The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) said it is immediately beginning an environmental review of about 580,000 acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico portion of the Lease Sale 181 area that will be made accessible to producers as a result of legislation approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush earlier this month (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21).

The new law, “The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006,” calls for oil and natural gas leasing in two offshore areas: 1) the “181 Area,” which includes two million acres in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area and approximately 580,000 acres in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area; and 2) about 5.8 million acres located in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area south of the 181 area (181 South Area). The 580,000 acres to be reviewed are located 125 miles south of the Florida Panhandle.

The Central Gulf of Mexico portion of the 181 area (two million acres) was reviewed in a draft environmental impact statement published in November. It will be available for leasing in Sale 205 that is scheduled for early fall 2007.

The MMS said the 181 South Area would undergo an environmental review at a later date before any leasing occurs.

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