Preliminary Revised 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-2012, 16833-16836 [2010-7579]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 63 / Friday, April 2, 2010 / Notices will be completed prior to authorizing any new, large-scale G&G activities on the Atlantic OCS. In the interim, MMS may still consider small-scale, limited permit requests, but only if a NEPA environmental assessment is conducted and finds there is no potential for significant impacts from that specific proposed activity or that the cumulative nature of a collection of smaller, limited surveys would not result in significant impacts under NEPA. More information on G&G activities can be found on pages 13–15 of MMS’s Leasing Oil and Natural Gas Resources: Outer Continental Shelf (see http:// www.mms.gov/ld/PDFs/GreenBookLeasingDocument.pdf) and MMS’s Geological and Geophysical Exploration for Mineral Resources on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf: Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (see http:// www.gomr.mms.gov/PDFs/2004/2004054.pdf). Comments: In lieu of participation in the scoping meetings listed above, all interested parties, including Federal, State, and local government agencies and the general public, may submit written comments on the scope of the PEIS, significant issues that should be addressed, alternatives that should be considered, and the types of G&G activities and geographical areas of interest on the Mid- and South Atlantic OCS. Comments made during the initial 2009 scoping period will still be considered and need not be resubmitted. Dated: March 30, 2010. S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director, Minerals Management Service. [FR Doc. 2010–7581 Filed 4–1–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–MR–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Minerals Management Service Preliminary Revised 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007–2012 mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: Minerals Management Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comments. SUMMARY: The Minerals Management Service (MMS) requests comments on the Preliminary Revised 5-Year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007–2012. This is the Preliminary Revised Program (PRP), required by the order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, DC VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:40 Apr 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 Cir. No. 07–1247, 07–1344, for lease sales covering the 2007–2012 time frame. DATES: Please submit comments and information to the MMS no later than May 3, 2010. Public Comment Procedure The MMS will accept comments in one of three formats: By our Internet commenting system, e-mail, or regular mail. 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. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware 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 your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. See further information about commenting below. The MMS encourages commenters to focus on the expanded relative environmental sensitivity analysis and the Secretary’s revisions to the leasing schedule that reflect his balancing of the potential for discovery of petroleum with the potential for harm to the environment or coastal zone. The balance of the PRP document consists of analyses that were already subject to public comment prior to July 2007. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the PRP by any of the following methods. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the entry titled ‘‘Enter Keyword or ID,’’ enter docket ID MMS–2009–OMM–0016 then click search. Under the tab ‘‘View By Docket Folder’’, you can submit public comments and view supporting and related materials available for this Notice. The MMS will post all comments. • E-mail: PRPcomments@mms.gov. • Mail or hand-carry comments on the PRP to the Department of the Interior; Attention: Leasing Division (LD); 381 Elden Street, MS–4010; Herndon, Virginia 20170–4817. Please reference ‘‘Remand of the 2007–2012 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program’’ in your comments and include your name and address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Renee Orr, 5–Year Program Manager, at (703) 787–1215. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On June 29, 2007, the previous Secretary PO 00000 Frm 00115 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 16833 approved the Proposed Final OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007–2012 (PFP) that became effective on July 1, 2007. On July 2, 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the Department of the Interior (DOI) alleging agency failures under various laws in relation to the OCS 2007–2012 leasing program. On August 28, 2007, the Native Village of Point Hope, Alaska Wilderness League, and Pacific Environment filed a similar suit. The cases were consolidated. On April 17, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded DOI’s OCS 2007–2012 leasing program. The Court found that DOI’s determination of when and where to offer areas for leasing of oil and gas resources was based on a flawed analysis that failed to assess fully the relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of the OCS because it looked only at the effects of spills on the shoreline. The Court specified that on remand the Secretary must first conduct a more complete comparative analysis of the environmental sensitivity of different areas of the OCS, as required under section 18(a)(2)(g) of the OCSLA, and must at least attempt to identify those areas most and least sensitive to OCS activity. The Court directed the Secretary to rebalance the program under the factors set forth in section 18(a)(3) of the OCSLA once this new analysis is complete. Pursuant to the Government’s petition for amendment and/or clarification of the Court’s order, on July 28, 2009, the Court issued an order staying its mandate until DOI completed its analysis and rebalancing under the OCSLA. The Court also clarified that the relief granted in its April 17th decision applied only to the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Bering Seas off Alaska. The Bering Sea includes the North Aleutian Basin OCS Planning Area, the only planning area in the Bering Sea with lease sales scheduled in the 2007–2012 PFP. At the direction of the Secretary, MMS re-analyzed all 26 OCS planning areas to better determine the relative environmental sensitivity of several ecological components to multiple impacts of offshore oil and gas development. The original environmental sensitivity analysis relied on only two studies conducted by Continental Shelf Associates in 1990 and 1991, and one dataset, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) (http:// response.restoration.noaa.gov). The expanded analysis continues to rely on E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 