Sep 11, 2013

Off Shore "Drill baby Drill" Proposed U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement

Proposed U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico provide a setting for domestic and international energy production, U.S. military training and border operations, trade and commerce, fishing, tourist attractions, and recreation. These governmental, commercial, and cultural activities depend on healthy and productive marine and coastal areas for a range of economic and social benefits. Consequences of hurricanes and oil spills demonstrate that offshore areas in the Gulf of Mexico are governed by a number of interrelated legal regimes, including treaties and international, federal, and state laws.

A key congressional interest has been the federal role in managing energy resources in deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in waters beyond the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ), more than 200 miles from shore. In 2012, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement known as the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement (the Agreement).

This proposed Agreement marks the start of an energy partnership in an area of international waters that the U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI's) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates to contain as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The main purposes of the partnership would be to lift a moratorium and to jointly develop reservoirs of oil and natural gas, referred to as "transboundary resources," that exist in areas straddling the marine border of both countries. The proposed Agreement stems from a series of bilateral treaties originating in the 1970s. Like other diplomatic measures, for the proposed Agreement to take effect, it must be placed before each country's national lawmakers for review. To date, Mexico has completed review and accepted the Agreement. The proposed Agreement awaits review in the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, review involves examining the two main commitments of the proposed Agreement. First, under the Agreement, a framework for jointly developing a 550-mile distance (1.5 million acres) is established. Diplomats on both sides of the border claim that this framework achieves a mutual goal of greater options for energy production to help gain energy independence for both countries. The second commitment is to dismantle a treaty-based moratorium on oil and gas development agreed to in 2000 and covering a 135-mile area (158,584 acres). Current treaty provisions establishing the ban would also allow it to expire in 2014.