NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Offshore oil and gas development will never be risk free but U.S. regulators have taken the safest approach possible in a recent lease sale, an official said.
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.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in a statement, said Washington has ensured offshore oil and gas development is safer than when a moratorium on deep-water exploration was lifted in late 2010.
"(This) sale is another step in ensuring the safe and responsible development of the nation's offshore energy resources," he said.
"Acting out of political expediency, not economic necessity, the Department of the Interior finally held the first offshore lease sale of this year," he said in a statement. "However, don't be fooled -- this administration has delayed and canceled multiple lease sales that were previously scheduled."
The American Petroleum Institute, in a statement, said if Washington takes a "dedicated approach" to increasing offshore oil and gas production, more than $300 billion could be added to federal coffers by 2030.