Gulf gas lease to be auctioned 18 Million Acres to drilling

HARVEY, La. — The government will offer 18 million acres off the Texas and Louisiana coasts on Aug. 18 — a lease sale held up by a lawsuit over drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday.

“It was a legal cloud that has been hanging over that entire area,” he told a news conference set up on a ground-level mock-up of a mobile offshore drilling rig at Superior Energy Services offices in Harvey.

Earlier plans to lease the Gulf of Mexico area were held up by a lawsuit challenging the department’s plan for offshore drilling auctions through 2012 because it included new areas in Alaska’s Beaufort, Bering and Chukchi seas.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled in April 2009 that the Minerals Management Service under the Bush administration had not properly studied what expanded oil and gas drilling would do to marine life and the environment.

The entire plan was sent back to the Interior secretary. Salazar said a new plan sent to the Federal Register on Wednesday allows the Gulf of Mexico lease sale to go forward.

Salazar said the August lease sale was likely to create 2,000 jobs a year.

He said experts estimate that the area to be leased Aug. 18, ranging from 9 to 250 miles offshore, holds 1.6 trillion to 2.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and an estimated 242 million to 423 million barrels of oil.

“We believe it will be mostly natural gas play,” he said.

The government plans four lease
sales through 2012.
By JANET MCCONNAUGHEY Associated Press

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