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Obama to expand drilling off Alaska, in Gulf

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will cautiously open up more areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast to oil and gas drilling.

The drilling plans are much narrower in scope than what the administration had said it would consider prior to the Gulf oil spill and what Republicans say is needed to create jobs.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday the government will hold 15 lease sales for areas in the Gulf of Mexico, including two in the Eastern Gulf, and off Alaska’s coast in 2012-2017. The Alaska sales are the first since 2008.

The administration initially said it would explore drilling off the Atlantic coast, and throughout the eastern Gulf.