16834 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 63 / Friday, April 2, 2010 / Notices those sources to analyze the sensitivity of shoreline/coastal habitats, but also analyzes the sensitivity of offshore/ marine resources to oil and gas activities. The expanded environmental sensitivity analysis is divided into the three components of the marine environment that may be affected by oil and gas activities: marine habitats, marine productivity, and marine fauna (i.e., birds, fish, marine, and sea turtles). The expanded analysis considers the relative sensitivity of the marine environment of all 26 planning areas to oil spills and other potential factors, such as sound, physical disturbance, climate change, and ocean acidification. The expanded analysis relies on approximately 50 reports and studies, including many that were not considered when the original 2007– 2012 relative environmental sensitivity analysis was prepared. Distribution, abundance, and/or environmental sensitivities of four ecological components within and/or on the adjacent coast of each OCS planning area are evaluated based on their present condition. Because relatively small differences suggest a level of precision that is not possible for this analysis, the revised analysis presents the OCS planning areas grouped into four categories of relative sensitivity ranging from ‘‘most’’ to ‘‘least’’ sensitive to OCS oil and gas activities. Categorization of an OCS planning area as ‘‘less’’ or ‘‘least’’ sensitive does not mean that environmental resources of that OCS planning area are not sensitive, but that they are found to be relatively less sensitive than other OCS planning areas to the types of impacts anticipated from OCS oil and gas activities. The revised analysis identified the OCS planning areas ‘‘most’’ sensitive to OCS oil and gas activities as the South Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, and Central Gulf of Mexico, and the ‘‘least’’ sensitive as the Aleutian Arc, Navarin Basin, Bowers Basin, and Aleutian Basin, all in the OCS southwest of Alaska. In support of his PRP decisions, the Secretary relied on the expanded environmental sensitivity analysis described above; the PFP for 2007–2012 and the supporting administrative record, including the April 2007 analysis of the other OCSLA section 18 factors; and the 2007 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and all comments, reports, and studies incorporated therein. The decision is based on the Secretary’s independent review of the record and fulfills his statutory obligation under section 18(a)(3) to obtain a proper balance between the potential for environmental damage, the potential for the discovery of oil and gas, and the potential for adverse impact on the coastal zone, in accordance with the Court’s remand order. Thus, while the environmental sensitivity analysis is expanded, it is important to remember that the Secretary’s decisions are not based on just one factor, but require consideration of all section 18 factors and the other supporting information and subsequent balancing as described below. For example, the Secretary’s decision to remove the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas sales, other than Chukchi Sea Sale 193, recognizes the importance of gathering additional information from activities on existing leases and ongoing research into oil-spill cleanup in icy waters to help MMS and industry plan for future leasing. Following the end of the comment period, the Secretary will consider any comments received in making his final decision on a final revised leasing program for 2007–2012. Pursuant to the Court’s July 28, 2009 order, DOI will file an appropriate motion regarding disposition of the litigation. The PRP document may be downloaded off the MMS Web site at http://www.mms.gov. The document also is available as part of our electronic commenting system noted above. Hard copies will be made available to persons who contact the 5-Year Program Office at 703–787–1215. Much of the text of the document is repetitive of the April 2007 PFP document, as approved on June 29, 2007. New text is shown in a larger font to distinguish it from the text retained from the 2007 PFP document and some text from the PFP has been rewritten or not included as appropriate to reflect the revised decision. Please refer to the PFP for historical information. Summary of the Preliminary Revised Program The PRP includes 16 sales in 6 areas (2 areas off Alaska, 1 area off the Atlantic coast, and 3 areas in the Gulf of Mexico. Maps A and B show the areas scheduled for leasing (Preliminary Revised Program areas). Table A lists the location and timing of the proposed lease sales in areas that are offered for leasing consideration, including Sale 224 in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, a sale mandated by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006 (Pub. L. 109–432, December 20, 2006) and exempted from section 18 analysis. TABLE A—PRELIMINARY REVISED PROGRAM FOR 2007–2012—LEASE SALE SCHEDULE mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES Sale No. 204 205 193 206 224 207 208 210 211 213 215 216 218 219 220 222 Area ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. ............................................. Year* Western Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................. Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... Chukchi Sea .............................................................................................................................................. Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... Eastern Gulf of Mexico** ........................................................................................................................... Western Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................. Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... Western Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................. Cook Inlet ................................................................................................................................................... Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... Western Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................. Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... Western Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................. Cook Inlet ................................................................................................................................................... Mid-Atlantic ................................................................................................................................................ Central Gulf of Mexico ............................................................................................................................... 