The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department, published a 710-page environmental impact assessment of two lease areas proposed for the Gulf of Mexico.
Lease sales 225 and 226 are scheduled for 2014 and 2016 respectively.
"This analysis evaluates baseline conditions and potential environmental impacts of oil and natural gas leasing, exploration, development and production," BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement Monday. "This document is an important part of the decision-making process regarding future operations, as well as leasing."
The Interior Department gave no indication of the reserve potential in the planned lease areas. In August, the government said it sold acreage in the Gulf of Mexico that may contain as much as 200 million barrels of oil and 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was halted briefly in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010. The environmental assessment reviews "the most likely and most significant impacts from a high-volume ... oil spill that continues for an extended period of time."
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