Please consider submitting comments to the MMS prior to the November 24, 2006 deadline in support of:
Every five years, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the government agency responsible for oil and gas leasing in the US offshore, develops a Five-Year Plan. That plan determines where and how often oil and gas lease sales will occur over the Five-Year period. The next plan will determine where oil and gas leasing will occur during the period 2007- 2012. If an area is not made available in the Five-Year Plan, oil and gas leasing will not occur in the area until beyond 2012.
The Five-Year Plan process is very public. MMS designs the plan based on the input from interested stakeholders. The MMS comprehensive process allows several opportunities for stakeholders to participate. The initial comment period covering the general scope of the Five-Year plan ended in October 2005. The second comment period on the Draft Proposed Plan (DPP) closed through April 11, 2006. The third and final public comment period began on August 25th and runs until November 22, 2006. The current comment period contains the Proposal Five Year Plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The Proposed Plan calls for consideration of 21 lease sales in only 7 of the 26 planning areas in Federal offshore waters, most notably in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in the Alaska waters in Bristol Bay, Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea, and in the Atlantic off the coast of Virginia. MMS is required, through the EIS, to take all necessary precautions to ensure that adequate environmental and ecological protections are in place.
No decisions will be made to lease an area that cannot withstand the scrutiny of the EIS and MMS’ evaluation of stakeholder comments. MMS must hear from affected stakeholders and consumers of oil and gas at every step in the process.
Recent increases in oil and natural gas prices result from growing US and global demand that has not been matched by equivalent increases in available supplies. Unless supply can be increased, prices will continue to rise. A survey recently completed by the National Association for Business Economics found that high energy prices are the biggest short-term problem facing the US Economy.
About 85 percent of the US offshore – known as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) – is currently off-limits to oil and gas production. Most offshore areas currently accessible for oil and gas production are mature and some are nearing the end of their life expectancy.
Federal offshore waters hold the greatest potential for finding and bringing new energy resources to market in the next 5 to 10 years. MMS estimates that there are currently 85.9 billion barrels of oil and 419.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are technically recoverable from all federal offshore areas. Allowing access would significantly reduce US reliance on imports and improve domestic energy security. Offshore development is in the US national interest as a means of improving energy security, diversifying supply, increasing economic development, and generating local, state and federal revenue. Clearly, our near-term energy future lies in the safe and effective production of deepwater offshore oil and natural gas development.
After the hurricanes of 2005, 92 percent of the Gulf's oil output and 83 percent of its natural gas production was shutdown. Expanding access and development of energy resources throughout the Gulf of Mexico, as well as offshore Alaska and the Atlantic Ocean, is vital to help reduce the impact that future regional disruptions might have on supply and price.
Domestic oil and gas development has a positive impact on the US economy and on the federal treasury because it creates jobs and reduces US reliance on imports. About 1.5 million people are directly employed by the oil and gas industry, with 45,000 people directly employed by offshore operations.
Oil provides 97 percent of US transportation fuel. Manufacturers and farmers depend on petroleum to get their products to market. Clean-burning natural gas provides over 20 percent of the total US energy – generating about 23 percent of electric power, supplying 60 million households and providing over 40 percent of all primary energy for industrial use.
US oil and gas production contributes more than $6 billion annually to the US treasury – second only to Federal income tax payments.
According to MMS, Alaska’s offshore waters contain US reserves estimated at 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (31 percent of all US offshore waters). The MMS estimates that the Chukchi Sea is the most promising and materially undeveloped US offshore petroleum basin. Lease sales are already occurring in the Beaufort Sea. MMS estimates that there are approximately 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in Bristol Bay.
Accessing reserves in these three areas would provide jobs and a significant tax source for local communities and would provide needed US energy supplies.
The MMS has estimated that significant oil and gas resources exist in the Gulf of Mexico in areas greater than 100 miles from shore – approximately 45 billion barrels of oil and 232 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Infrastructure exists in the region and industry has an excellent track record for safety and environmental protection. We need access to new areas in the Gulf of Mexico in order to bring that energy to market.
The Virginia legislature has expressed interest in opening some of the Virginia offshore waters to leasing. MMS estimates the Atlantic waters contain 4 billion barrels of oil and 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Future Atlantic energy exploration and production could add significant domestic supplies to help offset growing demand. It is important that we allow access now because it will take more than a decade to find the energy and deliver it to consumers.
According to MMS, offshore oil and gas development has an outstanding safety and environmental record. The National Academy of Sciences recently determined that less than 1 percent of all oil entering the seas is from drilling and extraction activities.
Decades of operations in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world have shown that the fishing industry and offshore oil and gas industries co-exist successfully. In fact, offshore platforms provide critical habitat to reef fish species and are highly valued by fishermen.