After March protest BOEM to take offshore leasing online, ending public auctions

Birds fly as pedestrians watch tug boats transport the Chevron Corp. Jack St. Malo semi-submersible drilling and production platform to the Gulf of Mexico from Kiewit Offshore Services in Ingleside, Texas, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Chevron Corp. expects its $7.5 billion Jack/St. Malo platform to begin producing oil and gas in 2014, with a long-range target of 177,000 barrels per day. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg
Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

After the federal government’s last auction for offshore oil and gas was swarmed by protesters, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has decided to bring an end to the tradition of holding public auctions.

The government said Friday that the next auction for the Gulf of Mexico would instead be live-streamed online.

“We certainly did have to to take into consideration the safety of everyone, both attendees and our employees,” said spokeswoman Caryl Fagot. “It really has been part of our reevaluation of how we do our lease sales and part of our ongoing effort to reduce cost… to help us be more efficient and open the process to more people.”

In March hundreds of protesters – organized by environmental activists – stormed into New Orleans’ Superdome during an offshore auction chanting, “Shut it down.”

At the time, no injuries were reported. But a government official in attendance that day said some BOEM employees were bruised in the melee, though none suffered “serious injury.”

The decision comes as the Obama administration prepares for its final auction for oil and gas leases in the western Gulf of Mexico before the president leaves office in January.

On August 24 BOEM officials will auction off 23.8 million acres, all the remaining acreage in the western Gulf district that is not leased. Over 10 previous lease sales in that region dating back to 2012, the government leased out 60 million acres of oil and gas deposits at a price tag of more than $3 billion.

But interest has been lax of late, as crude traded at historic lows. The March lease sale generated $156.4 million, the fourth lowest total in the Gulf’s Central District since 1983.