As an expected result of President Biden’s Executive Orders, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has taken action to “pause” the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Lease Sale scheduled for March 17, 2021. In January 2021, BOEM had published its decision to proceed with GOM OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 257 (GOM Lease Sale 257) to include areas located in the western and central planning areas and a small portion of the eastern planning area not subject to congressional moratorium. A Federal Register notice published on February 18, 2021 formally rescinded the Rule of Decision for GOM Lease Sale 257, effectively calling off the lease sale.
On January 27, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14008, directing the Secretary of the Interior to pause new oil and gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, consistent with applicable law, pending completion of a comprehensive review. After completion of this review, BOEM may reevaluate GOM Lease Sale 257. This action is among the first taken under the leadership of the newly-named Director of BOEM, Amanda Lefton. According to BOEM, Lefton most recently served as First Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment for New York, where she managed the state’s climate and energy portfolio.
The pause of GOM Lease Sale 257 comes on the heels of the November 2020 GOM Lease Sale 256, which generated nearly $121 million in high bids for 93 tracts covering around 79 million acres in the western, central and eastern planning areas of the Gulf of Mexico. It remains to be seen whether anyone will challenge this cancellation as violating section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. § 1344) and BOEM’s 2017-2021 Five-Year Leasing Program.