With Leave From Feds, BP Bids on Gulf Oil Leases

     (CN) - Of the more than $872 million raised in a Wednesday auction of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases, nearly $42 million came from BP, its first such bid since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
     The auction marked a thawing of relations for BP and the federal government, which banned the company from competing for federal contracts after the Transocean-owned drilling rig exploded and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010, killing 11 and setting off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP's well, Macondo Prospect, which also blew up that day, dumped 4.1 million barrels, or 172 million gallons, of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days.
     London-based BP reportedly sold $38 billion in assets to cover the pollution cleanup costs and to compensate victims of the spill.
     After the Environmental Protection Agency lifted the restrictions against BP on March 14, some criticized the move as premature.
     Brent Coon, an attorney whose firm represents nearly 15,000 victims of the spill, emphasized the claims of people damaged by the 2010 spill that remain unresolved.
     "Right now BP is undertaking a massive public relations and litigation strategy to get out of paying most of the claimants suffering from the results of BP's own reckless abandon and thirst for oil and at the same time our own government is taking their foot off BP's neck, when they promised that they would stay on them until full reparations had been made," Coon said in a statement.
     "Presently only 25 percent of the claims submitted to the Deepwater Settlement program were honored before BP sought injunctive relief on paying any future claims, and that doesn't take into account that this settlement still carved out hundreds of thousands of victims who worked in industries such as gaming, real estate, financial, municipal and offshore," he continued. "None of them have any recourse yet, nor do they have any date in the future to even contemplate any resolution, as BP has put all of them on ice indefinitely."
     BP was among 50 energy companies who submitted 380 bids Wednesday for Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases, Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said.
     The auction covered 1.7 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
     In a statement, Jewell praised the auction as "part of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production" and noted that domestic oil production is at its highest point in two decades, and U.S. natural gas production has never been higher.
     Each winning bid will now go through a vetting process by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management "to ensure the public receives the fair market value before a lease is awarded," Jewell added.