2007 2007 2008 2008 2008 2008 2009 2009 2009 2010 2010 2011 2011 2011 2011 2012 * All of the sales scheduled for 2007–2009 listed above were conducted prior to the preparation of this PRP, with the exception of Cook Inlet Sale 211 that was not held due to lack of expressed industry interest. Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea is the only sale conducted in an area subject to the Court’s remand. ** Sale 224 is not a section 18 sale, but mandated by GOMESA. VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:40 Apr 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 PO 00000 Frm 00116 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 63 / Friday, April 2, 2010 / Notices Alaska Region mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES In the Alaska Region, the PRP retains one lease sale in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area and two special interest sales in the Cook Inlet Planning Area. The Chukchi Sea sale is a carryover from the 2002–2007 program because there was insufficient time to complete the necessary pre-lease steps and environmental documentation during the program period. Chukchi Sea Sale 193 was held in 2008. The Cook Inlet Planning Area is retained on the schedule with two special interest sales. However, there was no industry interest expressed in the 2008 Request for Interest and Sale 211 was not held. Consistent with the Secretary’s approach of developing frontier areas based on the best available science and other data, the PRP removes Beaufort Sea Sales 209 and 217 and Chukchi Sea Sales 212 and 221 from the 2007–2012 program. Sale 214 in the North Aleutian Basin also is removed due to the area’s unique value to Alaska and the Nation. The North Aleutian Basin contains nationally significant fishery resources as compared to other Alaska planning areas, supporting the greatest diversity of fish species for all Alaska areas. It also is adjacent to more national monuments and wildlife reserves than any other Alaska OCS area. Therefore, the Secretary concluded that the area should not be leased. For the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas, the Secretary determined that, on balance, lease sales in the Arctic under the 2007–2012 program, other than Chukchi Sea Sale 193, are not justified at this time. Before additional lease sales are offered, it is important to gather additional scientific information and data from exploration on existing leases. This decision reflects the potential difficulty of removing oil spilled in icy waters, limited infrastructure available to respond to spills, and environmental considerations such as climate change. VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:40 Apr 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 There is research underway that along with new information will provide the opportunity to make more informed decisions regarding Arctic sales in the next 5-year program. Secretary Salazar has also requested that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) conduct an initial, independent evaluation of science needs to understand the resilience of Arctic coastal and marine ecosystems to OCS resource extraction activities. The study will summarize what information is available, where knowledge gaps exist, and what research is needed to mitigate risks. This type of information will help target areas for future lease sales and allow better prevention and mitigation of environmental impacts. Industry holds many existing leases that have yet to be explored. In the Beaufort Sea, there are 181 leases (approximately 0.96 million acres) issued under the 2002–2007 program and in the Chukchi Sea, there are 487 leases (approximately 2.75 million acres) issued in Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 in the current program. The removal of these areas from further leasing in the PRP should not be construed to suggest that the exploration of existing leases cannot be conducted safely. Gulf of Mexico Region The Central and Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas provide a large share of domestic oil and gas production and are a major source of employment for nearby States. Although vigilance is still necessary in protecting environmental resources and local communities, the areas are supported by a vast system of infrastructure. Gulf of Mexico oil and gas activities provide an important spur to technological innovation and industry has a track record of safe activity. In addition, OCS activity in the Gulf draws significant support from adjacent State and local governments as well as from local citizens. Therefore, the PRP retains the annual, area wide lease sales on the schedule for 2007–2012 in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. PO 00000 Frm 00117 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 16835 Atlantic Region As in the PFP, the PRP retains MidAtlantic Sale 220 offshore Virginia as a special interest sale. The MMS estimates that the area comprising Sale 220 could contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This area had been subject to Presidential withdrawal under section 12 of the OCSLA as well as Congressional moratorium. As the withdrawal was lifted and the moratorium discontinued in 2008, a request for nominations and comments was issued in November 2008. No other pre-lease steps have occurred. The next step in this process would be scoping for the Draft EIS. Assurance of Fair Market Value Section 18 of the OCSLA requires receipt of fair market value for OCS oil and gas leases and the rights they convey. The PRP retains the provisions of the PFP: Setting minimum bid levels by individual lease sale based on market conditions and continuing use of a twophase bid evaluation process. Information Requested Section 18(g) of the OCSLA authorizes confidential treatment of privileged or proprietary information. In order to protect the confidentiality of such information, respondents should submit it separately from other comments submitted and mark it prominently as confidential. On request, MMS will treat such information as confidential from the time of its receipt until 5 years after approval of the revised leasing program, subject to the standards of the Freedom of Information Act. The MMS will not treat as confidential any aggregate summaries of such information, the names of respondents, and comments not containing such information. Dated: March 30, 2010. S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director, Minerals Management Service. BILLING CODE 4310–MR–P E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 EN02AP10.031</GPH> Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 63 / Friday, April 2, 2010 / Notices [FR Doc. 2010–7579 Filed 4–1–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–MR–C VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:40 Apr 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 PO 00000 Frm 00118 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 EN02AP10.030</GPH> mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES 16836

