Leslie Turk

Gulf lease sale sets $3.67 billion record

by Leslie Turk

The U.S. Minerals Management Service’s auction yesterday of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico totaled $3.67 billion, shattering 1983’s record $3.4 billion and October 2007’s $2.9 billion — then the second largest. For the first time ever, a portion of the lease sale in the eastern region and revenues generated from drilling will be returned to Louisiana and other producing states.

Bids were collected on Central Lease Sale 206, which is off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and accounted for the bulk of the lease sale. Another 58 bids were received from five companies on 36 tracts an area about 125 miles from the Florida Panhandle. Known as Eastern Lease Sale 224 and totaling $64 million, this marks the first time bids have been taken in the eastern Gulf region.

Most notable about Eastern Sale 224 is its impact on the state coffers in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, which will receive 37.5 percent of the revenues generated from all newly leased acreage in the eastern region. The history-making revenue sharing provision was mandated by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, giving the states royalties from production in federal waters off their coastlines. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu co-authored the legislation, earmarking the revenues, an estimated $13 billion over the next three decades, for coastal restoration and hurricane recovery.

Louisiana’s share just from the March 19 lease sale will total about $9 million this year alone, according to Landrieu.