The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it will sell leases for some 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling, the largest sale of offshore leases in U.S. history.
United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the March 2018 sale would open an area “about the size of New Mexico” to drilling, including all unleased federal waters offshore of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
The Washington Post notes:
This part of the Gulf was the scene of arguably the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent spill of 215 million gallons of crude that fouled beaches from Louisiana to Florida. Years later, the spill’s effects are still being felt, according to a report by the nonprofit group Oceana.
Scientists have detected hydrocarbons from the well in 90 percent of pelican eggs more than 1,000 miles away in Minnesota, where the birds spend summer after wintering along the gulf. Dolphins living in Barataria, La., have experienced mortality rates 8 percent higher than dolphin populations elsewhere, and their reproduction success dropped 63 percent. British Petroleum, which owned the operation, had paid penalties in excess of $61 billion as of July 2016.
“In today’s low-price energy environment, providing the offshore industry access to the maximum amount of opportunities possible is part of our strategy to spur local and regional economic dynamism and job creation and a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy dominant,” Secretary Zinke said. “And the economic terms proposed for this sale include a range of incentives to encourage diligent development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers.”
“This is great news that our oil and gas industry in Louisiana sorely needs,” said Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), one of 12 lawmakers and governors whose support was quoted in the announcement. “This is the largest sale in U.S. history, and it will create jobs and bolster our state and national economy. Our Louisiana workers are ready to go back to work.”
Conservation groups called the unprecedented lease sale “a terrible idea” when Zinke first discussed it this spring.