Gov't schedules first lease sale since Gulf spill

August 19, 2011 - 11:55 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government will offer tens of millions of acres in the western Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling for the first time since last year's massive oil spill.

The Dec. 14 auction, announced Friday, is the first since the April 2010 spill, which led to an overhaul of the offshore drilling agency and safety regulations.

The Interior Department said it would charge a minimum of $100 per acre for the right to explore in deeper waters to ensure that tracts are drilled. The previous minimum was $37.50.

The Obama administration has been criticized for being slow to issue drilling permits and expand production after the disaster.

In May, as gas prices spiked, President Barack Obama announced steps to boost production, including leasing new areas in the Gulf.