The Biden administration's five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing will not include any sales in 2024 and will feature the lowest number of auctions in the history of the program in the four years to follow, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The schedule for leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska for 2024-2028 is due on Friday following several delays and months of battling between environmentalists and drilling advocates over what the policy should look like.
The final plan will mark a dramatic reduction from a proposal the Trump administration had crafted in 2018 that envisioned 47 lease sales, including in California and the Atlantic.
It will, however, fall short of U.S. President Joe Biden's campaign promise to end new federal drilling entirely to fight climate change, after court decisions required continued leasing and last year's Inflation Reduction Act made them a pre-requisite for new offshore wind power lease auctions.
Biden sees offshore wind power as a key tool in his administration's effort to decarbonize the economy.
"The number of oil and gas lease sales will be the lowest in history and will enable the rapid expansion of the offshore wind industry," one of the sources told Reuters.
The Interior Department is required by law to create a national oil and gas leasing schedule every five years. But it has been without one since the previous one expired in June 2022 due to aggressive debate over the program.
The Biden administration unveiled a proposed plan in July last year that had contemplated between zero to 11 lease sales.
In recent years, politicians, environmentalists and the oil industry have cast the national leasing program as a symbol of either the need to rein in fossil fuel development to avert the worst impacts of global warming, or a critical tool to shore up domestic energy supplies and keep pump prices low.
The plan will be subject to a 60-day waiting period before it can be approved by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
(Reuters - Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and Nichola Groom; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)