Interior Has Taken Steps To Improve the Adequacy of Data Used for Making Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Decisions

RCED-85-68: Published: Mar 26, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the adequacy of the geological and geophysical data which the Minerals Management Service (MMS) uses to estimate the oil and gas resource potential of offshore tracts and to determine whether to accept industry bids for offshore leases.

GAO found that, in the first two area wide sales which MMS conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, over half of the tracts were leased based on supporting data that it rated as inadequate for estimating the resource potential and evaluating the adequacy of industrial bids. About half of the tracts with poor supporting data MMS had classified as having too little oil or gas for economic production and were leased without further evaluation for $1 billion. However, GAO noted that some of these tracts attracted multiple bids, indicating that private companies considered the tracts potentially valuable. GAO found that MMS failed to use the data available in its files or data that could have been acquired commercially for some of the tracts because of insufficient time and staff. Since relatively few tracts have received bids in the Atlantic and Pacific regions, the tract evaluation workload in these areas was low, and the data used in these sales were sufficient to evaluate the tracts. In the Alaska region, GAO found that additional data was available, but MMS believed that it had sufficient data to evaluate the tracts. MMS has taken recent action to improve the adequacy of the supporting data it uses to evaluate outer continental shelf tracts by instituting new evaluation procedures and implementing a regional mapping program which will help define areas with oil and gas potential.

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