Policy Feature Issue: Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (2012-2017)


The Submerged Lands Act of 1953 grants states title to all “lands beneath navigable waters” within their states’ boundaries and whose, “subsoil and seabed appertain to the United States and are subject to its jurisdiction and control”.[1]  Generally speaking, state jurisdiction extends three geographical miles from their recognized coast.[2]  The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) comprises an area at least 200 nautical miles from U.S. coastline outside of state jurisdiction.  The federal government therefore has the authority to regulate offshore oil and gas development in all areas outside of a state’s control.[3]  The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which passed in the same year as the Submerged Lands Act, gives the Secretary of the Interior the ability to grant leases to qualified, responsible bidders as well as to formulate the regulations necessary to enforce the OCSLA.[4]  Eligible areas of the OCS are determined through Five Year Leasing Programs.

What is a Five-Year Leasing Strategy?

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), “A Five Year (Leasing) Program consists of a schedule of oil and gas lease sales indicating the size, timing, and location of proposed leasing activity the Secretary determines will best meet national energy needs for the five-year period following its approval.”[5]  In order for an area to be eligible for leasing, it must be included in an approved Five Year Leasing Program.  On August 27, 2012, the Secretary of the Interior approved a Five Year Leasing Program that is effective through August 26, 2017. [6]  However, the Obama Administration’s current Five Year Program is highly restrictive of future offshore oil and gas exploration and production.