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 63 (Friday, April 2, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 16833-16836]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-7579]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Minerals Management Service


Preliminary Revised 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and 
Gas Leasing Program for 2007-2012

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Minerals Management Service (MMS) requests comments on the 
Preliminary Revised 5-Year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-
2012. This is the Preliminary Revised Program (PRP), required by the 
order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 
Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, DC Cir. No. 
07-1247, 07-1344, for lease sales covering the 2007-2012 time frame.

DATES: Please submit comments and information to the MMS no later than 
May 3, 2010.

Public Comment Procedure

    The MMS will accept comments in one of three formats: By our 
Internet commenting system, e-mail, or regular mail. 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. 
Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other 
personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware 
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 your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so. See further information about commenting below.
    The MMS encourages commenters to focus on the expanded relative 
environmental sensitivity analysis and the Secretary's revisions to the 
leasing schedule that reflect his balancing of the potential for 
discovery of petroleum with the potential for harm to the environment 
or coastal zone. The balance of the PRP document consists of analyses 
that were already subject to public comment prior to July 2007.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the PRP by any of the following 
methods.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In 
the entry titled ``Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter docket ID MMS-2009-OMM-
0016 then click search. Under the tab ``View By Docket Folder'', you 
can submit public comments and view supporting and related materials 
available for this Notice. The MMS will post all comments.
     E-mail: PRPcomments@mms.gov.
     Mail or hand-carry comments on the PRP to the Department 
of the Interior; Attention: Leasing Division (LD); 381 Elden Street, 
MS-4010; Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817. Please reference ``Remand of the 
2007-2012 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program'' in your comments and 
include your name and address.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On June 29, 2007, the previous Secretary 
approved the Proposed Final OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-
2012 (PFP) that became effective on July 1, 2007.
    On July 2, 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit 
against the Department of the Interior (DOI) alleging agency failures 
under various laws in relation to the OCS 2007-2012 leasing program. On 
August 28, 2007, the Native Village of Point Hope, Alaska Wilderness 
League, and Pacific Environment filed a similar suit. The cases were 
consolidated.
    On April 17, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of 
Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded DOI's OCS 2007-2012 leasing 
program. The Court found that DOI's determination of when and where to 
offer areas for leasing of oil and gas resources was based on a flawed 
analysis that failed to assess fully the relative environmental 
sensitivity and marine productivity of the OCS because it looked only 
at the effects of spills on the shoreline. The Court specified that on 
remand the Secretary must first conduct a more complete comparative 
analysis of the environmental sensitivity of different areas of the 
OCS, as required under section 18(a)(2)(g) of the OCSLA, and must at 
least attempt to identify those areas most and least sensitive to OCS 
activity. The Court directed the Secretary to rebalance the program 
under the factors set forth in section 18(a)(3) of the OCSLA once this 
new analysis is complete.
    Pursuant to the Government's petition for amendment and/or 
clarification of the Court's order, on July 28, 2009, the Court issued 
an order staying its mandate until DOI completed its analysis and 
rebalancing under the OCSLA. The Court also clarified that the relief 
granted in its April 17th decision applied only to the Beaufort, 
Chukchi, and Bering Seas off Alaska. The Bering Sea includes the North 
Aleutian Basin OCS Planning Area, the only planning area in the Bering 
Sea with lease sales scheduled in the 2007-2012 PFP.
    At the direction of the Secretary, MMS re-analyzed all 26 OCS 
