The Trump administration on Thursday announced its first offshore oil and gas lease sale, offering 76 million acres (30 million hectares) in the Gulf of Mexico and reduced royalty rates for shallow-water leases to encourage drilling at a time of low oil prices.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the sale on Aug. 16 would offer leases offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for exploration and development. The sale will be the first of the administration's 2017-22 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
According to Reuters, Zinke signed an order last week to hold more lease sales and speed up approvals of permits to explore for oil and gas, a process he said got bogged down under former President Barack Obama.
Zinke told reporters on Thursday that offshore royalties returned about $18 billion to taxpayers in 2008, before Obama took office, but had dwindled to $2.6 billion last year.