U.S. sets Nov. 17 date for Gulf of Mexico oil and gas auction

REUTERS/Lee Celano

Sept 30 (Reuters) - The United States will hold an auction for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 17 to comply with a court order to resume oil and gas lease sales, the Biden administration said on Thursday.

The auction of some 80 million acres offshore will be the first the Interior Department has held under President Joe Biden, who campaigned on a promise to end new federal oil and gas leasing as part of a climate change agenda.

The last such sale in the Gulf of Mexico was in November of 2020.

Biden paused drilling auctions after taking office in January pending an analysis of their impacts on the environment and value to taxpayers. In June, however, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered a resumption of auctions, saying the government was required by law to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry, citing the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Bids must be received by Nov. 16 and will be read by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials the following morning in New Orleans. The bid opening will be live-streamed on the bureau's website.

The National Ocean Industries Association, an offshore oil and gas industry trade group, said the sale "is welcome news for the American worker and our national security."

The Interior Department in August said it will offer almost all available unleased blocks in the Gulf of Mexico at a lease sale later this year. The sale is roughly the same size as offshore sales held by the Trump administration, which downplayed the threats from global warming and sought to maximize domestic fossil fuel production.

Environmental groups have challenged the sale in court, alleging the underlying environmental analysis was flawed and violated federal law.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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