Taking Pride in the “Fewest Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in History”

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, on October 2, 2023, published an announcement in the Federal Register (88 FR 67798) of its proposed Outer Continental Shelf leasing program for 2024-2029.  BOEM’s proposal would hold a maximum of three lease sales during that time — less than in any other 5-year planning period since OCS leasing began — with all potential sales being in the Gulf of Mexico.

This website doesn’t generally delve in great detail into OCS leasing matters.  But the headline on the Interior Department press release that accompanied BOEM’s announcement — “Reflecting America’s Rapid and Accelerating Shift to Clean Energy, Interior Department Announces Fewest Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in History in Proposed Final Program for 2024-2029” — was enough to demand a few remarks.

The press release — striving to placate the administration’s anti-fossil-fuel supporters — emphasizes that, “In compliance with the terms of the [Inflation Reduction Act], these three proposed lease sales are the minimum number that will enable the Interior Department to continue to expand its offshore wind leasing program through 2030. . . . The IRA does not allow the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to issue a lease for offshore wind development unless the agency has offered at least 60 million acres for oil and gas leasing on the OCS in the previous year.” In other words, if it hadn’t been for the compromise provision that Senator Manchin forced the administration to include in the IRA, there would be no OCS lease sales held in the next five years.

An analogous provision is included in the IRA — as discussed in the Inflation Reduction Act link on the Recent Developments page of this website — tying BLM’s ability to issue rights-of-way for wind or solar development to its maintaining a certain level of onshore oil and gas lease sales.  Had it not been for that provision, in combination with litigation in several federal courts, it is clear that BLM would no longer be holding onshore lease sales either.

The BOEM press release acknowledges that, among the factors for BOEM to consider, in scheduling lease sales under the OCS Lands Act, is that the sales that are held should be those “that best meet regional and national energy needs.” The irony of the Interior Department acknowledging that standard, while in the same breath boasting of conducting the fewest lease sales in history, is jaw-dropping.

October 2023


© 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.  Quotes from the Commentary page are welcome, so long as they are in context and identify the source.


For highlights of past commentary from this website and The Federal Oilpatch newsletter, click this link: