Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
More from the White House encouraging domestic oil drilling. Earlier this week the White House sent out a report showing 70% of U.S. oilfields are inactive. Now, a press release touting a lease sale to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Does President Obama see a vulnerability on domestic oil production?
"Today the Obama Administration provided final details for the Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale announced by President Obama in January 2012, as part of his administration’s ongoing focus on expanding safe and responsible production of our domestic energy sources. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau today announced the Final Notice of Sale for a June 20, 2012 lease sale that will make available all unleased areas in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including 7,276 blocks on about 38.6 million acres.
"The sale will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of over 1 billion barrels of oil and more than 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“As part of the Obama administration’s all of the above energy strategy, we continue to make millions of acres of federal waters and public lands available for safe and responsible domestic energy exploration and development,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Holding this lease sale is one of the many administrative steps we are taking, at the President’s direction, to increase U.S. production, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and incentivize early production on leases that industry holds.”
“The Gulf of Mexico is the crown jewel of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, and home to a number of world-class producing basins – including many in deepwater areas that are becoming increasingly accessible with new technology,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “There have been a number of significant discoveries in the past two years alone, and this sale will continue making significant and promising areas available while encouraging diligent development and providing the taxpayer a fair return.”
The blocks are located from three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters) in the Central Gulf of Mexico, a region that BOEM estimates contains close to 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are currently undiscovered and technically recoverable. The Final Notice of Sale package describes all terms and conditions for Central Gulf Lease Sale 216-222. These include a range of incentives that encourage prompt development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers, as described in a recent report by the Department of the Interior on the status of Oil and Gas Lease Utilization. These measures include escalating rental rates and tiered durational terms with relatively short base periods followed by additional time under the same lease if the operator drills a well during the initial period.
BOEM has also increased the minimum bid in deepwater to $100 per acre, up from only $37.50, to ensure that taxpayers receive fair market value for offshore resources and to provide leaseholders with additional impetus to invest in leases that they are more likely to develop. Analysis of the last 15 years of lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico showed that deepwater leases that received high bids of less than $100 per acre, adjusted for energy prices at time of each sale, experienced virtually no exploration and development drilling.
The terms of sale also reflect a series of conditions to ensure an appropriate balance of orderly resource development with protection of the human, marine and coastal environments. These include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region. BOEM completed a supplemental environmental impact statement relating to this sale, which considers the latest available information for the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Today, BOEM is also issuing a Record of Decision following that analysis.
For this sale, BOEM has also adopted a stipulation to notify bidders that the terms stated in a February 20, 2012 agreement between Mexico and the United States regarding the exploration and development of oil and natural gas reservoirs along the United States’ and Mexico’s maritime boundary may apply to some of the blocks offered in this sale, should the agreement enter into force.
The Final Notice of Sale information package is available at: http://www.boem.gov/sale-216-222/. Copies can also be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).
The Final Notice of Sale and the Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision on a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 216/222 are available today in the Federal Register at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.