U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a proposed 5-year lease schedule opened "the vast majority" of offshore oil and natural gas resources for development while taking a "cautious" look at the potential for arctic reserves off the coast of Alaska.
The plan calls for 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the coast of Alaska. The U.S. government estimates more than 67 billion barrels of oil and 306 trillion cubic feet of gas are potentially available in the proposed lease areas.
Erik Milito, upstream director for energy trade group American Petroleum Institute, said the lease plan was discouraging.
"Today's proposal will not allow us to realize the full benefits from safe and responsible development of America's oil and natural gas resources, continuing a pattern of delay and unnecessary restraint," he said in a statement.
API and its supporters have pressed for more access to oil and natural gas reserves on federal lands.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, said the 5-year plan made sense considering trends in U.S. oil production.
"As a time when U.S. oil production is at an 18-year high, this drilling plan is the responsible way to continue to support domestic production, while leaving time to put in place proper safety and environmental protections," he said in a statement.
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