APNewsBreak: Gulf oil tract sale will go ahead

By ALAN SAYRE | December 13, 2011 | 3:40 PM EST

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government is moving ahead with the first auction of offshore petroleum leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon disaster — despite a lawsuit challenging the sale.

Interior Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said bids will be opened as scheduled on Wednesday in New Orleans.

Four environmental groups are challenging a study used to clear the sale — but aren't seeking a federal court order to stop the auction. Instead, an attorney said a judge might decide later to throw out the results if he agrees with the suit.

The sale covers the western Gulf off the coast of Texas. Officials said the auction has attracted 241 bids from 20 companies on 191 tracts.