US to conduct enviro review of 5-year drilling plan

  Tue Feb 8, 2011 11:49am EST

* Plan covers drilling in Gulf of Mexico off 4 states

* Govt pulled Florida from plan after BP oil spill

WASHINGTON Feb 8 (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department said on Tuesday it will conduct a review on the environmental impact of leasing certain oil and natural gas tracts in the Gulf of Mexico as part of its next five-year drilling plan.

The environmental impact statement will cover all proposed lease sales that would be held off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during the 2012-2017 period.

The Obama administration previously pulled tracts in Florida waters and off the Atlantic Coast for future drilling because of safety concerns raised after last year’s BP (BP.L) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This important step in the offshore resource evaluation and development process will help ensure that all interests and concerns regarding oil and gas leasing, exploration, development and production from proposed sales are appropriately considered,” said Michael Bromwich, who heads the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement that will oversee the drilling plan.

The agency has scheduled public meetings in Houston on Feb. 15, New Orleans on Feb. 16 and Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 17 to discuss the five-year drilling plan.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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