Request for Comments on the Preparation of a 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 45065-45070 [E8-17708]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices Capital and startup costs include, among other items, computers and software you purchase to prepare for collecting information; monitoring, sampling, and testing equipment; and record storage facilities. Generally, your estimates should not include equipment or services purchased: (i) Before October 1, 1995; (ii) to comply with requirements not associated with the information collection; (iii) for reasons other than to provide information or keep records for the Government; or (iv) as part of customary and usual business or private practices. We will summarize written responses to this notice and address them in our ICR submission for OMB approval, including appropriate adjustments to the estimated burden. We will provide a copy of the ICR to you without charge upon request. The ICR also will be posted at http://www.mrm.mms.gov/ Laws_R_D/FRNotices/FRInfColl.htm. Public Comment Policy: We will post all comments in response to this notice at http://www.mrm.mms.gov/Laws_R_D/ FRNotices/FRInfColl.htm. We also will make copies of the comments available for public view, including names and addresses of respondents, during regular business hours at our offices in Lakewood, Colorado. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment— including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public view your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. MMS Information Collection Clearance Officer: Arlene Bajusz (202) 208–7744. Dated: July 21, 2008. Richard J. Adamski, Acting Associate Director for Minerals Revenue Management. [FR Doc. E8–17730 Filed 7–31–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–MR–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES Minerals Management Service Request for Comments on the Preparation of a 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program Minerals Management Service (MMS), Interior. AGENCY: ACTION: Request for Comments. VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 SUMMARY: Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1344) requires the Department of the Interior to solicit information from interested and affected parties during the preparation of a 5year OCS oil and gas leasing program. The current 5-year program covers the period July 2007 to June 30, 2012. The Department’s MMS is soliciting information on whether to begin a new Program for mid-2010 to mid-2015 (approximate dates) to succeed the current one. Section 18 requires completion of a multi-step process of public consultation and analysis before the Secretary of the Interior may approve a new 5-Year Program. The section 18 process includes the following required steps: This initial solicitation of comments; development of a draft proposed program, a proposed program, a proposed final program; and Secretarial approval. If the decision is made to prepare a new 5-Year Program, the MMS will also prepare appropriate NEPA analysis documents. The public will have opportunities to comment on the draft proposed program, the draft EIS or other NEPA documents, and the proposed program. This Notice in particular requests comments on areas that are restricted from leasing by Congressional Moratoria but were removed from Presidential Withdrawal on July 14, 2008. DATES: The MMS must receive all comments and information by September 15, 2008. Public Comment Procedure The MMS will accept comments in one of two formats: By mail or our Internet commenting system. Please submit your comments using only one of these formats, and include full names and addresses. Comments submitted by other means may not be considered. We will not consider anonymous comments, and we will make available for inspection in their entirety all comments submitted by organizations and businesses, or by individuals identifying themselves as representatives of organizations and businesses. Our practice is to make comments, including the names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review. An individual commenter may ask that we withhold from the public record, his or her name, home address, or both, and we will honor such a request to the extent allowable by law. If you submit comments and desire that we withhold such information, you must so state prominently at the beginning of your submission. PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 45065 Mail comments and information on the program to: Ms. Renee Orr, 5-Year Program Manager, Minerals Management Service (MS– 4010), 381 Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia 20170. Environmental comments and information relevant to oil and gas development on the OCS should be sent to: Mr. James F. Bennett, Chief, Branch of Environmental Assessment, Minerals Management Service (MS–4042), 381 Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia 20170. If you submit any privileged or proprietary information to be treated as confidential, please mark the envelope, ‘‘Contains Confidential Information’’. Internet: The MMS will accept comments submitted to our electronic public comment system. (Public Connect). This system can be accessed at http://www.mms.gov. We also will provide access to information concerning the 5-Year Program at the MMS Internet Web site (http:// www.mms.gov) and copies or summaries of comments we receive in response to this notice will be available in the MMS Public Connect database. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Renee Orr, 5-Year Program Manager, at (703) 787–1215. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MMS requests comments from states; local and tribal governments; American Indian and Native Alaskan organizations; Federal agencies; environmental and fish and wildlife organizations; the oil and gas industry; other interested organizations; and other parties on whether to begin the preparation of a new 5-Year Program. MMS is seeking a wide range of information, including marine productivity, environmental sensitivity and resource assessment. The 5-Year Program enables the Federal Government, states, industry, and other interested parties to plan for steps proposed to lead to OCS oil and gas lease sales. The Department will make a decision on whether to proceed with a specific lease sale on the schedule, only after meeting all of the applicable requirements of the OCS Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other statutes. The OCS is a significant source of oil and gas for the Nation’s energy supply. On a per day basis, the OCS currently produces about 1.35 million barrels of oil and almost 8 billion cubic feet of natural gas. This represents approximately 27 percent of domestic oil production and 15 percent of natural gas production. The MMS’s oversight and regulatory frameworks ensure production and ADDRESSES: E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES 45066 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices drilling are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The offshore areas of the United States are estimated to contain significant quantities of resources in yetto-be-discovered fields. MMS estimates that the Undiscovered Technically Recoverable oil and gas resources in the U.S. OCS consist of 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Significant areas of the OCS have been under congressional and/or executive restrictions starting in the early 1980’s. Currently, approximately 574 million acres, i.e., 85 percent of the OCS offshore the lower-48 states are unavailable for leasing consideration, due to congressional moratoria, something no other country in the world has done to this extent. MMS estimates that these restricted areas—in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and parts of the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico— contain about 30 percent of the potential undiscovered oil and 27 percent of the undiscovered natural gas resources offshore the lower-48 states. (This is a mean estimate based on MMS’s 2006 assessment.) Neighboring countries are expanding offshore oil and gas exploration due to oil and gas price increases as well as other environmental and economic factors. A moratorium imposed by the Canadian government on offshore drilling in Georges Bank, a rich fishing ground off southwest Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic, is in place until 2012. The Canadian government is considering lifting that moratorium. Canada also has issued leases and exploration rights in the eastern Beaufort Sea adjacent to the U.S. Beaufort Sea. Another example is Cuba, which has entered into licenses with private energy companies to develop its offshore resources. Cuba appears to be exploring aggressively its oil and gas resources since the late 1990’s, with offshore activity less than 50 miles from the coast of Florida. The vast majority of OCS production comes from the Central and Western Planning Areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Given