NEW YORK — The United States said it will allow British oil giant BP to bid on new oil-drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico due to go on sale later this year, less than two years after a devastating spill.

US offshore safety chief Michael Bromwich told lawmakers that his agency had determined that BP should not be barred from obtaining new offshore drilling leases.

Production on the available leases up for sale in December could reach 420 million barrels of oil and 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Interior Department.

The explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20, 2010 killed 11 people and caused the biggest maritime oil spill in US history.

By the time the well was capped 87 days later, 4.9 million barrels of crude had gushed out of the runaway well 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the accident.

BP says it has so far paid out around $7 billion in compensation claims arising from the deadly oil spill.