The U.S. Department of the Interior issued a request for information (RFI) 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 publication in the Federal Register is the initial step in the multi-year planning process and does not identify any specific course of action. U.S. law requires the Secretary of the Interior, 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 planning process the outer continental shelf will take up to three years to complete.  The Secretary of the Interior is required to balance environmental impacts, discovery of oil and gas, and adverse effects on the coastal zone.

The current five-year program expires in August 2017 and schedules 15 potential lease sales in six planning areas judged to have the greatest resource potential. BOEM has held five sales thus far, including annual auctions in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and a single sale in the Eastern Gulf. Those auctions offered more than 60 million offshore acres and leased 4.3 million, generating more than $2.3 billion in high bids. A sixth lease sale in August 2014 will offer 21 million OCS acres in the Western Gulf of Mexico.

More information here.