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The count: acres in the Gulf of Mexico to be opened for oil and gas leases in 2018

76,967,935

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COURTESY BUREAU OF SAFETY & ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT

In 2018, nearly 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico will be up for grabs in what's likely to be the largest-ever oil and gas lease sale in the U.S. The sale opens to offshore drilling oil companies in waters off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida, as well as previously unleased areas in the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf, encompassing an area the size of New Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The sale is scheduled for March 2018 in New Orleans.

  Republican officials hailed the announcement as a potential job creator — though the sale follows policy from former President Barack Obama's administration that opened leases throughout the Gulf. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy said the sales "will create jobs and bolster our state and national economy." U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said news of the lease sale is "following through on their promise to end the war on American energy."

  The area marked for leasing encompasses the site and impact zone of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon failure and Gulf oil disaster, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

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