UPDATE 1-U.S. kicks off evaluation of offshore oil, gas leases
(Adds comment from Senator Landrieu)
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of the Interior took its first steps on Friday to develop the next five-year schedule of offshore oil and gas lease sales.
Interior issued a request for information and comments on the oil and gas leasing program for U.S. coastal waters to run from 2017 to 2022, kicking off a 45-day comment period.
The planning process for federal waters surrounding the United States known as the outer continental shelf will take up to three years to complete, the agency said.
The Interior Department is not bound to a particular course of action but by law must evaluate all parts of the outer continental shelf for possible leasing. That could open new areas to oil and gas drilling, including those off the U.S. East Coast.
"The development of the next five-year program will be a thorough and open process that incorporates stakeholder input and uses the best available science," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
U.S. law requires the interior secretary, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to prepare and maintain a schedule of oil and gas lease sales in federal waters, indicating the size, timing and location of auctions that would best meet national energy needs.
The secretary is required to balance environmental impacts, discovery of oil and gas, and adverse effects on the coastal zone. Continued...