Interior Dept. Announces Largest Offshore Exploration and Development Lease Sale in U.S. History

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The Department of Interior announced on Friday that it would offer 77.3 million acres for offshore oil and gas exploration and development in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — the largest lease sale in U.S. history.

“Responsibly developing our offshore energy resources is a major pillar of President Trump’s American Energy Dominance strategy,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in the press release announcing the sale.

“A strong offshore energy program supports tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and provides the affordable and reliable energy we need to heat homes, fuel our cars, and power our economy,” Bernhardt said. “We have the strongest safety regulations in the world and today’s technology is making the responsible development of our resources even safer.”

“We look forward to this important sale and continuing to raise energy revenues, which fund efforts to help safeguard our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans,” Bernhardt said.

The announcement also said that in 2017, offshore leases helped the Department raise a billion dollars more in revenue for the year than was made off energy revenues in 2016.

Vincent DeVito, counselor for energy policy at Interior, also stressed the lease sales’ benefit for American workers and the economy while at the same time protecting the environment.

“American energy production can be competitive while remaining safe and environmentally sound,” DeVito said. “People need jobs, the Gulf Coast states need revenue, and Americans do not want to be dependent on foreign oil.”

The revenue from the OCS lease sale will go to the U.S. Treasury, the Gulf States involved, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Historic Preservation Fund.

“The lease sale terms include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region,” the announcement said, adding:

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that the [Outer Continental Shelf] OCS contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable gas. The Gulf of Mexico OCS, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of over 48 billion barrels of oil and 141 trillion cubic feet of gas.

No mention was made in the announcement, however, about previous reports, including from Breitbart News, that Florida would not be considered in the offshore exploration and development plan announced by Interior last month.

Breitbart News reported in January:

Just days after announcing the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf would be explored for areas suitable for oil and gas drilling, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke agreed on Tuesday to remove the Florida coastline from the five-year plan.

The reversal came after Zinke met with Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a Tallahassee airport and Scott told reporters after the meeting that drilling off the state’s coast was “taken off the table,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.

“Florida is obviously unique,” Zinke said. “For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it’s important.”

Interior could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

The region-wide lease sale is scheduled for March 21, according to Interior.

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