U.S. Drafts Environmental Assessment for Offshore Oil Lease

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. completed a draft environmental assessment for an oil and gas lease sale as soon as this year in the western Gulf of Mexico, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

The analysis includes information collected after BP Plc’s oil spill last year, the agency said today in an e-mail. It will be updated to reflect comments gathered at hearings in May, according to the agency.

The sale of leases off the Texas and Louisiana coasts is tentatively scheduled for late 2011, the regulator said.

“We’re glad to see this positive step forward,” said Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s director of upstream and industry operations. “We hope it will allow Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to proceed with plans for a lease sale later in 2011.”

The institute, the industry’s largest trade group, had expressed concerns that the environmental reviews after the BP’s record offshore spill might push the lease sales into 2012 or later.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also issued a permit for Royal Dutch Shell Plc to drill in the Alaminos Canyon of the Gulf. The well will be the 11th in deep water since exploration resumed after the BP disaster, the agency said today on its website. The permit was approved yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at kklimasinska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net