Protesters opposed to offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico made their feelings felt as the latest round of US leases went under the hammer at the Superdome in New Orleans on Wednesday.
Dozens of demonstrators, numbering around 150, made their way into the federal auction in the indoor football arena, chanting and brandishing banners bearing slogans such as “No new leases” and “No drill, no spill”.
The protesters included a large number of Gulf Coast residents who last week announced they were joining forces with local and national environmental and social justice groups to oppose this lease sale.
But the proceedings went off unimpeded, albeit to disappointingly poor bidding levels from the energy industry’s perspective.
They attracted $156m in bids for 128 tracts over 693,962 acres in the Central Planning Area of the Outer Continental Shelf, which covers waters off of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
That made this lease sale, conducted by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the fourth lowest on record for sales in the central area. All told, 30 firms made 148 bids.
Industry insiders had anticipated the low numbers, citing as reasons: the slumping oil price; government over-regulation; and a lack of support from the administration of President Barack Obama.
Green groups have enjoyed a run of successes in recent months, with Shell opting to suspend its Arctic exploration in the Chukchi Sea and the Obama administration issuing a U-turn on permitting drilling off the Atlantic coast.