The Obama Administration’s decision to open up offshore oil and gas development in the Middle and Southern Atlantic states, new areas of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean is winning praise from oil and gas industry officials. They say the development could provide thousands of new jobs for contractors in those regions.

On March 31, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said land in those offshore regions could be leased for oil and gas development beginning in 2012 if there is interest from industry and if development can be done in an environmentally responsible manner.

Development off California’s coast and Florida’s east coast is still 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.

A 2008 study for the American Petroleum Institute showed that opening up the Eastern Gulf and Atlantic states for oil and gas production could generate about 25,000 jobs.