US sets sale of offshore drilling leases in Gulf

An oil platform off the coast of Louisiana
© AFP/File Mark Ralston

AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Washington announced on Friday it would resume the sale of offshore drilling licenses in the Gulf of Mexico, where the BP disaster 16 months ago unleashed the worst maritime oil spill in history.

The US government will hold its first oil and natural gas lease sale since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, the Department of the Interior said in a statement.

The proposed sale, to be held on December 14 in New Orleans, Louisiana, will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf Planning Area offshore Texas.

The announcement came as President Barack Obama’s administration seeks ways to reduce dependence on foreign oil as the economy falters and fears mount that it will slip back into recession.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the sale would be “an important step toward a secure energy future that includes safe, environmentally-sound development of our domestic energy resources.”

The proposed lease sale encompasses about 3,900 blocks covering approximately 20.6 million acres (8.3 million hectares) off the coast of Texas.

Officials estimated the sale could eventually result in the production of up to 423 million barrels of oil and 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Exploration and development of our Western Gulf’s vital energy resources will continue to help power our nation and drive our economy,” Salazar said.

In October 2010 Obama cut short a six-month offshore drilling moratorium he had ordered in the wake of the April 20, 2010 explosion that killed 11 workers and sank the Deepwater Horizon rig some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.

It took 87 days to cap the well, which was being drilled for BP; by that time 4.9 million barrels of oil had gushed into the Gulf.

Hundreds of miles of fragile coastal wetlands and beaches were contaminated, and a third of the Gulf’s rich US waters were closed to fishing, with economic losses put at billions of dollars.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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