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U.S. Gulf Oil Lease Sale Attracts 241 Bids From 20 Companies

The first lease sale for oil production in the Gulf of Mexico since BP Plc’s 2010 spill attracted 241 bids from 20 companies, the Interior Department said as an environmental group sought to block the auction.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will open sealed bids for tracts off the Texas coast in New Orleans tomorrow at 9 a.m. local time, according to a statement today from the agency. The total exceeds by 52 the number of bids in the previous western Gulf sale in August 2009, the department said.

The administration canceled one sale and postponed another after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP in April 2010, which killed 11 people and triggered the largest U.S. offshore spill. Environmental groups filed suit in Washington today to block tomorrow’s sale, saying regulators had yet to adequately consider production risks.

“The federal government is failing to learn from one of the most environmentally and economically destructive incidents in U.S. history,” said David Pettit, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, in an e-mailed statement.

Salazar said in a Nov. 10 statement that new regulations adopted after the spill have strengthened oversight “at every stage” of the development process.

Blocks up for sale are located in federal waters from 9 miles (15 kilometers) to more than 250 miles offshore, in water depths of about 16 feet (5 meters) to more than 10,975 feet, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department.

The agency estimates that this sale could result in production of approximately 222 million to 423 million barrels of oil and 1.49 trillion to 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

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