planning areas to better determine the relative environmental 
sensitivity of several ecological components to multiple impacts of 
offshore oil and gas development. The original environmental 
sensitivity analysis relied on only two studies conducted by 
Continental Shelf Associates in 1990 and 1991, and one dataset, the 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Environmental 
Sensitivity Index (ESI) (http://response.restoration.noaa.gov). The 
expanded analysis continues to rely on

[[Page 16834]]

those sources to analyze the sensitivity of shoreline/coastal habitats, 
but also analyzes the sensitivity of offshore/marine resources to oil 
and gas activities.
    The expanded environmental sensitivity analysis is divided into the 
three components of the marine environment that may be affected by oil 
and gas activities: marine habitats, marine productivity, and marine 
fauna (i.e., birds, fish, marine, and sea turtles). The expanded 
analysis considers the relative sensitivity of the marine environment 
of all 26 planning areas to oil spills and other potential factors, 
such as sound, physical disturbance, climate change, and ocean 
acidification. The expanded analysis relies on approximately 50 reports 
and studies, including many that were not considered when the original 
2007-2012 relative environmental sensitivity analysis was prepared.
    Distribution, abundance, and/or environmental sensitivities of four 
ecological components within and/or on the adjacent coast of each OCS 
planning area are evaluated based on their present condition. Because 
relatively small differences suggest a level of precision that is not 
possible for this analysis, the revised analysis presents the OCS 
planning areas grouped into four categories of relative sensitivity 
ranging from ``most'' to ``least'' sensitive to OCS oil and gas 
activities. Categorization of an OCS planning area as ``less'' or 
``least'' sensitive does not mean that environmental resources of that 
OCS planning area are not sensitive, but that they are found to be 
relatively less sensitive than other OCS planning areas to the types of 
impacts anticipated from OCS oil and gas activities. The revised 
analysis identified the OCS planning areas ``most'' sensitive to OCS 
oil and gas activities as the South Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, 
Mid-Atlantic, and Central Gulf of Mexico, and the ``least'' sensitive 
as the Aleutian Arc, Navarin Basin, Bowers Basin, and Aleutian Basin, 
all in the OCS southwest of Alaska.
    In support of his PRP decisions, the Secretary relied on the 
expanded environmental sensitivity analysis described above; the PFP 
for 2007-2012 and the supporting administrative record, including the 
April 2007 analysis of the other OCSLA section 18 factors; and the 2007 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and all comments, reports, 
and studies incorporated therein. The decision is based on the 
Secretary's independent review of the record and fulfills his statutory 
obligation under section 18(a)(3) to obtain a proper balance between 
the potential for environmental damage, the potential for the discovery 
of oil and gas, and the potential for adverse impact on the coastal 
zone, in accordance with the Court's remand order. Thus, while the 
environmental sensitivity analysis is expanded, it is important to 
remember that the Secretary's decisions are not based on just one 
factor, but require consideration of all section 18 factors and the 
other supporting information and subsequent balancing as described 
below. For example, the Secretary's decision to remove the Beaufort and 
Chukchi Seas sales, other than Chukchi Sea Sale 193, recognizes the 
importance of gathering additional information from activities on 
existing leases and ongoing research into oil-spill cleanup in icy 
waters to help MMS and industry plan for future leasing.
    Following the end of the comment period, the Secretary will 
consider any comments received in making his final decision on a final 
revised leasing program for 2007-2012. Pursuant to the Court's July 28, 
2009 order, DOI will file an appropriate motion regarding disposition 
of the litigation.
    The PRP document may be downloaded off the MMS Web site at http://www.mms.gov. The document also is available as part of our electronic 
commenting system noted above. Hard copies will be made available to 
persons who contact the 5-Year Program Office at 703-787-1215.
    Much of the text of the document is repetitive of the April 2007 
PFP document, as approved on June 29, 2007. New text is shown in a 
larger font to distinguish it from the text retained from the 2007 PFP 
document and some text from the PFP has been rewritten or not included 
as appropriate to reflect the revised decision. Please refer to the PFP 
for historical information.

