NEW ORLEANS, May 6 (UPI) -- Keeping the public's trust about offshore safety is a necessary part of ensuring the region's success, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.
Jewell visited offshore oil and natural gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico with authorities from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Though it wasn't a snap inspection, Jewell said that "maintaining the public's trust in the safety and environmental performance of oil and gas production is critically important as we continue to tap into the gulf's abundant resource potential."
The Interior Department estimates the Gulf of Mexico contributes about 25 percent of the domestic oil and 11 percent of the domestic natural gas to the U.S. market.
More than 100 new deep-water permits were approved last year in the Gulf of Mexico. An August lease sale will put more than 20 million acres offshore Texas on the auction block to energy companies. A March auction brought in more than $1.2 million in bids.
"Oil and gas production from the Gulf of Mexico plays an important role in powering our nation and strengthening our economy," Jewell said.
The Interior Department estimates the central and western parts of the Gulf of Mexico hold more than 40 billion barrels of oil and at least 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.