Following an announcement in December that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposes conducting Arctic outer continental shelf oil and gas lease sales in its 2019 to 2024 lease sale program, the bureau announced to today that it is calling for information and nominations for a Beaufort Sea lease sale in 2019. The idea is to obtain comments from industry on areas where leasing may be of interest, including indications of interest in specific lease blocks. BOEM is also seeking comments on any relevant information, including geological, environmental, biological, archaeological and socioeconomic parameters, relating to a lease sale.
BOEM emphasized that the proposed new 2019 to 2024 lease sale program is still in draft form and that a Beaufort Sea lease sale cannot actually take place until the program has been finalized and approved. Much advance planning is needed to conduct a lease sale and, while BOEM staff want to start the planning process, the planning activity does not represent a decision to hold the sale.
"Available information indicates that the Beaufort Sea possesses great oil and gas potential," said Dr. James Kendall, director of BOEM's Alaska OCS Region. "It also contains unique, environmentally sensitive areas important to the subsistence needs of the region's Alaska Native communities. This process will help us identify not only the areas that can be safely and responsibly developed, but also those areas that should be protected for wildlife and traditional uses."
BOEM says that information received in response to the call will enable blocks to be identified for potential leasing; prioritize areas with oil and gas potential; develop potential lease conditions; and identify potential use conflicts and mitigation measures. In addition to identifying areas to offer in a lease sale, the next step would then be to conduct an environmental analysis.
- ALAN BAILEY
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