Obama Plans Lease Sale for Gulf Oil, Gas Development

Oil industry group says the move doesn't go far enough.

President Obama said Jan. 26 he plans to make nearly 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico available for oil and gas exploration in a lease sale scheduled to take place in June.

The proposed lease sale includes blocks in the central Gulf of Mexico containing nearly 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a Department of Interior statement.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates the sale could result in the production of 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The lease sale is scheduled to take place June 20 in New Orleans.

"Expanding offshore oil and gas production is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America's energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The president has made it clear that developing our domestic oil and gas resources is a significant part of this administration's efforts to grow our economy and create jobs. This lease sale is part of our commitment to safe and responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf."

The American Petroleum Institute said it welcomed the news but criticized the plan as a scaled-back version of previous proposals.

"Contrary to the administration's announcement, this lease sale does not expand access to offshore oil and natural gas, but is part of an overall plan that has scaled back leasing opportunities from earlier proposals, said Erik Milito, the institute's upstream director. "This specific lease sale was included in the 2007-2012 OCS Leasing Program, which became effective on July 1, 2007."

The lease sale is the last remaining sale scheduled in the 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Natural Gas Leasing Program.

In his State of the Union address Jan. 24, Obama said his administration would make more than 75% of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas estimated on the Outer Continental Shelf available for development

Sale terms include a series of conditions to protect the environment, including stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources and protected species.

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