Biden Admin Hears Public Reaction on Future of Offshore Oil

Update 8/26: We attended a second “listening session” and while we appreciate the BOEM staff time and analysis, it’s becoming clear that the format of the meetings doesn't facilitate meaningful dialogue or even for complete answers to questions. It is disappointing that this is the primary format chosen to engage with the public on future of our ocean waters, coastal communities and global climate. Participants in the listening sessions had thoughtful questions about how BOEM was weighing the proposal to offer more leasing in the face of grave climate and community impacts. These ended out being left mostly unanswered. BOEM is planning to give the public only one opportunity to offer oral testimony, rather than simply pose questions. Overall, the agency’s virtual public input process thus far appears to be leaving many participants frustrated and falling short of providing affected communities the opportunity to have their voices heard on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing.

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held its first listening session this week, giving the public a chance to weigh in on the latest proposed five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. The leasing proposal would schedule up to 11 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska (For more on the program and how to submit official comments, see our blogs here and here). If you missed this first session, the good news is that you have four more opportunities to either join a listening session or submit oral testimony. 

You can bring your questions about the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program to zoom sessions on: 

  • August 25th 
  • August 29th 
  • August 31st 

​You can register to attend the listening sessions here. Or you can give oral testimony on September 12th using the same link to register. 

The virtual open house process includes an introduction video from BOEM on the administration’s goals for both climate and the OCS program. Participants can then join five different sessions where folks can ask questions: 

  1. The National OCS Program and General Questions
  2. Oil & Gas Resource Assessment and Economic Considerations
  3. Environmental Considerations 
  4. Renewable Energy and Other Programs
  5. How to Comment

The listening sessions are designed for BOEM to be able to answer the public’s questions about the proposed National OCS program. They are not recorded and the agency is not taking oral public comment until September 12th.

BOEM

We joined each of the five sessions for a little. They offered useful information from the BOEM staff that developed the analyses used in the offshore leasing program. Key questions raised include how important it is to analyze net-zero emissions pathways in determining how BOEM schedules oil and gas lease sales for fossil fuels that won’t come online for at least ten years. It was also noted that the nation’s bold new climate legislation is not accounted for in the government analysis underpinning BOEM’s projections.  

Participants also asked about impacts to local communities, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, who have long suffered the impacts of the oil and gas industry and how BOEM was taking that into account. There were requests for an extension of the comment period. It was clear the public was eager for an opportunity to give oral testimony on the five-year program. The public comment session on September 12 will be a critical place to vocalize why more oil and gas leasing is contrary to the country’s climate, environmental justice, and community goals. BOEM is legally obligated to incorporate input from the public in its final proposed leasing program, and you must either testify vocally or submit a comment here or here for it to count. Given the limited amount of time during the only public comment session, BOEM should ensure that members of frontline communities are given priority to share their testimony.

Offshore drilling drives climate change, endangers fish and wildlife, harms coastal communities, and burdens taxpayers. In short: every catastrophic oil spill begins with a lease sale, and we have enough oil in existing leases to continue production at current rates well into the 2030s. What’s more, oil from new leases takes at least ten years to come online—right when we need to be meeting our climate goals.  

We need to reduce—not expand—offshore leasing.

Sign up for a listening session in the "meeting information" tab to communicate that to BOEM. 

About the Authors

Lauren Kubiak

Senior Scientist, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Valerie Cleland

Oceans Advocate, Nature Program

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