Summary of the Preliminary Revised Program

    The PRP includes 16 sales in 6 areas (2 areas off Alaska, 1 area 
off the Atlantic coast, and 3 areas in the Gulf of Mexico. Maps A and B 
show the areas scheduled for leasing (Preliminary Revised Program 
areas). Table A lists the location and timing of the proposed lease 
sales in areas that are offered for leasing consideration, including 
Sale 224 in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, a sale mandated 
by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006 (Pub. L. 
109-432, December 20, 2006) and exempted from section 18 analysis.

 Table A--Preliminary Revised Program for 2007-2012--Lease Sale Schedule
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Sale No.                         Area               Year*
------------------------------------------------------------------------
204..............................  Western Gulf of Mexico...  2007
205..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2007
193..............................  Chukchi Sea..............  2008
206..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2008
224..............................  Eastern Gulf of Mexico**.  2008
207..............................  Western Gulf of Mexico...  2008
208..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2009
210..............................  Western Gulf of Mexico...  2009
211..............................  Cook Inlet...............  2009
213..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2010
215..............................  Western Gulf of Mexico...  2010
216..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2011
218..............................  Western Gulf of Mexico...  2011
219..............................  Cook Inlet...............  2011
220..............................  Mid-Atlantic.............  2011
222..............................  Central Gulf of Mexico...  2012
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* All of the sales scheduled for 2007-2009 listed above were conducted
  prior to the preparation of this PRP, with the exception of Cook Inlet
  Sale 211 that was not held due to lack of expressed industry interest.
  Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea is the only sale conducted in an area
  subject to the Court's remand.
** Sale 224 is not a section 18 sale, but mandated by GOMESA.


[[Page 16835]]

