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U.S. makes $1 billion in gulf lease sale

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Gulf of MexicoOil companies paid more than $1 billion collectively to acquire 1.6 million acres of oil and natural gas blocks in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. government said.

The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management published the final tallies from a March 20 lease sale for the central Gulf of Mexico.

Critics of President Obama's energy policies say his administration has blocked off key areas to energy explorers. The BOEM counters its lease sales, like the one in March, are contributing to record lows for foreign oil imports.

BOEM said it awarded 307 leases for 1.6 million acres off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Combined, the accepted high bids are worth $1.1 billion.

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