Meanwhile, oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster still causing environmental impacts
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Proposed new deep-water leases off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could yield 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Obama administration, announcing a June 20 lease sale in New Orelans.
The sale will include all available unleased areas in the Central Planning Area offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Minimum bids for the deepwater leases will be set at $100 per acre, administration officials said, after an economic analysis showed that leases sold for less than that amount saw virtually no exploration and development drilling during the past 15 years.
Conservation groups have been critical of new lease sales in the Gulf, pointing out that some areas that have already been leased haven’t been explored yet. There are lingering concerns that the administration hasn’t done nearly enough to protect the environment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which marred the Gulf with 5 million gallons of crude oil spreading across nearly 4,000 square miles of the Gulf — the largest oil spill ever.
The Deepwater disaster resulted in extensive damagle to marine and coastal ecosystems, as well as to the Gulf Coast fishing and tourism industries, eventually affected about 320 miles of coastline in Louisiana alone. Six months after the spill, some reports of tar balls along beaches continue, along with visible oil sheen trails in some areas. In other areas, deposits of crude on the seafloor are apparently not degrading and marine mammal mortality in the Gulf remains above normal.
But there is also enormous economic and political pressure to push ahead with more deep sea drilling, and it is, of course, an election year.
The proposed lease sale includes approximately 7,250 unleased blocks covering nearly 38 million acres. The blocks are located from three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 9,000 to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters) in the Central Gulf of Mexico, a region that BOEM estimates contains close to 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are currently undiscovered and technically recoverable.
“Expanding offshore oil and gas production is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “The President has made it clear that developing our domestic oil and gas resources is a significant part of this administration’s efforts to grow our economy and create jobs. This lease sale is part of our commitment to safe and responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf.”
The June 20 sale is the last in the series of sales in the five-year 2007-2012 outer continental shelf leasing program,
“The Central Gulf of Mexico remains the area with the greatest offshore oil and gas potential in the entire United States outer continental shelf, and this proposed sale is another important step in making this area available for safe and environmentally responsible exploration and development,” said Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We are moving forward with this sale based on careful analysis of the best scientific information available and consideration of all of the public comments we have received.”