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article imageAdministration selling Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases today

By Karen Graham     Mar 21, 2018 in Environment
The Trump administration has called Wednesday's Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas lease sale as the "largest in US history" and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has called it a "bellwether" for America's offshore energy future.
But while the White House is bragging, U.S. offshore officials are trying to downplay the significance of the Gulf sale, also known as Lease Sale 250, being held in New Orleans today.
The sale, the largest in over 35 years, is going to be a test of the industry's appetite for federal acreage being offered by the government, reports Reuters. At stake is over 77 million acres (31.2 million hectares) - an area twice the size of Florida.
The auction is in line with President Trump's efforts to ramp up U.S. fossil fuel production, while the administration seeks to reduce royalties paid by petroleum companies and expand oil production in nearly all of America’s offshore waters.
Bids - Oil and Gas Lease Sale 250
Bids - Oil and Gas Lease Sale 250
Remember Deepwater Horizon?
The oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf is still overshadowed by the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 oil workers and thousands of marine animals, from which the Gulf still hasn’t recovered. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Obama administration developed stricter rules for oil and gas drilling that were to go into effect in 2015.
A federal judge in Wyoming blocked them at the last minute. In September 2017, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver declined to rule in that case because the Trump administration intended to rescind the rules. And the Trump administration did rescind the proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing and other oil- and gas-drilling practices on government lands in January this year.
A blast on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 men and unleashed 134 million gallons of cru...
A blast on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 men and unleashed 134 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico
, US Coast Guard/AFP
“Trump is selling off our oceans and selling out coastal communities and marine life to the oil industry,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Whales, dolphins and Gulf seafood are already marinating in oil spills and industrial wastewater. More drilling and less regulation will make the next Deepwater Horizon disaster only a matter of time.”
U.S. crude output already smashing records
The lease sale also comes at a time when onshore crude oil and natural gas production is smashing records - Thanks to improved drilling technology that has led to opening up cheaper onshore reservoirs. Right now, the U.S. produces about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day from the Gulf of Mexico, about 15 percent of the national total, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“American energy production can be competitive,” Vincent DeVito, an energy policy advisor at Interior, said of the auction. “People need jobs, the Gulf Coast states need revenue, and Americans do not want to be dependent on foreign oil.”
You could say that DeVito is voicing the White House message because not everyone feels this was about the sale of offshore petroleum leases.
Shell s Brutus Platform.
Shell's Brutus Platform.
Via YouTube
“Offering a nearly unrestricted supply in a low demand market with a cut-rate royalty and almost no competition is bad policy and an inexcusable waste of taxpayer resources,” the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy think tank, said in a statement.
There are already nearly 52,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and petroleum companies have installed more than 7,000 platforms, many of which are inactive and still littering the Gulf. A recent New York Times investigation found dangerous conditions on Gulf platforms and taxpayers being left to cover the costs of cleanups and decommissioning of old drilling infrastructure.
“Trump is turning over Gulf waters to oil companies with no regard for the devastating consequences,” Monsell said. “This is a bad deal for people and the planet.”
More about Dept of Interior, Gulf of Mexico, oil and gas lease sale, 77 million acres, safety rules
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