Oceans & Coastal Resources:
A Briefing Book
Congressional Research Service Report 97-588 ENR
Redistributed as a service of the National Library for the Environment

OCS Leasing Moratoria

Prepared by Lawrence Kumins

Specialist in Energy Policy
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division

Issue Definition
Background and Analysis
Status of the Issue
Continuing Concerns
Sources and References for Further Information

Issue Definition

Since the early 1980s, Congress has imposed increasingly extensive leasing moratoria on defined areas within certain Outer Continental Shelf leasing regions. The imposition of moratoria has occurred because many coastal states and environmental groups have convinced Congress that their input into the planning process has not been adequately considered in the drive for increased offshore oil and gas production. Leasing tracts in environmentally sensitive areas might, some argue, lead to activities that could cause irreversible damage. In 1990, President Bush issued a statement on the OCS leasing program indicating that many of the leasing areas that Congress had placed in moratoria should be off bounds to leasing until the year 2000. At issue each year has been whether--and for how long--to extend the ten year long sequence of one-year moratoria. These moratoria have effectively precluded leasing in all OCS areas except the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico).

Background and Analysis

Congress has enacted moratoria through provisions in the Interior Department appropriations enactments for the fiscal years 1982 through 1995. The specific areas covered by the moratoria have varied from year to year: New England (FY84 through FY93), California (FY82 through FY85, FY89 through FY93), Eastern Gulf (FY84, FY89 through FY93), Mid-Atlantic (FY83, FY90 through FY93), South Atlantic (FY93), Alaska's North Aleutian Basin (FY90 through FY93), and the Pacific Northwest (FY91 through FY93). Generally, however, the total acreage placed off bounds to leasing has increased every year:
from 736,000 acres in four Northern California basins in FY82, to 468.6 million acres off California, the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Coast, Florida's Gulf Coast, and Alaska's North Aleutian Basin in FY93.

These moratoria were enacted as part of the FY1993 Interior Department appropriations legislation (P.L. 102-381), which incorporated President Bush's moratoria recommendations for California, southwestern Florida, the Georges Bank, and Washington/Oregon. Additionally, the legislation included moratoria in the North Aleutian Basin, a 50-mile wide stretch along the entire Atlantic Coast, and the Eastern Gulf OCS off northwestern Florida.

These moratoria were continued in appropriations bills during FY 1994 and FY 1995 (P.L. 103-332). Taken together, the moratoria effectively limit preleasing and leasing activity to the Gulf coast off Texas, Louisiana and Alabama and to a few Alaskan basins.

Status of the Issue

The FY1993 Interior Department appropriations legislation (P.L. 102-381) enacted OCS moratoria off California, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the entire Atlantic Coast, Alaska's North Aleutian Basin, and Washington/Oregon. One year extension of this moratorium package were contained in the FY 1994 and FY19 95 appropriations. Preleasing and leasing activity in OCS areas other than the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico remains prohibited for FY 1995.

Table 1, below, provides a history of revenues from the OCS Leasing Program from 1970 to 1992.

TABLE 1. Revenues from the Federal OCS Leasing Program, Calendar Year 1970 through 1992
($ in billions)

Year Bonus Royalty Rent Total
1970 0.945 0.285 0.009 1.239
1971 0.096 0.352 0.008 0.456
1972 2.251 0.366 0.008 2.625
1973 3.082 0.404 0.009 3.495
1974 5.023 0.562 0.014 5.599
1975 1.088 0.618 0.018 1.723
1976 2.243 0.702 0.023 2.968
1977 1.568 0.921 0.020 2.510
1978 1.767 1.152 0.022 2.941
1979 5.079 1.517 0.020 6.616
1980 4.205 2.139 0.019 6.363
1981 6.653 3.291 0.022 9.966
1982 3.987 3.817 0.020 7.825
1983 5.749 3.459 0.032 9.240
1984 3.929 3.968 0.036 7.932
1985 1.558 3.643 0.062 5.262
1986 0.187 2.565 0.053 2.805
1987 0.497 2.372 0.075 2.944
1988 1.259 2.095 0.063 3.418
1989 0.646 2.190 0.079 2.915
1990 0.584 2.704 0.079 3.367
1991 0.339 2.376 0.079 2.794
1992 0.085 2.561 0.060 2.706

Source: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Minerals Management Statistics: Federal Offshore Statistics: 1992" (1993). See Table 46.

Continuing Concerns

These concerns and questions are provided to stimulate further discussion of the issues noted above.

  1. Will the 105h Congress extend the annual moratoria for one more year or enact multiyear moratoria?
  2. Will Congress modify the geographic extent of the moratoria, either adding or deleting regions?

Sources and References for Further Information

U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service. OCS Leasing Moratoria: Their Overlap with Estimates of Oil and Gas Resources. CRS Report for Congress 92-454 ENR. [by Malcolm M. Simmons.] Washington, DC: May 21, 1992.


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