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Gulf of Mexico gas and oil exploration

GULF OF MEXICO  --  ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- More oil and gas exploration is coming to the Gulf of Mexico.  The Obama Administration is opening up 40 million acres in a lease sale in March.

No leasing is allowed in the first 125 miles off shore and the area right off Northwest Florida is also off limits.  About a third of the highlighted areas are already leased or deferred but the rest will be up grabs.

In an effort to wean the country off foreign oil, the Obama Administration started a 5 year program in 2012 that makes areas with the highest known resource potential available for oil and gas leasing.
So far the program has raked in over a billion dollars in bids from companies.
On the table are two areas in the Gulf expected to hold more than 1-point-7 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
While this could create more energy independence Bonnie Groen has concerns.

"I just don't want to see it damaged, it's such a beautiful area" said Bonnie Groen, Beachgoer.

Bonnie remembers the effect the BP Oil Spill of 2010 had on the Gulf Coast and she doesn't want to see that again.

"I still think it's still too risky.  You're dealing with the environment, it's fragile the way it is" said Groen.

The U.S. Department of the Interior says extensive environmental research has been conducted on the areas up for lease.
Companies allowed to drill must follow guidelines designed to protect species and sensitive resources.

"I come here every day looking for fish, looking for mullet, and just enjoying myself" said Serge Lebreton, Beachgoer.

Serge Lebreton is on the fence about the millions of acres up for lease.
The beauty of the beach is what brought him to the coast 50-years ago.
He hopes the tougher guidelines will allow more oil production but at the same time prevent oil spills.

"I understand they have some kind of new cap system, they can put down there in deep deep water so hopefully it's going to be for the best" said Lebreton.

The 40 million acres in the Gulf will be open for bids starting next month.