First Offshore Bids To Be Opened Since Oil Spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The federal 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 challenging the sale.

The Interior Department says bids will be opened as scheduled on Wednesday in New Orleans.

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 results if he agrees with the suit.

The sale covers about 20.6 million acres in the western Gulf off the coast of Texas. Officials say the auction has attracted 241 bids from 20 companies on 191 tracts.