BP steers clear of Interior’s latest offshore drilling lease sale

BP, which is trying to get out from under a temporary ban on new federal contracts, appears resigned to spending at least several more months in the penalty box.

The oil giant, which was hit with the suspension in 2012 due to its big 2010 offshore spill, didn’t submit bids for Wednesday’s Interior Department auction of new Gulf of Mexico drilling leases.

The Houston Chronicle points out what this might say about BP’s own view of its prospects for getting back in the game soon. From the newspaper:

Any high bids from BP would have been granted only if the company’s debarment ended during a 90-day post-sale evaluation period. BP’s decision suggests the company does not believe its suspension will be lifted within the next 90 days.

“Due to our extensive portfolio of Gulf acreage and the uncertainty surrounding the suspension and debarment of certain BP businesses, we have decided not to participate in this week’s lease sale,” BP said in a statement to the paper.

“We hope we can reach a reasonable resolution with regulators so that America’s top energy investor over the past five years can once again enter into new contracts with the U.S. government,” BP said.

The company in mid-August sued the Environmental Protection Agency to end the disbarment but also said at the time that “we remain open to a reasonable settlement with the EPA.”

BP is a major fuel supplier to the U.S. military but is prevented from seeking new procurement contracts.