Associations, others ask BOEM to keep Arctic in 2017-22 OCS plan

Oil and gas trade associations and other groups urged the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to not remove or modify offshore Alaska lease sales that are now part of the draft proposed 2017-22 US Outer Continental Shelf program. Their June 16 requests came as the comment period for the next 5-year plan closed.

The American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Ocean Industries Association, and nine other national organizations jointly approved BOEM’s plan to have lease sales in Cook Inlet and the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

They expressed concern, however, with proposals to reduce the areas available for lease or to impose mitigation measures that potentially would render a lease nonviable. Their joint comment asked BOEM to maintain the three proposed Alaska OCS lease sales without further access restrictions.

Separately, the Alaska Oil & Gas Association and 14 other oil and gas, business, and labor organizations in the state urged BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper to keep the Alaska offshore sales as is in the next 5-year plan.

“A strong Alaskan economy is not simply affected by the development of the Arctic OCS—it is dependent upon it,” they said in their comment. “Our state’s oil fields have matured over the years, and it is vital that new arenas and development opportunities are realized for the future economic security of our state.”

Former US Sec. of Defense William S. Cohen and 13 other national security experts also called upon BOEM to move ahead with the planned lease sales for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. “The strategic significance of the Arctic is growing due to rapid change in the physical and geopolitical environments. Excluding the Arctic from the program would harm our ability to protect our interests and to promote cooperation in the region,” they said in a June 16 statement.

Others are interested

Human activity will increase in the Arctic as the region becomes more navigable, they observed. “Since Arctic sea routes cut transit distances between Asian, European, and North American markets, shipping in the region will increase along with associated logistical infrastructure,” said the group, which also included retired military and US Coast Guard commanders. “Likewise, Arctic offshore energy development will occur, whether or not the US participates, as other countries pursue the Arctic’s large energy resources to meet long-term needs.”

Their comments came a day after US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) introduced a resolution that would keep the Beaufort and Chukchi sales in the 2017-22 OCS plan. “Canceling the Arctic lease sales would be a self-defeating action that would not have the slightest effect on global warming,” Nunes said. “It would merely surrender the development of Arctic energy to rival nations like Russia.”

Concerns over possible removals of or added restrictions to the scheduled federal Arctic OCS lease sales developed after the US Department of the Interior deleted a planned 2021 sale offshore Virginia (OGJ Online, Mar. 15, 2016). Interior officials said this was largely in response to US military and public concerns that were much stronger this time than 5 years earlier.

“While other nations are actively pursuing their offshore oil and natural gas opportunities, federal policies in the US have closed more than 85% of America’s offshore areas to exploration activities,” NOIA Pres. Randall B. Luthi said on June 16. “Currently, we don’t have an accurate assessment of our own offshore oil and gas resource potential and under the limited current plan, we can’t even look. It is important that we not back-track any further on our energy future.”

Separately, Daniel T. Naatz, IPAA’s senior vice-president of government relations and political affairs, said, “America needs a robust offshore energy program that best utilizes the energy-rich resources we have right here at home, balancing thoughtful environmental protections and the tremendous economic and consumer benefits that come along with it. Why keep these plentiful resources, which are still needed for years to come, off limits? We strongly urge the president to keep all areas of the offshore available for future consideration.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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