The first offshore sale in the US Oil and Gas Leasing program for the year has concluded. It offered the largest amount of acreage in the history of the federal offshore program in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile the Trump Administration is working to expand offshore drilling into the eastern Gulf and other new areas.
The US Department of the Interior leased 90 oil and gas tracts covering more than 508,000 acres in federal waters in the central and western Gulf of Mexico last week.
Counselor for the Secretary of Energy, Vincent DeVito, said 27 companies participated in the sale. Shell Oil had the most bids with 19, followed by Chevron with 15, then Exxon Mobile with 7.
“We received 99 bids on 90 tracts,” said DeVito. “The total of high bids is $121,143,055. And the total of all bids is $137,006,181.”
The Department of the Interior said in a news release that means $121 million dollars in revenue will fund things from conservation to infrastructure.
But League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director Alex Taurel said a record number of acres being leased for oil drilling is not a good sign.
“You know we really see what they’ve done as part of their effort to sell out our public lands and waters to the oil industry really at the expense of communities that depend on clean oceans and clean beaches for tourism and fishing and recreation,” said Taurel.
Currently the leases are closer to Louisiana where 11 people died and 4 million barrels of oil spilled when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in 2010, affecting even southwest Florida beaches. The part of the Gulf closest to Florida is off limits to drilling but congressional protection for the area ends in 2022. The Trump administration wants to rewrite the national offshore drilling plan to include the eastern Gulf and other areas where drilling is not currently allowed and weaken safety standards. Taurel said there’s bipartisan opposition.
Nine more sales are schedule for the central and western Gulf through 2022. The next one is in the spring of 2018.