UPDATE: Much ado about the lease sale

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service has done a number of lease sales for Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas exploration in recent years, but the lease sale that will be finalized today is getting a bit more attention.
It’s the first lease sale since President Bush last month lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts — a largely symbolic act since Congressional bans remain in place.
And it’s the first since Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said he was “… developing a new five-year (lease) program that accurately reflects the nation’s needs.”
“This sale is an important next step in the journey to ensuring the nation’s energy security,” said MMS Director Randall Luthi in a statement, but hasn’t every other recent lease sale been as well?
The MMS said Tuesday 423 bids were received from 47companies on 319 tracts offered off the Texas coast in the deep water of the outer continental shelf. Reading of the sealed bids will start at 9:00 a.m. today in New Orleans (in the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street if you’re in the neighborhood).
Only about 10 percent of the nearly 18 million acres received bids, but that’s not exactly unusual since there may be a lot of (unspoken) consensus about which blocks have the greatest potential.
Kempthorne is going to read the first unsealed bid and then give a press conference after the event at 11 a.m.
Is he going to actually commit some news or just repeat the “we want your input” message on the new five year plan? If the later, you can e-mail your thoughts on the Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program to this address (5yearRFIcomments@mms.gov) or comment online here (key word: 5-year).
A webcast of the sales can be found at the Offshore Oil Scouts Association , but the Chronicle will also be listening in, so stay tuned.
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UPDATE
No, Kempthorne didn’t really say anything new but push for more access to more property for lease sales. From the story we posted this afternoon on the morning’s events:

Norway’s Statoil bet $61 million that significant oil and gas deposits lie beneath the Gulf of Mexico seafloor more than 160 miles south of Galveston, according to lease sale results released by the federal government today.

snip

Chevron, the largest leaseholder in the Gulf, submitted three of the top five bids announced today: $52 million and $22 million for blocks directly south of the Louisiana coast and $20 million for a block in the same area that generated the highest bid from Statoil. And Statoil also submitted the fourth-highest bid in that area at $22 million.

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