WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- An August auction for unleased areas in the western Gulf of Mexico will be the third under President Obama's five-year lease plan, the government said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced plans to put more than 20 million acres of maritime acreage off Texas on the auction block Aug. 28.
A March 20 lease sale for the central Gulf of Mexico for 1.6 million acres off the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts brought in more than $1 billion in bids.
Critics of President Obama's five-year energy plan say his administration has blocked off key areas to energy exploration. The BOEM said the Aug. 28 auction "could result in the production of 116 [million] to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 [billion] to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas."
The sale comes more than three years after a brief moratorium on deep water drilling was enacted in response to the deadly BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A natural gas drilling rig caught fire and exploded last week though no injuries or environmental damage was associated with the accident.
The BOEM said Friday its decision to move ahead with the August leases follows "extensive environmental analysis, public comment, and consideration of the best scientific information available."