the recent effects of hurricanes on Gulf production in the short and long terms, it is clear that the country has concentrated most of its offshore domestic energy production activity in one area. To address this, MMS is calling for a broadened approach to address other areas of the OCS as well. In testimony before Congress in May 2008, Energy Secretary Bodman emphasized the need to expand conventional energy supplies and diversify their sources. He proposed greater access to areas, including the OCS, that contain substantial amounts VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 of oil and natural gas. New development technologies and methods will provide the opportunity for this development to proceed with proper protection for the environment. The MMS is initiating the section 18 5-year program development at this time, approximately 2 years ahead of schedule, as part of the Federal Government’s actions to address the existing domestic energy situation. Currently, each American uses an average of 3 gallons of oil per day. About two-thirds of that oil is used in transportation. In fact, oil is expected to remain, by far, the primary fuel for transportation for decades to come, even with aggressive efforts and government policies to encourage the development of alternative fuels, more efficient engines, and increasingly effective conservation measures. The MMS is developing a program to produce electricity from alternative energy resources on the OCS. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Secretary, acting through MMS, has established a program to develop renewable energy resources on the OCS. On July 9, 2008, MMS issued a Proposed Rule for alternative energy on the OCS. As a first step, under an interim policy announced in late 2007, MMS is working toward issuance of several leases for data gathering and technology testing. These leases will look at varied renewable energy sources in different portions of the OCS. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in 2007 that wind and other renewables are the fastest growing energy sources in the U.S., projecting that renewables will account for over 10 percent of domestic energy production by 2030. In the long term, development of a wide array of renewable energy sources is critical. However, in the short and mid-term, both nationally and globally, we will continue to rely on fossil fuels. On June 18, 2008, the President issued a statement on energy, particularly focusing on the rising price of gasoline. High gasoline prices stem from high oil prices which result from basic ‘‘supply and demand’’ factors in the current market. The dramatic increase in oil and natural gas prices has resulted from growing U.S. and global demand for these products that has not been matched by an equivalent increase in available supplies. The President stated that much of the oil consumed in the U.S. comes from abroad and some of that is from ‘‘unstable regions and unfriendly regimes. This makes us more vulnerable to supply shocks and price spikes beyond our control—and that puts both our economy and our security PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 at risk.’’ The Department of Commerce reported in April that the U.S. trade deficit grew to its largest level in over a year to $60.9 billion. Even with exports rising, increases in oil prices continued to drive up the deficit. The deficit of petroleum products has grown to $34.5 billion, up from $23.5 billion last year. It is expected that continued importing of oil will widen the trade deficit even more sending billions of dollars to other countries. Gasoline prices may be a more visible consequence of the energy situation, but there are other consequences that affect various sectors of the economy. According to the EIA, while gasoline prices in the U.S. have increased about $1.15 per gallon over the past year, diesel fuel has increased almost $1.90 per gallon. (Source: Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update. Energy Information Administration. 14 July 2008. http:// tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/wohdp/ diesel.asp?featureclicked=1&) Since much of the Nation’s consumer goods are transported by truck, the prices of such goods to the consumer also reflect the increase in energy costs and may affect consumer buying patterns. Energy is also one of the greatest input costs for manufacturers. This sector is dependent upon globally competitive energy to compete in the marketplace both domestically and globally. According to the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), a cross-industry trade association, the high price of natural gas in particular has contributed to the loss of about 3.3 million, or about 19 percent, of U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2000 (Source: Cicio, Paul. Industrial Energy Consumers of America. ‘‘A Natural-Gas High.’’ Forbes.com. 4 June 2008. http://www.ieca-us.com/documents/ 06.04.08_Forbes.comArticleMagazineArticle.pdf). Furthermore, as the use of natural gas to generate electricity has grown in this country, the increase in natural gas prices causes an increase in electricity costs to manufacturers as well as to the general public. The EIA projects residential electricity prices will increase by an annual average of about 5.2 percent in 2008 and 9.8 percent in 2009, compared with an increase of 2.2 percent in 2007. (Source: Short-Term Energy Outlook. Energy Information Administration. 8 July 2008. http:// www.eia.doe.gov/steo) Unlike oil that is priced globally, natural gas is a more regional product that is priced domestically. Over 80 percent of natural gas consumed in the U.S. is domestically produced. While supply and demand have remained fairly stable, the price of natural gas has E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES shown an increase of almost 130 percent over the past year. In his June 18 statement, the President asked Congress to pass legislation as soon as possible to lift the congressional restrictions in order to give states the option to recommend the opening of the OCS off their coasts to environmentallyresponsible exploration for and development of hydrocarbon resources and sharing of revenues. On July 14, the President removed the executive prohibition in those areas and again asked Congress to lift the congressional restrictions and to allow increased domestic oil exploration and production. Similar legislation has been introduced in the recent past, but not enacted. The current economic and energy situation may argue for reconsideration of these matters. The dramatic increase in energy prices has affected all aspects of the American economy, and while not all coastal states have considered exploration and development activity off their coasts, some states have already addressed the potential of the OCS. For example, in 2006 the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted an energy policy that includes interest in developing natural gas resources more than 50 miles off its coast. Similar legislation has been introduced in other states. Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act requires that the Secretary consider national energy needs in formulating a leasing program. In April 2007 when MMS announced the Proposed Final Program for 2007–2012, oil was priced at $64.21 per barrel. As of the end of June 2008, prices were at $134.60 per barrel, representing an increase of over 100 percent. Gasoline prices have doubled over the same period from just over $2 to over $4 per gallon. OCS Planning Areas To Be Considered and Analyzed Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act requires that the 5-year schedule of lease sales be based upon a comparative analysis of the oil and gas-bearing regions of the OCS. MMS has created 26 planning areas, which are depicted in Figures 1 and 2. The boundaries between planning areas were administratively created and are not specified in law or regulation. Note that precise marine boundaries between the United States and nearby or adjacent nations have not been determined in all cases. The depicted maritime boundaries and limits, as well as divisions between planning areas, where shown, are for planning and administrative purposes only. These limits do not affect or prejudice in any manner the position of the United VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 45067 Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by leasing, for a time period without specific expiration, those areas of the Outer Continental Shelf designated as of July 14, 2008, as Marine Sanctuaries under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431–1434, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq. and the approved program includes three areas that had not been considered for leasing for many years—the North Aleutian Basin, Alaska; a portion of the Gulf of Mexico; and an area in the MidAtlantic off the coast of Virginia. Only the area off Virginia remains under a congressional ban. Had these areas not been included in the Draft Proposed Program, they