Feds stall opening of bids on new Gulf tracks near Mexico waters

Fuel Fix: 
Oil companies that hope to nab new drilling leases near the U.S.-Mexico boundary in the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait a little longer to see if they were successful.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday made the decision not to immediately open sealed bids for the transboundary area that were received during an offshore oil and gas lease sale in August. Ins

Instead, those bids will be opened during two back-to-back lease sales planned for March 19.

“The department has provided the companies an option to have their bid opened in March at the upcoming Gulf of Mexico lease sale,” said Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw. “Companies also have the option to withdraw their bid up to the day prior to the sale on March 19.”

Companies that submitted still-sealed bids for blocks in the area have the option to withdraw their bids and submit new ones for the same tracts at the time of the sale. Companies that did not submit bids for the territory will not have another crack at blocks in the region until the next western Gulf of Mexico lease sale later this year.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which conducts the offshore lease sales, has not said how many bids were received for the transboundary area — just that at least one was accepted before the August auction.

The bids were kept under wraps because in August, it was not certain whether Congress would ratify a long-stalled international treaty governing oil and gas drilling along the U.S.-Mexico boundary in the Gulf. But language implementing the 2012 U.S.-Mexico hydrocarbon treaty was embedded in a two-year budget deal that passed Congress and was enacted in December.
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The reason to keep the bids sealed until later is not obvious.  I can see waiting until the authorizing legislation is passed, but after that, what is the point?  Is there something in the authorization that would make companies want to change their bid?

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