HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- A group of coastal-state governors has formed a coalition to press the federal government to speed its permitting of offshore oil drilling, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday.

Barbour said he had joined the governors of Texas, Alaska and Louisiana to form the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. The group will push the U.S. Department of the Interior to issue offshore permits more quickly and more often as the agency restarts the process after suspending it in the wake of the April 2010 rig explosion at the Macondo well, operated by BP PLC (BP, BP.LN), and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The department has awarded few permits since restarting the procedure in February. Barbour called the pace too slow and accused the federal government of favoring alternative energy development to the detriment of oil and gas production even as gasoline prices climb toward $4 a gallon.

“They’re dribbling out enough permits to say they’re doing something,” Barbour told an audience at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. “But mark my words, they’re trying to do just do enough to keep drilling companies hopeful–this is a pure, political calculation of how much they have to put out there to keep industry quiet.”

State officials have said that renewed drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, off the U.S. east coast and in Alaska would help drive down energy prices and increase employment in the country.

(c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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