Offshore oil and gas drilling from 2012-2017 would be focused in the western and central Gulf of Mexico and off the shores of northern and southern Alaska, if the Dept. of Interior's proposed plan and draft programmatic environmental impact statement are accepted as is. These documents were released Nov. 8, 2011. A 60-day public comment period ends Jan. 9, 2012.
The agency says it is mindful of the fallout from the Deepwater HorizonGulf spill, and is trying to apply the lessons learned. Nonetheless, the economics of oil and gas play a large role, as evidenced in part by the substantial portion of the plan devoted to this topic, and will be an important factor as decisions are made.
- Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, 2012-2017 (November 2011); press release.
- Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (November 2011).
There are 12 potential lease sale zones in the Gulf and 3 off Alaskan shores. Two of the Alaskan fields would be developed closer to the end of the planning period, in order to provide adequate time for gathering more data and determining that safety and environmental threats can be handled, according to the agency.
Other areas that contain smaller amounts of oil and gas reserves, such as off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and Florida's west coast, were not included in this plan. That is also a story worth looking into, since there is substantial political resistance in some of these areas to drilling. For an overview of estimated oil and gas deposits by geographic area, see:
- Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas Resources of the Nation's Outer Continental Shelf, 2011.
The schedule for public meetings on the plan and draft EIS (details here) is:
- Dec. 5, 2011: Wainwright, AK
- Dec. 6: Nuiqsut, AK
- Dec. 6: Washington, DC
- Dec. 6: Houston, TX
- Dec. 7: Kaktovik, AK
- Dec. 7: Mobile, AL
- Dec. 8: Fairbanks, AK
- Dec. 8: New Orleans, LA
- Dec. 9: Anchorage, AK
- Dec. 12: Kotzebue, AK
- Dec. 13: Point Hope, AK
- Dec. 14: Point Lay, AK
- Dec. 16: Barrow, AK