Alaska Region

    In the Alaska Region, the PRP retains one lease sale in the Chukchi 
Sea Planning Area and two special interest sales in the Cook Inlet 
Planning Area. The Chukchi Sea sale is a carryover from the 2002-2007 
program because there was insufficient time to complete the necessary 
pre-lease steps and environmental documentation during the program 
period. Chukchi Sea Sale 193 was held in 2008.
    The Cook Inlet Planning Area is retained on the schedule with two 
special interest sales. However, there was no industry interest 
expressed in the 2008 Request for Interest and Sale 211 was not held.
    Consistent with the Secretary's approach of developing frontier 
areas based on the best available science and other data, the PRP 
removes Beaufort Sea Sales 209 and 217 and Chukchi Sea Sales 212 and 
221 from the 2007-2012 program.
    Sale 214 in the North Aleutian Basin also is removed due to the 
area's unique value to Alaska and the Nation. The North Aleutian Basin 
contains nationally significant fishery resources as compared to other 
Alaska planning areas, supporting the greatest diversity of fish 
species for all Alaska areas. It also is adjacent to more national 
monuments and wildlife reserves than any other Alaska OCS area. 
Therefore, the Secretary concluded that the area should not be leased.
    For the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas, the Secretary 
determined that, on balance, lease sales in the Arctic under the 2007-
2012 program, other than Chukchi Sea Sale 193, are not justified at 
this time. Before additional lease sales are offered, it is important 
to gather additional scientific information and data from exploration 
on existing leases. This decision reflects the potential difficulty of 
removing oil spilled in icy waters, limited infrastructure available to 
respond to spills, and environmental considerations such as climate 
change. There is research underway that along with new information will 
provide the opportunity to make more informed decisions regarding 
Arctic sales in the next 5-year program. Secretary Salazar has also 
requested that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) conduct an 
initial, independent evaluation of science needs to understand the 
resilience of Arctic coastal and marine ecosystems to OCS resource 
extraction activities. The study will summarize what information is 
available, where knowledge gaps exist, and what research is needed to 
mitigate risks. This type of information will help target areas for 
future lease sales and allow better prevention and mitigation of 
environmental impacts. Industry holds many existing leases that have 
yet to be explored. In the Beaufort Sea, there are 181 leases 
(approximately 0.96 million acres) issued under the 2002-2007 program 
and in the Chukchi Sea, there are 487 leases (approximately 2.75 
million acres) issued in Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 in the current 
program. The removal of these areas from further leasing in the PRP 
should not be construed to suggest that the exploration of existing 
leases cannot be conducted safely.

Gulf of Mexico Region

    The Central and Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas provide a 
large share of domestic oil and gas production and are a major source 
of employment for nearby States. Although vigilance is still necessary 
in protecting environmental resources and local communities, the areas 
are supported by a vast system of infrastructure. Gulf of Mexico oil 
and gas activities provide an important spur to technological 
innovation and industry has a track record of safe activity. In 
addition, OCS activity in the Gulf draws significant support from 
adjacent State and local governments as well as from local citizens. 
Therefore, the PRP retains the annual, area wide lease sales on the 
schedule for 2007-2012 in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico.

Atlantic Region

    As in the PFP, the PRP retains Mid-Atlantic Sale 220 offshore 
Virginia as a special interest sale. The MMS estimates that the area 
comprising Sale 220 could contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 
trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This area had been subject to 
Presidential withdrawal under section 12 of the OCSLA as well as 
Congressional moratorium. As the withdrawal was lifted and the 
moratorium discontinued in 2008, a request for nominations and comments 
was issued in November 2008. No other pre-lease steps have occurred. 
The next step in this process would be scoping for the Draft EIS.

Assurance of Fair Market Value

    Section 18 of the OCSLA requires receipt of fair market value for 
OCS oil and gas leases and the rights they convey. The PRP retains the 
provisions of the PFP: Setting minimum bid levels by individual lease 
sale based on market conditions and continuing use of a two-phase bid 
evaluation process.

Information Requested

    Section 18(g) of the OCSLA authorizes confidential treatment of 
privileged or proprietary information. In order to protect the 
confidentiality of such information, respondents should submit it 
separately from other comments submitted and mark it prominently as 
confidential. On request, MMS will treat such information as 
confidential from the time of its receipt until 5 years after approval 
of the revised leasing program, subject to the standards of the Freedom 
of Information Act. The MMS will not treat as confidential any 
aggregate summaries of such information, the names of respondents, and 
comments not containing such information.

    Dated: March 30, 2010.
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum,
Director, Minerals Management Service.
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[FR Doc. 2010-7579 Filed 4-1-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-MR-C