could not have been in the approved program. As set forth in more detail later in this notice, the information requested is wide-ranging, including other uses of the sea, marine productivity, and environmental sensitivity. Accordingly, this notice provides an opportunity for a governor or anyone else to comment on any area of the OCS. Such information is therefore solicited and will be considered in light of the factors specified by section 18 of the OCS Lands Act, discussed later in this notice, and in light of existing moratoria. Based upon the analysis of these factors, the Secretary will decide which areas to include in the draft proposed program. Pursuant to section 18, included areas will be subject to further analysis as well as review and analysis under NEPA. The Secretary also seeks comments on whether the Congressional restrictions should be eliminated or modified. This modification affects the following planning areas: WashingtonOregon; Northern, Central, and Southern California; South, Mid-, and North Atlantic; and Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Portions of these planning areas have been closed to leasing pursuant to congressional moratoria in annual appropriations statutes from the 1980’s to the present. Also pursuant to the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, Congress placed off limits until 2022 the Eastern Gulf within 125 miles of Florida, all of the Eastern Gulf east of 86 degrees, 41 minutes West longitude, and a portion of the Central Gulf within 100 miles of Florida. See Figure 2. The President’s June 16 and July 14 statements continue to recognize that deference should be paid to the coastal states, but calls for discontinuing the restrictions so the states have the option to decide whether to support offshore activity. As with the RFI issued in August 2005 (70 FR 49669) for the current program, we are asking for input from the states, local governments, and other interested parties as to whether and how their interest in offshore resources has changed. Based upon expressions of such interest in the initiation of the current program, areas under restriction were included in the program proposals Section 18 As previously noted, the program preparation process will follow all the procedural steps required by section 18 of the OCS Lands Act. This notice solicits comments early in the preparation process pursuant to section 18(c)(1) of that Act. The MMS will prepare a draft proposed program based upon consideration of the comments we receive and analysis of the principles and factors specified in section 18. The draft proposed program will present for review and comment a preliminary schedule of lease sales and potential alternatives. Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act lists the factors to be considered—the economic, social, and environmental values of all of the resources of the OCS and the potential impact of oil and gas exploration and development on the environment. Specific factors that must be analyzed and considered in deciding where and when to lease include the following: (1) Existing information on the geographical, geological, and ecological characteristics of such regions; (2) equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks among the various regions; (3) location of such regions and regional and national energy markets; (4) location with respect to other current States, or its individual States, with respect to the nature or extent of internal waters or of sovereign rights or jurisdiction. Many planning areas were subject to a recently modified presidential withdrawal from leasing under the authority of section 12 of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1341). On July 14, 2008 a Modification of the Presidential Withdrawal of areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf from leasing disposition was announced by President Bush in the following statement, ‘‘Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby modify the prior memoranda of withdrawals from disposition by leasing of the United States Outer Continental Shelf issued on August 4, 1992, and June 12, 1998, as modified on January 9, 2007, to read only as follows:’’ PO 00000 Frm 00111 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 45068 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices and anticipated uses of the sea and seabed; (5) expressed industry interest; (6) laws, goals, and policies of affected states specifically identified by governors; (7) relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of different areas of the OCS; and (8) environmental and predictive information for different areas of the OCS. The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary to obtain a proper balance among the potential for environmental damage, the discovery of oil and gas, and adverse impact on the coastal zone, for which DOI uses cost-benefit analysis. mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES Types of Information Requested The MMS invites comments from anyone who would like to submit information for us to consider in determining the appropriate size, timing, and location of OCS oil and gas leasing for the new 5-year period. The types of information we seek are described below, using general and specific headings. Regardless of these headings, all respondents are welcome to comment on any aspect of program preparation and to submit any type of pertinent information. General The MMS would like to receive comments and suggestions of national or regional application that would be useful in formulating the program. The types of information that would be most useful to us in conducting the analysis pursuant to section 18 of the OCS Lands Act relate to the following factors: (1) National energy needs for the period relevant to the new program (in particular for this program, the role of OCS oil and gas leasing in achieving national energy policy goals, including its potential for contributing to increased domestic natural gas supplies); the economic, social, and environmental values of the renewable and nonrenewable resources contained in the OCS; and the potential impact of oil and gas exploration and development on other resource values of the OCS and the marine, coastal, and human environments; (2) Geographical, geological, and ecological characteristics of the planning areas of the OCS and near shore and coastal environments; (3) Equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks among the various planning areas; (4) Location of planning areas with respect to, and the relative needs of, regional and national energy markets; (5) Other uses of the sea and seabed, including fisheries, navigation, military VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 activities, existing or proposed sea lanes, potential sites of deepwater ports (including liquefied natural gas facilities), potential offshore wind, wave, current or other alternative energy sites, and other anticipated uses of OCS resources and locations; (6) Relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of the different planning areas and/or a specific section of a given planning area of the OCS; (7) Environmental and predictive information pertaining to offshore and coastal areas potentially affected by OCS oil and gas development (including, but not limited to, socio-cultural and archaeological information); and (8) Methods and procedures for assuring the receipt of fair market value for lands leased. The MMS also invites commenters to respond to the following questions: (i) What do you think is the proper role of OCS oil and gas leasing as part of a comprehensive national energy policy? How should the 5-year program be structured to fulfill this role? (ii) Since recent studies have projected shortfalls in meeting energy needs, particularly natural gas, how could such needs be balanced with the laws, goals, and policies influencing the management of the OCS? How should long-term planning address the current energy supply situation? (iii) Should areas under Congressional moratoria be included in the new 5-Year Program? What areas? With Sales proposed in what time-frame? (iv) Although OCS oil and gas leasing is typically conducted through an extensive, long-established process, are there alternative ways to ensure appropriate consultation and to streamline our leasing procedures? Should the OCS Lands Act be amended to allow changes in the 5-year plan without starting the process all over again in cases of acute supply or demand shift affecting national security? How might we best meet the purpose of the OCS Lands Act ‘‘to insure that the extent of oil and gas resources of the outer Continental Shelf is assessed at the earliest practicable time’’? (v) If new areas are leased for exploration and potential development, what short-term and long-term impacts do you foresee for the economies of coastal communities? (vi) How should ecological considerations be weighed against national and local economic benefits, if new areas are considered for oil and gas leasing? (vii) If new areas