The Obama Administration’s decision to open up offshore oil and gas development in Southern and mid-Atlantic states, new areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean is drawing praise from oil and gas industry officials. They say the development could provide thousands of new jobs for contractors. On March 31, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said land in those offshore regions could be leased for oil and gas development beginning in 2012. He set two conditions: There must be interest from industry, and environmental benchmarks must be met. California and Florida’s east coast remains off limits. The administration also stopped planned drilling in Bristol Bay, Alaska. “Our member companies are ready, willing and able to provide vital energy and well-paying jobs for America,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.