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US has 1st auction for Gulf drilling since spill
US holds 1st auction for Gulf oil drilling since Deepwater Horizon disaster
By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ' The U.S. government is holding the first auction of offshore petroleum leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster last year, despite a lawsuit by environmentalists challenging the sale.

The Interior Department says bids will be opened Wednesday morning in New Orleans.

Officials say the auction has attracted 241 bids from 20 companies on 191 tracts.

Four environmental groups are challenging a study used to clear the sale. But they aren't seeking a federal court order to stop the auction. Instead, an attorney has said a judge might decide later to throw out the auction results.

The sale covers about 20.6 million acres in the western Gulf off the coast of Texas.

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