Oil company BP is set to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since it was suspended by the U.S. government in the wake of the massive 2010 spill there.
The company paid $41.6 million for the rights to 24 deepwater tracts at an auction this week. The British company had been barred from bidding on drilling sites since a 2012 ruling.
BP pleaded guilty
to felony charges in November 2012 related to the spill and the deaths of 11 workers, which resulted in a $4.5 billion fine.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s ban expired last Friday. BP, however, is required to have an auditor monitor its actions at drilling sites.
"As the nation's largest energy investor, BP is committed to the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where we have been an active player for a quarter century and have a multi-billion dollar investment program underway," BP spokesman Brett Clanton said. "BP's participation in today's lease sale not only underscores the importance of the region, but it is also a testament to the vital role BP plays in the American economy and to the country's energy future."
Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC spent $321.4 million and received 16 tracts at the auction. Chevron USA Inc. was also present and successfully bid on $101.3 million worth of drilling sites.
One of the sites Chevron won is located about 20 miles from the BP well that exploded in 2010 and gushed oil for 87 days before the U.S. government was able to seal it. Nearly five million barrels of oil are estimated to have leaked in the Gulf of Mexico from that spill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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