are not leased for exploration and potential development, PO 00000 Frm 00112 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 what environmental impacts do you foresee from imports of oil and gas? (viii) Is there a strategic advantage to considering sources of oil and gas in areas currently under congressional moratoria to potentially diversify OCS energy development? Specific States As every state is feeling the effects of increased oil and gas prices and thereby is potentially impacted by the possibilities of enhanced domestic energy production, a letter soliciting such information has been sent to the governors of all 50 states. For coastal states, pursuant to section 18(f)(5) of the OCS Lands Act and implementing regulations at 30 CFR 256.20, MMS requests information concerning the relationship between OCS oil and gas activity and the states’ coastal zone management programs that are being developed or administered under the Coastal Zone Management Act. We also request states to submit information concerning environmental risk and potential for damage to coastal and marine resources associated with development of the OCS, information related to other uses of the sea, and any information that is relevant to equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks associated with OCS oil and gas activity. In addition, for non-coastal and coastal states we request information on the impacts of rising prices and potential shortages on your economies and citizens and their roles in the national economy. Oil and Gas Industry As specified in section 18(a)(2)(E) of the OCS Lands Act, MMS requests that oil and gas industry respondents provide information indicating interest in the opportunity to lease and develop additional OCS oil and gas resources. Respondents should base this information upon their expectations as of 2010. For each area in which a company is interested, please submit information concerning unleased hydrocarbon potential, future oil and gas price expectations, and other relevant information that the company uses in making OCS oil and gas leasing decisions. The MMS requests that industry respondents provide additional information as specified below. Upon request, such information will be treated confidentially, as explained further below: (1) Indicate the OCS planning area(s) where the company would be interested in acquiring oil and gas leases regardless of whether the area is currently under E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 Section 18(g) of the OCS Lands Act authorizes confidential treatment of privileged or proprietary information. In order to protect the confidentiality of privileged or proprietary information, include such information as an attachment to other comments submitted so that there is no ambiguity about what portions of the comments are confidential or proprietary. Upon request, MMS will treat the privileged or proprietary information that is attached to a response as confidential from the time of its receipt until 5 years after approval of the 2010–2015 leasing program, subject to the standards of the Freedom of Information Act. However, MMS will not treat as confidential any aggregate summaries of privileged or proprietary information, the names of respondents, or comments not containing such information. As noted above, respondents should affix the label ‘‘Contains Confidential Information’’ on any envelope PO 00000 Frm 00113 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4725 containing privileged or proprietary information. Department of Commerce Pursuant to section 18(f)(5) of the OCS Lands Act and implementing regulations at 30 CFR 256.20, MMS requests information concerning relationships between affected states’ coastal zone management programs and OCS oil and gas activities. We have sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce soliciting such information. Department of Energy Pursuant to implementing regulations at 30 CFR 256.16, MMS requests information concerning regional and national energy markets, OCS oil and gas production goals, and oil and gas transportation networks. We have sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy soliciting such information. Dated: July 29, 2008. Randall B. Luthi, Director, Minerals Management Service. E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 EN01AU08.001</GPH> mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES Congressional moratoria. If more than one planning area is of interest, rank the areas in order of preference. (2) Indicate the number and timing of lease sales in the period 2010–2015 that would be appropriate for each planning area. If only one lease sale in a planning area is appropriate, indicate whether that area should be considered for leasing early or late in the 5-year program schedule. If more than one lease sale in a planning area is suggested, indicate the preferred interval between lease sales. (3) The MMS estimated resource potential in moratoria areas is based on a limited number of wells, and very old (25 years) seismic data. How might seismic data be acquired in these areas? (4) Indicate the lead time to production (should new leasing be allowed to occur in previously restricted areas) in areas that are not part of the current program, relative to lead-times to new production in previously leased areas like the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. 45069 45070 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 149 / Friday, August 1, 2008 / Notices BILLING CODE 4310–MR–P performance of duties imposed on the Department of the Interior. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior. [FR Doc. E8–17587 Filed 7–31–08; 8:45 am] Bureau of Reclamation BILLING CODE 4310–MN–M Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group AGENCY: INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION, UNITED STATES AND MEXICO Bureau of Reclamation, Interior. Notice of charter renewal. ACTION: This notice is published in accordance with section 9(a)(2) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (Pub. L. 92–463, as amended). Following consultation with the General Services Administration, notice is hereby given that the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) is renewing the charter for the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group. The purpose of the Adaptive Management Work Group is to advise and to provide recommendations to the Secretary with respect to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam and the exercise of other authorities pursuant to applicable Federal law. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda Whetton, 801–524–3880. The certification of renewal is published below. mstockstill on PROD1PC66 with NOTICES SUMMARY: Certification I hereby certify that Charter renewal of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group is in the public interest in connection with the VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:39 Jul 31, 2008 Jkt 214001 United States Section; Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for Improvements to the Rio Grande Rectification Project in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties, TX United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico (USIBWC). ACTION: Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). AGENCY: SUMMARY: Pursuant to Section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, the Council on Environmental Quality Final Regulations (40 CFR Parts 1500 through 1508), and the United States Section’s Operational Procedures for Implementing Section 102 of NEPA, published in the Federal Register September 2, 1981, (46 FR 44083); the USIBWC hereby gives notice of availability of the Draft Environmental PO 00000 Frm 00114 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Assessment and FONSI for Improvements to the Rio Grande Rectification Project (RGRP) located in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties, Texas are available. An environmental impact statement will not be prepared unless additional information which may affect this decision is brought to our attention within 30 days from the date of this Notice. Lisa Santana, Environmental Protection Specialist, Environmental Management Division, United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission; 4171 N. Mesa, C–100; El Paso, Texas 79902. Telephone: (915) 832–4707; e-mail: lisasantana@ibwc.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Comments on the Draft EA and Draft FONSI will be accepted through September 2, 2008 Availability: Single hard copies of the Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact are available by request at the above address. Electronic copies are available from the USIBWC homepage at http:// www.ibwc.gov/Organization/ Environmental/ EIS_EA_Public_Comment.html. DATES: Dated: July 28, 2008. Susan Daniel, General Counsel. [FR Doc. E8–17514 Filed 7–31–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7010–01–P E:\FR\FM\01AUN1.SGM 01AUN1 EN01AU08.002</GPH> [FR Doc. E8–17708 Filed 7–31–08; 8:45 am]

