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Interior Department issues fewest offshore lease sales in history in latest OCS program

The Department of the Interior (DOI) released the Proposed Final Program and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2024–2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program on 29 September. The proposal includes a maximum of three potential oil and gas lease sales, the fewest in history, in the Gulf of Mexico Program Area scheduled in 2025, 2027 and 2029. The three proposed lease sales are the minimum number allowed under the terms of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), as the DOI continues to expand its offshore wind leasing program through 2030.

The areas considered for leasing and the number of potential lease sales in the 2024-2029 Proposed Final Program have been significantly narrowed from the previous administration’s original proposal of 47 lease sales off all coastal areas in the US over a five-year period.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to building a clean energy future that ensures America’s energy independence,” said US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Proposed Final Program, which represents the smallest number of oil and gas lease sales in history, sets a course for the department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities.”

Erik Milito, President of the National Ocean Industries Association labeled the proposal a failure: “The release of this US offshore leasing program, mandated by law and long overdue, is an utter failure for the country. President Biden’s approach to severely limit leasing significantly curtails access to a critical national asset at a time when energy inflation is rampant, the likelihood of a national recession looms, and global efforts are intensifying to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The White House simply ignores our energy realities, once again limiting U.S. energy production opportunities,” he said.

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