Fewer than 1 percent of offshore drilling tracts auctioned by Trump receive bids

Fewer than 1 percent of offshore drilling tracts auctioned by Trump receive bids
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Oil and gas companies bid on fewer than one percent of the offshore tracts made available by the Trump administration during an auction Wednesday.

Of the 14,622 tracts made available by the Interior department for bidding on 801,288 acres in federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico, only 144 received bids.

The percentage of tracts bid on was slightly less than the previous lease sale in March that leased just over 1 percent of tracts made available.

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The last sale in March was the biggest offshore lease sale in United States history--with 77.3 million acres made available.  The sale saw 33 companies bidding on plots off the cost of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for $124.8 million. Of the 14,474 tracts available for bidding only 148 tracts received any bids.

The Obama administration held much smaller sales that focused only on areas where oil companies had expressed interest.

The administration Wednesday nevertheless hailed the latest sale as a success, promoting the nearly $180,000,000 in sales generated in a press release.

"Today’s lease sale is yet another step our nation has taken to achieve economic security and energy dominance,” Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt said in a statement. “The results from the lease sale will help secure well-paying offshore jobs for rig and platform workers, support staff onshore, and related industry jobs, while generating much-needed revenue to fund everything from conservation to infrastructure.”

Despite the revenue, the limited interest is a considerable blow to an administration that has been preaching the need to expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters in order to increase U.S. energy dependence and revenue. Fewer than 30 companies submitted bids.

In January Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeMontana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills Navajo-owned coal plant to be shut down despite Interior push to keep open MORE announced a desire to expand offshore drilling to new areas off the coast. The call met resistance from a number of state leaders opposed to opening up drilling off their coastlines. Zinke has yet to formally announce where new drilling might be but has acknowledged that oil and gas companies have more interest in plots located on land rather than offshore.

Critics say the bids shows a lack of interest by fossil fuel groups to invest in offshore drilling which is expensive, risky and not always profitable.

Environmental groups have also jumped on the lackluster results as proof that drilling is overall not desirable.

"When will Ryan Zinke finally get the message that it’s time to scrap his reckless offshore drilling plans? Millions of Americans and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have made it clear that the public does not want dangerous drilling off our coasts, and even corporate polluters aren’t buying what Zinke’s selling," Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s land protection program, said in a statement.