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 149 (Friday, August 1, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45065-45070]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-17708]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Minerals Management Service


Request for Comments on the Preparation of a 5-Year Outer 
Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service (MMS), Interior.

ACTION: Request for Comments.

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SUMMARY: Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1344) requires the 
Department of the Interior to solicit information from interested and 
affected parties during the preparation of a 5-year OCS oil and gas 
leasing program. The current 5-year program covers the period July 2007 
to June 30, 2012. The Department's MMS is soliciting information on 
whether to begin a new Program for mid-2010 to mid-2015 (approximate 
dates) to succeed the current one.
    Section 18 requires completion of a multi-step process of public 
consultation and analysis before the Secretary of the Interior may 
approve a new 5-Year Program. The section 18 process includes the 
following required steps: This initial solicitation of comments; 
development of a draft proposed program, a proposed program, a proposed 
final program; and Secretarial approval. If the decision is made to 
prepare a new 5-Year Program, the MMS will also prepare appropriate 
NEPA analysis documents. The public will have opportunities to comment 
on the draft proposed program, the draft EIS or other NEPA documents, 
and the proposed program. This Notice in particular requests comments 
on areas that are restricted from leasing by Congressional Moratoria 
but were removed from Presidential Withdrawal on July 14, 2008.

DATES: The MMS must receive all comments and information by September 
15, 2008.

Public Comment Procedure

    The MMS will accept comments in one of two formats: By mail or our 
Internet commenting system. Please submit your comments using only one 
of these formats, and include full names and addresses. Comments 
submitted by other means may not be considered. We will not consider 
anonymous comments, and we will make available for inspection in their 
entirety all comments submitted by organizations and businesses, or by 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives of organizations 
and businesses.
    Our practice is to make comments, including the names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review. An individual 
commenter may ask that we withhold from the public record, his or her 
name, home address, or both, and we will honor such a request to the 
extent allowable by law. If you submit comments and desire that we 
withhold such information, you must so state prominently at the 
beginning of your submission.

ADDRESSES: Mail comments and information on the program to: Ms. Renee 
Orr, 5-Year Program Manager, Minerals Management Service (MS-4010), 381 
Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia 20170. Environmental comments and 
information relevant to oil and gas development on the OCS should be 
sent to: Mr. James F. Bennett, Chief, Branch of Environmental 
Assessment, Minerals Management Service (MS-4042), 381 Elden Street, 
Herndon, Virginia 20170. If you submit any privileged or proprietary 
information to be treated as confidential, please mark the envelope, 
``Contains Confidential Information''.
    Internet: The MMS will accept comments submitted to our electronic 
public comment system. (Public Connect). This system can be accessed at 
http://www.mms.gov. We also will provide access to information 
concerning the 5-Year Program at the MMS Internet Web site (http://
www.mms.gov) and copies or summaries of comments we receive in response 
to this notice will be available in the MMS Public Connect database.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Renee Orr, 5-Year Program Manager, 
at (703) 787-1215.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MMS requests comments from states; local 
and tribal governments; American Indian and Native Alaskan 
organizations; Federal agencies; environmental and fish and wildlife 
organizations; the oil and gas industry; other interested 
organizations; and other parties on whether to begin the preparation of 
a new 5-Year Program. MMS is seeking a wide range of information, 
including marine productivity, environmental sensitivity and resource 
assessment. The 5-Year Program enables the Federal Government, states, 
industry, and other interested parties to plan for steps proposed to 
lead to OCS oil and gas lease sales. The Department will make a 
decision on whether to proceed with a specific lease sale on the 
schedule, only after meeting all of the applicable requirements of the 
OCS Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other 
statutes.
    The OCS is a significant source of oil and gas for the Nation's 
energy supply. On a per day basis, the OCS currently produces about 
1.35 million barrels of oil and almost 8 billion cubic feet of natural 
gas. This represents approximately 27 percent of domestic oil 
production and 15 percent of natural gas production.
    The MMS's oversight and regulatory frameworks ensure production and

[[Page 45066]]

