US offshore oil leasing could be delayed -API

Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:51pm GMT

* Interior conducting more enviro reviews offshore

* Reviews could delay lease sales for next yr-API

* Past additional reviews have taken up to a year-API

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Next year may be the first time in over four decades that the United States does not lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico for oil or gas drilling, because of additional environmental reviews planned by the Obama administration, a major oil lobbying group said on Monday.

The American Petroleum Institute complained that 2011 could be the first year since 1965 without a U.S. government auction in the Gulf, depending on the length of the Interior Department's environmental review process.

Spurred by the BP (BP.L: Quote) oil spill, Interior last week said it plans to complete supplemental environmental impact statements for three remaining Gulf lease sales scheduled under the current five-year program.

In the past, additional environmental reviews have taken up to a year to complete, but API's Erik Milito said the department needs to move more swiftly to provide companies with certainty.

"Companies have to make decisions as to what they're going to do with their existing portfolio of leases," Milito told reporters on a conference call. "This could impact companies' decisions."   Continued...

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