The nature of offshore oil and gas activities is changing as companies are forced into difficult and remote areas, including the U.S. Arctic Ocean. As evidenced by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy and Shell's error-plagued efforts to drill exploration wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in 2012, the rules governing whether and under what conditions to allow offshore drilling in frontier areas have not kept pace with environmental and technical changes. These rules were implemented in 1979 and have remained substantively the same since. Recent changes to at the Department of the Interior to disband the Minerals Management Service, improve certain safety requirements, and move toward implementing Arctic-specific spill prevention and response requirements are important steps. Those changes, however, apply only after the decision to allow oil and gas activity has been made. Congress has not amended the governing statute, and the agency has not modified in any meaningful way the regulations that govern the initial processes through which it decides whether and under what circumstances to allow offshore oil and gas activities in a given area. This Article argues that the regulations that govern offshore oil and gas planning and leasing should be fundamentally revised to account for changes in the industry and agency, remedy broadly acknowledged deficiencies, and reflect new administrative policies. It also recommends a path to achieve the needed change.

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