules and report progress within 21 days.
“Following through on the leadership established by President Trump, today’s orders will help cement our Nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy independence and security for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that this development is safe and environmentally responsible,” said Zinke. “We will conduct a thorough review of the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration and listen to state and local stakeholders. We also will conduct a thorough review of regulations that were created with good intentions but have had harmful impacts on America’s energy security.”
OCS production currently accounts for about 18 percent of domestic crude oil and four percent of domestic natural gas supply. In Fiscal Year 2016, federal leasing revenues for the OCS were about $2.8 billion. By contrast, in 2008 federal leasing revenues for the OCS were nearly $18 billion dollars. “That’s a drop of more than $15 billion that would otherwise go to the Treasury or toward funding important conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund,” Zinke noted. “We are committed to fuller cooperation with the offshore industry and coastal communities to expand responsible energy development while holding industry accountable to strict safety and environmental protections.”
BSEE engineers work with offshore operators to review and introduce new technology and ensure that operations remain safe and are conducted responsibly. BSEE inspectors conduct more than 19,000 inspections a year to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible operation of nearly 2,400 offshore oil and gas drilling and production facilities and 27,000 miles of pipeline.
Of the 1.7 billion acres on the OCS, only 16.9 million acres are leased for oil and gas development with 4.4 million of those acres producing oil and gas. About 97 percent of all OCS leases are currently in the Gulf of Mexico. BOEM estimates the US OCS has about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. The Gulf of Mexico, covering 160 million acres of the OCS, has an estimated 48.46 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 141.76 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas.