Feds Schedule First Post-Spill Gulf Auction

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The U.S. Interior Department on Friday announced the first auction of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill that rocked the region in 2010. A total of 20.6 million acres in waters as deep as nearly 11,000 feet will be auctioned on December 14, Interior said.

The 3,900 blocks on offer will extend from 9 miles to 250 miles offshore, Reuters reported, citing the Interior Department. The Deepwater Horizon spill led to 11 deaths and the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Following the spill, the government imposed a moratorium on deep-water drilling.

New bid terms require companies interested in leasing blocks in waters 1,312 feet and deeper to pay higher rates, Reuters reported. The old minimum deep-water bid was $37.50 acre, but that price has been boosted to $100 per acre. The minimum bid for shallow water acreage will remain at $25 per acre.

The National Resources Defense Council has voiced opposition to the news from Interior, saying it is still unsafe to resume Gulf lease sales.