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Gulf Oil Lease Sale Draws Lawsuit Seeking to Halt Drilling

Oil-lease auctions for the Gulf of Mexico should be halted because regulators failed to fully consider the risks revealed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to a lawsuit filed by environmental activist groups.

The groups asked a federal judge in Washington today to block the Interior Department’s first lease sale for oil production in the Gulf of Mexico since BP Plc’s spill in 2010.

The department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management didn’t take into account “what this disaster taught us about the likelihood of oil spills, the difficulty of cleaning them up, and their environmental impact on the resources and species of the Gulf,” the groups claimed in their complaint.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will open bids for tracts off the Texas coast at an event in New Orleans tomorrow, the agency said in a statement today. The lease sale attracted 241 bids from 20 companies, the department said.

The groups suing are Oceana Inc., Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The case is Oceana v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 11-02208, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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