Today, the Department of Interior released its five-year proposal (2017-2022) for oil and gas leasing in the outer continental shelf (OCS). Although activists predicted otherwise, the plan allows for the continued leasing of Arctic plots for oil and gas development. The proposal declared:
“Recognizing the significant oil and gas potential in the Arctic OCS region, industry interest, and the views of the State of Alaska, BOEM decided to include the three potential Alaska lease sales in the Proposed Program, and is requesting additional input on the compatibility of oil and gas activities with environmental, subsistence, and cultural uses in the region.”
The proposal goes on the highlight the partnerships that exist between the Native North Slope organizations and the oil and gas industry. Today’s proposal also spends a substantial amount of time highlighting the “significant” oil and gas potential of the Arctic OCS region correctly stating:
“Arctic areas (Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea) could provide significant sources of domestic energy production. In particular, Arctic OCS oil may be important to Alaska for continued operation of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.”
The lease sale schedule of this five-year proposal indicates that there will be three Alaska OCS lease sales between now and 2022:
Today’s announcement carries on the Interior Department’s tradition of allowing American operators to pursue Arctic energy projects in Alaska’s OCS region. The department first acknowledged Alaska’s OCS region for lease sales in its five-year plans in its 1980-1982 proposal, when it conducted a 1983 sale of a Beaufort Sea asset (lease sale #71).
Despite the misinformed cries of activists to shut down the Arctic completely, the Department of Interior (in conjunction with BOEM) has once again left the door open for energy development in the Arctic. The proposed five-year Plan may seem momentous in the face of today’s anti-drilling hyperbole, but exploration and development in the Arctic is not new and its future energy potential is extensive.