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MMS Seeks to Expand Available Acreage in Central Gulf Lease Sale

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) is seeking comments on a proposal to significantly expand the acreage available for bidding in a Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area lease sale to be held in September 2007. Comments on the expanded Lease Sale 205 are due at the agency on Dec. 29.

Lease Sale 205, which is part of the proposed five-year leasing plan for 2007-2012, will include the acreage that was to be offered in another Central Gulf lease sale (Lease Sale 201) scheduled for March 2007, but which the MMS has canceled due to its agreement with the state of Louisiana not to conduct any further lease sales in the Gulf until it completes a comprehensive environmental review that takes into consideration the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the state's coastline.

Lease Sale 205 originally included a small swath of acreage along the eastern boundary of the Central Gulf, south of Alabama. MMS now proposes to expand the lease sale to include all available acreage in the Central Gulf, south of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. While the additional acreage will be new to Lease Sale 205, it is the same acreage proposed for the other Central Gulf lease sales scheduled for 2008-2012, the MMS said.

With a new and larger configuration for the Central Gulf Planning Area, the proposed lease sale would encompass about 66.4 million acres, rather than the 3.5 million acres originally proposed in Lease Sale 205.

The agency further noted that comments on the proposed five-year leasing program for 2007-2012 and the accompanying draft environmental impact statement are due at MMS on Nov. 24 and Nov. 22, respectively.

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