Interior to hold largest oil and gas lease sale in US history

Interior to hold largest oil and gas lease sale in US history
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The Interior Department is planning to hold the largest sale of oil and gas leases in the country's history.

The plans, announced Friday, would auction off 77.3 million acres of offshore waters to drilling, covering coastal waters in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The auction will take place March 21.

Areas protected under a 2006 congressional moratorium, which bans drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coast until 2022, will be excluded from the lease.

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Interior largely credited strong offshore lease sales from 2017 for raising U.S. revenues by $1 billion dollars compared to 2016.

“Responsibly developing our offshore energy resources is a major pillar of President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE's American Energy Dominance strategy,” Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “​A strong offshore energy program supports tens of thousands good paying jobs and provides the affordable and reliable energy we need to heat homes, fuel our cars, and power our economy."

On a call with reporters to discuss the Interior Department's annual budget proposal Monday, Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE teased the sale saying, "Without a strong and steady stream of revenue we cannot afford to do everything we need to do."

Plans Zinke announced in early January to vastly expand offshore drilling on federally owned waters, were met with heavy criticism, including from Republican governors of coastal states.

At a congressional hearing in January, an Interior department official said that each state was still being individually reviewed before any final determination on drilling.

“Until such time as all those analyses are complete and we have all those comments to put in the record and consider, we will not have any indication of where the secretary wants to go," Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told the Senate committee.