NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Trump Administration announced that 33 companies bid Wednesday during its Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 250, which it has said is the biggest offshore lease sale in history. The administration said the sale generated $124 million for 815,400 acres of federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil and gas companies bid Wednesday on offshore leases for oil and gas exploration and development off the Gulf.
Under the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, the Interior Department said, 10 region-wide lease sales are scheduled for the Gulf, “where resource potential and industry interest are high and oil and gas infrastructure is well established.”
Two Gulf lease sales will be held each year and include all available blocks in the combined Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas, according to a U.S. Department of the Interior press release.
The lease sale Wednesday applied specifically to areas within the Gulf of Mexico, but the Trump Administration has expressed a plan to open offshore oil and gas exploration nationwide.
In an executive order signed in April 2017, President Trump effectively opened every available undeveloped site to energy exploration.
Officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other agencies during an informational meeting on exploration earlier this month stressed that not all areas are oil and mineral rich, the department can choose not to lease proposed areas in the end, and that the Interior Department is concurrently opening offshore exploration opportunities to renewable energy sources.
BOEM officials at the meeting in Baton Rouge on March 6 spoke tentatively about the Trump Administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling, and stressed that while all regions are currently open for sale, that could all change.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in January released a draft offshore drilling plan that proposed to expand offshore drilling in nearly all of the waters off the United States.
Simultaneous to release of that plan was news that the administration is rolling back offshore protections that were enacted to tighten safety measures following the 2010 BP oil spill.
Referring to recent reports that the administration plans to do away with specific protections such as the “well-control rule,” local opponents to offshore drilling said March 6 that it is time to stop offshore oil leasing all together.
“Rolling back vital safety measures while expanding offshore leasing is a recipe for a disaster. The oil and gas industry has shown time and time again that it is unwilling or unable to prevent spills and accidents here in the Gulf and now the Trump Administration is putting even more communities at risk,” said Raleigh Hoke, campaign director with Gulf Restoration Network. “It’s time to end all new offshore leasing in the Gulf and beyond.”
Representatives from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) at the March 6 meeting were adamant the administration had no plans to roll back regulations.
But environmental advocates point to that even without deregulating safety measures, offshore drilling wrecks havoc on the environment and is unsafe.
A map and report put out by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade show that in 2016 there were 479 reported offshore accidents in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, and a reported release of more than 880,000 gallons of oil.
“We are standing up today and saying no to offshore drilling, just as the state of Florida has done, just as elected officials along the East Coast and Pacific Coast have done, “ said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in an emailed release before the March 6 meeting. “Our Congressional delegations are showing themselves to be among the most ignorant in the nation and it’s just embarrassing. Every other region of the country is fighting back against this bad idea, and for good reason. Our state is choking on pollution and sinking from climate change.”
But the government played up the benefits offshore drilling might have on the environment in its press release.
“Leases issued as a result of this sale will include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources,” the release said, “mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.”