drilling are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible 
manner.
    The offshore areas of the United States are estimated to contain 
significant quantities of resources in yet-to-be-discovered fields. MMS 
estimates that the Undiscovered Technically Recoverable oil and gas 
resources in the U.S. OCS consist of 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 
trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Significant areas of the OCS have 
been under congressional and/or executive restrictions starting in the 
early 1980's. Currently, approximately 574 million acres, i.e., 85 
percent of the OCS offshore the lower-48 states are unavailable for 
leasing consideration, due to congressional moratoria, something no 
other country in the world has done to this extent. MMS estimates that 
these restricted areas--in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and parts of the 
central and eastern Gulf of Mexico--contain about 30 percent of the 
potential undiscovered oil and 27 percent of the undiscovered natural 
gas resources offshore the lower-48 states. (This is a mean estimate 
based on MMS's 2006 assessment.)
    Neighboring countries are expanding offshore oil and gas 
exploration due to oil and gas price increases as well as other 
environmental and economic factors. A moratorium imposed by the 
Canadian government on offshore drilling in Georges Bank, a rich 
fishing ground off southwest Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic, is in 
place until 2012. The Canadian government is considering lifting that 
moratorium. Canada also has issued leases and exploration rights in the 
eastern Beaufort Sea adjacent to the U.S. Beaufort Sea. Another example 
is Cuba, which has entered into licenses with private energy companies 
to develop its offshore resources. Cuba appears to be exploring 
aggressively its oil and gas resources since the late 1990's, with 
offshore activity less than 50 miles from the coast of Florida.
    The vast majority of OCS production comes from the Central and 
Western Planning Areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Given the recent effects 
of hurricanes on Gulf production in the short and long terms, it is 
clear that the country has concentrated most of its offshore domestic 
energy production activity in one area. To address this, MMS is calling 
for a broadened approach to address other areas of the OCS as well. In 
testimony before Congress in May 2008, Energy Secretary Bodman 
emphasized the need to expand conventional energy supplies and 
diversify their sources. He proposed greater access to areas, including 
the OCS, that contain substantial amounts of oil and natural gas. New 
development technologies and methods will provide the opportunity for 
this development to proceed with proper protection for the environment.
    The MMS is initiating the section 18 5-year program development at 
this time, approximately 2 years ahead of schedule, as part of the 
Federal Government's actions to address the existing domestic energy 
situation. Currently, each American uses an average of 3 gallons of oil 
per day. About two-thirds of that oil is used in transportation. In 
fact, oil is expected to remain, by far, the primary fuel for 
transportation for decades to come, even with aggressive efforts and 
government policies to encourage the development of alternative fuels, 
more efficient engines, and increasingly effective conservation 
measures.
    The MMS is developing a program to produce electricity from 
alternative energy resources on the OCS. Under the Energy Policy Act of 
2005, the Secretary, acting through MMS, has established a program to 
develop renewable energy resources on the OCS. On July 9, 2008, MMS 
issued a Proposed Rule for alternative energy on the OCS. As a first 
step, under an interim policy announced in late 2007, MMS is working 
toward issuance of several leases for data gathering and technology 
testing. These leases will look at varied renewable energy sources in 
different portions of the OCS. The Energy Information Administration 
(EIA) reported in 2007 that wind and other renewables are the fastest 
growing energy sources in the U.S., projecting that renewables will 
account for over 10 percent of domestic energy production by 2030. In 
the long term, development of a wide array of renewable energy sources 
is critical. However, in the short and mid-term, both nationally and 
globally, we will continue to rely on fossil fuels.
    On June 18, 2008, the President issued a statement on energy, 
particularly focusing on the rising price of gasoline. High gasoline 
prices stem from high oil prices which result from basic ``supply and 
demand'' factors in the current market. The dramatic increase in oil 
and natural gas prices has resulted from growing U.S. and global demand 
for these products that has not been matched by an equivalent increase 
in available supplies. The President stated that much of the oil 
consumed in the U.S. comes from abroad and some of that is from 
``unstable regions and unfriendly regimes. This makes us more 
vulnerable to supply shocks and price spikes beyond our control--and 
that puts both our economy and our security at risk.'' The Department 
of Commerce reported in April that the U.S. trade deficit grew to its 
largest level in over a year to $60.9 billion. Even with exports 
rising, increases in oil prices continued to drive up the deficit. The 
deficit of petroleum products has grown to $34.5 billion, up from $23.5 
billion last year. It is expected that continued importing of oil will 
widen the trade deficit even more sending billions of dollars to other 
countries.
    Gasoline prices may be a more visible consequence of the energy 
situation, but there are other consequences that affect various sectors 
of the economy. According to the EIA, while gasoline prices in the U.S. 
have increased about $1.15 per gallon over the past year, diesel fuel 
has increased almost $1.90 per gallon. (Source: Gasoline and Diesel 
Fuel Update. Energy Information Administration. 14 July 2008. http://
tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/wohdp/diesel.asp?featureclicked=1&) Since 
much of the Nation's consumer goods are transported by truck, the 
prices of such goods to the consumer also reflect the increase in 
energy costs and may affect consumer buying patterns.
    Energy is also one of the greatest input costs for manufacturers. 
This sector is dependent upon globally competitive energy to compete in 
the marketplace both domestically and globally. According to the 
Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), a cross-industry trade 
association, the high price of natural gas in particular has 
contributed to the loss of about 3.3 million, or about 19 percent, of 
U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2000 (Source: Cicio, Paul. Industrial 
Energy Consumers of America. ``A Natural-Gas High.'' Forbes.com. 4 June 
2008. http://www.ieca-us.com/documents/06.04.08_Forbes.comArticle-
MagazineArticle.pdf).
    Furthermore, as the use of natural gas to generate electricity has 
grown in this country, the increase in natural gas prices causes an 
increase in electricity costs to manufacturers as well as to the 
general public. The EIA projects residential electricity prices will 
increase by an annual average of about 5.2 percent in 2008 and 9.8 
percent in 2009, compared with an increase of 2.2 percent in 2007. 
(Source: Short-Term Energy Outlook. Energy Information Administration. 
8 July 2008. http://www.eia.doe.gov/steo) Unlike oil that is priced 
globally, natural gas is a more regional product that is priced 
domestically. Over 80 percent of natural gas consumed in the U.S. is 
domestically produced. While supply and demand have remained fairly 
stable, the price of natural gas has

[[Page 45067]]

shown an increase of almost 130 percent over the past year.
    In his June 18 statement, the President asked Congress to pass 
legislation as soon as possible to lift the congressional restrictions 
in order to give states the option to recommend the opening of the OCS 
off their coasts to environmentally-responsible exploration for and 
development of hydrocarbon resources and sharing of revenues. On July 
14, the President removed the executive prohibition in those areas and 
again asked Congress to lift the congressional restrictions and to 
allow increased domestic oil exploration and production. Similar 
legislation has been introduced in the recent past, but not enacted. 
The current economic and energy situation may argue for reconsideration 
of these matters. The dramatic increase in energy prices has affected 
all aspects of the American economy, and while not all coastal states 
have considered exploration and development activity off their coasts, 
some states have already addressed the potential of the OCS. For 
example, in 2006 the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted an energy policy 
that includes interest in developing natural gas resources more than 50 
miles off its coast. Similar legislation has been introduced in other 
states.
    Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act requires that the Secretary 
consider national energy needs in formulating a leasing program. In 
April 2007 when MMS announced the Proposed Final Program for 2007-2012, 
oil was priced at $64.21 per barrel. As of the end of June 2008, prices 
were at $134.60 per barrel, representing an increase of over 100 
percent. Gasoline prices have doubled over the same period from just 
over $2 to over $4 per gallon.

