Biden administration auctions drilling rights for 73 million acres in Gulf of Mexico

Ari Natter, Bloomberg March 29, 2023

(Bloomberg) – The Biden administration is auctioning off oil-drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, a fresh affront to climate activists still smarting from the White House’s approval of an Arctic exploration project.

The 73 million acre sale — one of the nation’s largest ever — being held by the Interior Department on Wednesday was one of several required under the Democrats’ climate law as a concession to Senator Joe Manchin to secure the bill’s passage in the Senate.

Climate activists such as Earthjustice said the sale, which would offer up almost all of the unspoken-for tracts in the Western and Central Gulf, was larger than required. The group filed a lawsuit to clock the auction earlier this month.

The Interior Department declined to comment.

At least 27 companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., submitted bids for more than 300 tracts representing 1.7 million acres, according to Interior Department data.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) welcomed the announcement as a “positive step toward a more energy-secure future.” However, API pointed out that the Biden administration has allowed federal offshore leasing to lapse by over 200 days. According to Holly Hopkins, API’s Vice President of Upstream Policy, such a lapse could jeopardize America’s energy security.

It is well past time for the Department of the Interior to finalize a five-year program for federal offshore leasing that will empower U.S. energy producers to meet the needs of consumers here at home and around the world,” Hopkins said.

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