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Next Steps to Reform the Regulations Governing Offshore Oil and Gas Planning and Leasing

Published in the Alaska Law Review

The Department of the Interior manages offshore oil and gas activities in federal waters. While the agency has proposed and/or enacted important improvements to the rules that govern some of those activities, it has not modernized the regulations that govern offshore oil and gas planning, lease sales, or the review and permitting of exploratory drilling. These phases of the process are overseen by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and, as was shown in our earlier publication on this topic, are ineffective and in need of modernization. In this article, we argue that fundamental reform is necessary and highlight a series of key themes and topics that must be addressed to improve the regulatory process and promote better, more consistent management outcomes. While the article draws on examples from frontier areas-in particular the U.S. Arctic Ocean-the recommended changes would apply to and benefit all areas of the OCS.