OCS Planning Areas To Be Considered and Analyzed

    Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act requires that the 5-year schedule 
of lease sales be based upon a comparative analysis of the oil and gas-
bearing regions of the OCS. MMS has created 26 planning areas, which 
are depicted in Figures 1 and 2. The boundaries between planning areas 
were administratively created and are not specified in law or 
regulation. Note that precise marine boundaries between the United 
States and nearby or adjacent nations have not been determined in all 
cases. The depicted maritime boundaries and limits, as well as 
divisions between planning areas, where shown, are for planning and 
administrative purposes only. These limits do not affect or prejudice 
in any manner the position of the United States, or its individual 
States, with respect to the nature or extent of internal waters or of 
sovereign rights or jurisdiction.
    Many planning areas were subject to a recently modified 
presidential withdrawal from leasing under the authority of section 12 
of the OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1341). On July 14, 2008 a Modification 
of the Presidential Withdrawal of areas of the United States Outer 
Continental Shelf from leasing disposition was announced by President 
Bush in the following statement, ``Under the authority vested in me as 
President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer 
Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby modify the 
prior memoranda of withdrawals from disposition by leasing of the 
United States Outer Continental Shelf issued on August 4, 1992, and 
June 12, 1998, as modified on January 9, 2007, to read only as 
follows:''

    Under the authority vested in me as President of the United 
States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands 
Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by 
leasing, for a time period without specific expiration, those areas 
of the Outer Continental Shelf designated as of July 14, 2008, as 
Marine Sanctuaries under the Marine Protection, Research, and 
Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431-1434, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.

    This modification affects the following planning areas: Washington-
Oregon; Northern, Central, and Southern California; South, Mid-, and 
North Atlantic; and Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Portions of 
these planning areas have been closed to leasing pursuant to 
congressional moratoria in annual appropriations statutes from the 
1980's to the present.
    Also pursuant to the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, 
Congress placed off limits until 2022 the Eastern Gulf within 125 miles 
of Florida, all of the Eastern Gulf east of 86 degrees, 41 minutes West 
longitude, and a portion of the Central Gulf within 100 miles of 
Florida. See Figure 2. The President's June 16 and July 14 statements 
continue to recognize that deference should be paid to the coastal 
states, but calls for discontinuing the restrictions so the states have 
the option to decide whether to support offshore activity. As with the 
RFI issued in August 2005 (70 FR 49669) for the current program, we are 
asking for input from the states, local governments, and other 
interested parties as to whether and how their interest in offshore 
resources has changed. Based upon expressions of such interest in the 
initiation of the current program, areas under restriction were 
included in the program proposals and the approved program includes 
three areas that had not been considered for leasing for many years--
the North Aleutian Basin, Alaska; a portion of the Gulf of Mexico; and 
an area in the Mid-Atlantic off the coast of Virginia. Only the area 
off Virginia remains under a congressional ban. Had these areas not 
been included in the Draft Proposed Program, they could not have been 
in the approved program.
    As set forth in more detail later in this notice, the information 
requested is wide-ranging, including other uses of the sea, marine 
productivity, and environmental sensitivity. Accordingly, this notice 
provides an opportunity for a governor or anyone else to comment on any 
area of the OCS. Such information is therefore solicited and will be 
considered in light of the factors specified by section 18 of the OCS 
Lands Act, discussed later in this notice, and in light of existing 
moratoria. Based upon the analysis of these factors, the Secretary will 
decide which areas to include in the draft proposed program. Pursuant 
to section 18, included areas will be subject to further analysis as 
well as review and analysis under NEPA. The Secretary also seeks 
comments on whether the Congressional restrictions should be eliminated 
or modified.

Section 18

    As previously noted, the program preparation process will follow 
all the procedural steps required by section 18 of the OCS Lands Act. 
This notice solicits comments early in the preparation process pursuant 
to section 18(c)(1) of that Act. The MMS will prepare a draft proposed 
program based upon consideration of the comments we receive and 
analysis of the principles and factors specified in section 18. The 
draft proposed program will present for review and comment a 
preliminary schedule of lease sales and potential alternatives.
    Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act lists the factors to be 
considered--the economic, social, and environmental values of all of 
the resources of the OCS and the potential impact of oil and gas 
exploration and development on the environment. Specific factors that 
must be analyzed and considered in deciding where and when to lease 
include the following: (1) Existing information on the geographical, 
geological, and ecological characteristics of such regions; (2) 
equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental risks 
among the various regions; (3) location of such regions and regional 
and national energy markets; (4) location with respect to other current

[[Page 45068]]

and anticipated uses of the sea and seabed; (5) expressed industry 
interest; (6) laws, goals, and policies of affected states specifically 
identified by governors; (7) relative environmental sensitivity and 
marine productivity of different areas of the OCS; and (8) 
environmental and predictive information for different areas of the 
OCS. The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary to obtain a proper 
balance among the potential for environmental damage, the discovery of 
oil and gas, and adverse impact on the coastal zone, for which DOI uses 
cost-benefit analysis.

Types of Information Requested

    The MMS invites comments from anyone who would like to submit 
information for us to consider in determining the appropriate size, 
timing, and location of OCS oil and gas leasing for the new 5-year 
period. The types of information we seek are described below, using 
general and specific headings. Regardless of these headings, all 
respondents are welcome to comment on any aspect of program preparation 
and to submit any type of pertinent information.

