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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Orleans, home of the largest oil and gas lease sale

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY BUREAU OF SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT
  • COURTESY BUREAU OF SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT

In 2018, nearly 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico will be up for grabs in what's likely to be the largest-ever oil and gas lease sale in the U.S.

The sale opens to offshore-drilling oil companies water off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida, as well as previously unleased areas in the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf, encompassing an area the size of New Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The sale is scheduled for March 2018 in New Orleans.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said "providing the offshore industry access to the maximum amount of opportunities possible is part of our strategy to spur local and regional economic dynamism and job creation," all part of President Donald Trump's "plan to make the United States energy dominant."

Republican officials hailed the announcement as a potential job creator — though the sale follows policy from former President Barack Obama's administration that opened leases throughout the Gulf, not just its more productive central region. Roughly 66 million acres were opened last year.

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said news of the lease sale is "following through on their promise to end the war on American energy."

Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Associated Press that Republicans spent eight years alleging Obama's responsibility for killing oil and gas, and "now they're taking credit for lease sales made under the Obama leasing plan," he said. "Tomorrow they may as well claim credit for capturing Osama Bin Laden."

Athan Manuel with the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, which also opposed Obama-era directives, told The Washington Post that the sale isn't significantly different than Obama's propositions, other than its size.

Nevertheless, Louisiana officials celebrated the news. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy said the sales "will create jobs and bolster our state and national economy."

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise said south Louisiana "will be leading the way in this exploration and development that will create good jobs and kickstart more economic growth."

Scalise said the sale also will contribute to coastal redevelopment and restoration efforts. The area marked for leasing encompasses the site and impact zone of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and Gulf oil disaster, the worst environmental disaster in the U.S., releasing 215 million gallons of oil into a Gulf and coastline that's still in recovery (and still recovering dollars from BP).

Earlier this month, a pipeline owned by LLOG Exploration Company leaked an estimated 672,000 gallons of oil in 5,000-feet-deep water about 40 miles off the coast of Venice, Louisiana.

In its announcement, the Interior says the lease sale terms will "protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region."

Meanwhile, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry heads to Houston next month to deliver a keynote address — along with the vice president of LLOG Exploration Company — at the America First Energy Conference, held by climate science skeptics and powerful conservative think tank The Heartland Institute.

Landry is among several speakers from other oil and gas companies — as well as the Interior's Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

In an announcement, the group says "Trump has already turned back years of President Barack Obama’s anti-energy policies, allowing the United States to once again emerge as a global energy leader." Among the topics covered at the conference are "The Future of Coal," "Benefits of Ending the War on Fossil Fuels" and "Reforming EPA."
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