U.S. Court Approves Gulf of Mexico Lease Sales

In July, a federal appeals court announced it would permit the U.S. Department of the Interior to move forward with new oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, subject to an analysis of the environmental risks. The news came after an earlier court decision had blocked the Bush-era five-year offshore oil and gas drilling plan. The drilling plan, which also includes the Alaska outer continental shelf region, was originally rejected based on findings that a proper review had not been performed on the possible environmental effects of drilling. After Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requested clarification on the ruling, the courts said the decision only applied to Alaska and therefore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico were permitted. Leases were auctioned at the end of August, attracting the lowest bids in a decade. The impacted area encompasses 18 million acres, comes within nine miles of the shore, and stretches out as far as 250 miles.