In December, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced more than 20 companies submitted a total of 241 bids worth a combined amount of more than $700 million for the rights to explore about 1 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico.
It was the first federal lease sale since the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A moratorium on drilling in the gulf was in place for much of 2010 in response to the oil spill, one of the worst in the industry.
Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer at the American Petroleum Institute, said the moratorium is still having an impact on the economy.
"We're not doing what we should be doing to help meet our nation's energy needs, deliver revenue to our government, and create jobs," he said in a statement.
A study prepared for API by Quest Offshore Resources found at least 90,000 jobs and billions of dollars were lost to slow permitting processes in the gulf.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Washington had ensured offshore oil and gas development is safer than when the moratorium on deepwater exploration was lifted in late 2010.