Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior/Flickr.

The Obama administration has scrapped plans to auction offshore oil and gas leases in the Atlantic region citing local opposition and conflicts with military use.

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) said on Tuesday that it will not open up offshore blocks in the mid and south Atlantic area due to “current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses.”

“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast. When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Energy industry group American Petroleum Institute condemned the decision and said it will stunt the growth of domestic energy supplies.

“The decision appeases extremists who seek to stop oil and natural gas production which would increase the cost of energy for American consumers and close the door for years to creating new jobs, new investments and boosting energy security,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said.

The decision marks a reversal from a January 2015 DOI proposal that would have opened up tracts in offshore Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The DOI’s proposed lease sale program currently includes 13 potential sales in six planning areas as part of its 2017 to 2022 oil and gas leasing program.

Ten of those potential sales would be located in the U.S Gulf of Mexico and three other sales would be located off the coast of Alaska.

The Gulf sale proposal will continue a new approach adopted by the agency that calls for two annual lease sales that include all of the Western and Central areas of the Gulf of Mexico as well the Eastern portion of the Gulf not subject to the current Congressional moratorium.

The potential Alaska leases will include one sale each in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet planning areas although the agency will take comment on other options, including an alternative that includes no new leasing and other measures to protect natural resources and reduce conflicts with other ocean uses.

Before the program is finalized and before any lease sales occur, the DOI will consider another round of public input on the proposal and its accompanying Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

The agency added that it will continue to work with Canadian officials to evaluate potential lease sales in the Arctic.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management currently manages about 5,000 active Outer Continental Shelf leases, covering more than 26 million acres with the vast majority of those acres located in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2015, Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leases accounted for about 16 percent of domestic oil production and five percent of domestic natural gas production.


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