General

    The MMS would like to receive comments and suggestions of national 
or regional application that would be useful in formulating the 
program. The types of information that would be most useful to us in 
conducting the analysis pursuant to section 18 of the OCS Lands Act 
relate to the following factors:
    (1) National energy needs for the period relevant to the new 
program (in particular for this program, the role of OCS oil and gas 
leasing in achieving national energy policy goals, including its 
potential for contributing to increased domestic natural gas supplies); 
the economic, social, and environmental values of the renewable and 
nonrenewable resources contained in the OCS; and the potential impact 
of oil and gas exploration and development on other resource values of 
the OCS and the marine, coastal, and human environments;
    (2) Geographical, geological, and ecological characteristics of the 
planning areas of the OCS and near shore and coastal environments;
    (3) Equitable sharing of developmental benefits and environmental 
risks among the various planning areas;
    (4) Location of planning areas with respect to, and the relative 
needs of, regional and national energy markets;
    (5) Other uses of the sea and seabed, including fisheries, 
navigation, military activities, existing or proposed sea lanes, 
potential sites of deepwater ports (including liquefied natural gas 
facilities), potential offshore wind, wave, current or other 
alternative energy sites, and other anticipated uses of OCS resources 
and locations;
    (6) Relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of 
the different planning areas and/or a specific section of a given 
planning area of the OCS;
    (7) Environmental and predictive information pertaining to offshore 
and coastal areas potentially affected by OCS oil and gas development 
(including, but not limited to, socio-cultural and archaeological 
information); and
    (8) Methods and procedures for assuring the receipt of fair market 
value for lands leased.
    The MMS also invites commenters to respond to the following 
questions:
    (i) What do you think is the proper role of OCS oil and gas leasing 
as part of a comprehensive national energy policy? How should the 5-
year program be structured to fulfill this role?
    (ii) Since recent studies have projected shortfalls in meeting 
energy needs, particularly natural gas, how could such needs be 
balanced with the laws, goals, and policies influencing the management 
of the OCS? How should long-term planning address the current energy 
supply situation?
    (iii) Should areas under Congressional moratoria be included in the 
new 5-Year Program? What areas? With Sales proposed in what time-frame?
    (iv) Although OCS oil and gas leasing is typically conducted 
through an extensive, long-established process, are there alternative 
ways to ensure appropriate consultation and to streamline our leasing 
procedures? Should the OCS Lands Act be amended to allow changes in the 
5-year plan without starting the process all over again in cases of 
acute supply or demand shift affecting national security? How might we 
best meet the purpose of the OCS Lands Act ``to insure that the extent 
of oil and gas resources of the outer Continental Shelf is assessed at 
the earliest practicable time''?
    (v) If new areas are leased for exploration and potential 
development, what short-term and long-term impacts do you foresee for 
the economies of coastal communities?
    (vi) How should ecological considerations be weighed against 
national and local economic benefits, if new areas are considered for 
oil and gas leasing?
    (vii) If new areas are not leased for exploration and potential 
development, what environmental impacts do you foresee from imports of 
oil and gas?
    (viii) Is there a strategic advantage to considering sources of oil 
and gas in areas currently under congressional moratoria to potentially 
diversify OCS energy development?

Specific

States
    As every state is feeling the effects of increased oil and gas 
prices and thereby is potentially impacted by the possibilities of 
enhanced domestic energy production, a letter soliciting such 
information has been sent to the governors of all 50 states. For 
coastal states, pursuant to section 18(f)(5) of the OCS Lands Act and 
implementing regulations at 30 CFR 256.20, MMS requests information 
concerning the relationship between OCS oil and gas activity and the 
states' coastal zone management programs that are being developed or 
administered under the Coastal Zone Management Act. We also request 
states to submit information concerning environmental risk and 
potential for damage to coastal and marine resources associated with 
development of the OCS, information related to other uses of the sea, 
and any information that is relevant to equitable sharing of 
developmental benefits and environmental risks associated with OCS oil 
and gas activity. In addition, for non-coastal and coastal states we 
request information on the impacts of rising prices and potential 
shortages on your economies and citizens and their roles in the 
national economy.
Oil and Gas Industry
    As specified in section 18(a)(2)(E) of the OCS Lands Act, MMS 
requests that oil and gas industry respondents provide information 
indicating interest in the opportunity to lease and develop additional 
OCS oil and gas resources. Respondents should base this information 
upon their expectations as of 2010. For each area in which a company is 
interested, please submit information concerning unleased hydrocarbon 
potential, future oil and gas price expectations, and other relevant 
information that the company uses in making OCS oil and gas leasing 
decisions. The MMS requests that industry respondents provide 
additional information as specified below. Upon request, such 
information will be treated confidentially, as explained further below:
    (1) Indicate the OCS planning area(s) where the company would be 
interested in acquiring oil and gas leases regardless of whether the 
area is currently under

[[Page 45069]]

Congressional moratoria. If more than one planning area is of interest, 
rank the areas in order of preference.
    (2) Indicate the number and timing of lease sales in the period 
2010-2015 that would be appropriate for each planning area. If only one 
lease sale in a planning area is appropriate, indicate whether that 
area should be considered for leasing early or late in the 5-year 
program schedule. If more than one lease sale in a planning area is 
suggested, indicate the preferred interval between lease sales.
    (3) The MMS estimated resource potential in moratoria areas is 
based on a limited number of wells, and very old (25 years) seismic 
data. How might seismic data be acquired in these areas?
    (4) Indicate the lead time to production (should new leasing be 
allowed to occur in previously restricted areas) in areas that are not 
part of the current program, relative to lead-times to new production 
in previously leased areas like the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico.
    Section 18(g) of the OCS Lands Act authorizes confidential 
treatment of privileged or proprietary information. In order to protect 
the confidentiality of privileged or proprietary information, include 
such information as an attachment to other comments submitted so that 
there is no ambiguity about what portions of the comments are 
confidential or proprietary. Upon request, MMS will treat the 
privileged or proprietary information that is attached to a response as 
confidential from the time of its receipt until 5 years after approval 
of the 2010-2015 leasing program, subject to the standards of the 
Freedom of Information Act. However, MMS will not treat as confidential 
any aggregate summaries of privileged or proprietary information, the 
names of respondents, or comments not containing such information. As 
noted above, respondents should affix the label ``Contains Confidential 
Information'' on any envelope containing privileged or proprietary 
information.
Department of Commerce
    Pursuant to section 18(f)(5) of the OCS Lands Act and implementing 
regulations at 30 CFR 256.20, MMS requests information concerning 
relationships between affected states' coastal zone management programs 
and OCS oil and gas activities. We have sent a letter to the Secretary 
of Commerce soliciting such information.
Department of Energy
    Pursuant to implementing regulations at 30 CFR 256.16, MMS requests 
information concerning regional and national energy markets, OCS oil 
and gas production goals, and oil and gas transportation networks. We 
have sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy soliciting such 
information.

     Dated: July 29, 2008.
Randall B. Luthi,
Director, Minerals Management Service.
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[[Page 45070]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN01AU08.002

[FR Doc. E8-17708 Filed 7-31-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P