The U.S. Interior Department asked
the energy industry, environmental groups, state officials and others for suggestions on how to develop a
federal energy leasing plan through 2012 for all areas of the
Outer Continental Shelf, according to a Reuters report.
However, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said she would uphold a White House promise and not offer any federal leases through 2012 within 100 miles of Florida's coast.
The new U.S. energy law requires the Interior Department's
Minerals Management Service to conduct a comprehensive
inventory and analysis of oil and natural gas resources for all
areas of the Outer Continental Shelf.
That provision was
included despite opposition from senators from Florida
California, Florida and North Carolina who said the inventory
will eventually lead to drilling that could threaten their
The Interior Department said it was seeking general
comments from the public on offshore oil
and gas development as
the government develops its 2007-2012 leasing plan. The current
five-year leasing program expires on June 30, 2007.
Public comments are due by Oct. 11 .
Currently, federal offshore drilling is allowed only in
four states -- Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.
It specifically asked for comments on the "economic,
social, and environmental values" of oil and gas contained in
federal offshore waters.
The Interior Department also said it was considering
whether it should work with Congress to develop gas-only
leases. The Outer Continental Shelf may contain as much as
76 billion barrels of oil and 406 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas that can be recovered with existing technology,
according to government estimates.