- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Obama administration Wednesday took credit for holding a successful oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico the same day, but critics were quick to point out that President George W. Bush had scheduled the auction years ago and President Obama had delayed it.

Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the sale had attracted more than $1.7 billion in high bids from 56 offshore energy companies for more than 2.4 million acres.

“This sale, part of the president’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, is good news for American jobs, good news for the Gulf economy, and will bring additional domestic resources to market,” Mr. Salazar said in a statement. “When it comes to domestic production, the president has made clear he is committed to expanding oil and natural gas production safely and responsibly, and today’s sale is just the latest example of his administration delivering on that commitment.”

The 39-acre auction was part of President Bush’s 2007-12 plan for drilling in the outer continental shelf and was originally scheduled for 2011. But the Obama administration canceled the sale after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill while it analyzed the spill’s impact on marine life and the fishing industry.

Republicans and the oil industry have criticized the Obama administration for canceling lease sales scheduled by the Bush administration and then taking credit for the few they decided to move forward on.

Reacting to the latest Interior Department release, one House Republican aide circulated a list of cancelled or delayed oil and gas lease sales during the Obama administration, noting that Wednesday’s sale was one of the few in recent years that Mr. Obama hadn’t cancelled.

In its release, the Department of Interior said the lease terms for Wednesday’s sale included escalating rental rates to encourage faster exploration and development of leases, as well as shorter lease terms for shallower water in order to encourage “timely development.”

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