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CNN: U.S. to hold first Gulf lease sale since Deepwater Horizon spill

August 19, 2011- The U.S. government said on Friday it would hold its first oil and natural gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill last year.

The proposed sale, scheduled for mid-December in New Orleans, will include more than 20 million acres in the western Gulf, according a statement from the Department of the Interior.

"This sale is an important step toward a secure energy future that includes safe, environmentally sound development of our domestic energy resources," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"Since Deepwater Horizon, we have strengthened oversight at every stage of the oil and gas development process, including deepwater drilling safety, subsea blowout containment, and spill response capability. Exploration and development of our Western Gulf's vital energy resources will continue to help power our nation and drive our economy," he said.

The April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig led to more than 200 million gallons of oil being released into the Gulf. Eleven people working on the rig died in the explosion, while 16 others were injured.

Besides the oil, hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersant went into the water. At the peak of the crisis, in June 2010, 37% of Gulf waters -- a total of 88,522 square miles -- were closed to fishing due to contamination.



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