UPDATE 1-BP bids in Gulf of Mexico lease sale after U.S. lifts ban
* Sale garners $872 mln in high bids in central, western Gulf
* BP wins 24 bids for $41.6 million
* Freeport McMoRan scores high bid at $68.79 million (Updates with detail about bids, sale results, adds byline)
By Kristen Hays
HOUSTON, March 19 (Reuters) - BP Plc rejoined bidders for exploration and production leases in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday and won 24 tracts after the U.S. government lifted a 16-month ban barring the company from new federal contracts.
The Environmental Protection Agency in late 2012 barred BP from bidding on new federal contracts, citing a "lack of business integrity." The action came after the company's 2010 Macondo oil well blowout killed 11 rig workers and unleashed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf in the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.
Last week, the EPA lifted the ban which barred BP from bidding on new Gulf leases as well as other new contracts, such as fuel supply for the U.S. military. The deal came after the oil major committed to a set of safety, ethical and corporate governance requirements.
BP had sued over the ban, saying the company was being unfairly penalized. The company, which had maintained its current contracts worth more than $1.34 billion, last participated in a lease sale in June 2012.
BP submitted 31 bids on Tuesday for Wednesday's sale, and was the high bidder on 24 bids for $41.6 million, spokesman Brett Clanton said. Continuación...