BOEM to offer a million acres for oil exploration in the Cook Inlet off Alaska

Cook Inlet Planning Area; Image source: BOEM

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has unveiled plans to offer 1.09 million acres in the Cook Inlet offshore Alaska in a proposed lease sale this year.

BOEM said Friday that the Cook Inlet Oil & Gas Lease Sale 244, scheduled to take place in June 2017, would offer 224 blocks toward the northern part of the Cook Inlet Planning Area for leasing. The blocks stretch roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south.

Walter Cruickshank, BOEM’s acting director, said: “Following a robust environmental analysis, we are moving forward with the Lease Sale 244 process. We look forward to hearing Governor Walker’s comments and recommendations as we continue to balance environmental considerations with careful development.”

BOEM has notified Alaska Governor Bill Walker of this announcement which will initiate a governor’s 60-day review and comment period. If the proposal is accepted, this sale would be the final sale held in the Department of the Interior’s 2012-2017 OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program. As per BOEM’s regulations, the Final Notice of Sale, which is the next legal step, must be announced at least 30 days before the date of the sale.

This Proposed Notice of Sale follows the publication of an Environmental Impact Statement relating to the proposed sale. BOEM’s initial draft of the EIS which analyzed the possible environmental impacts of a potential oil and gas lease sale in the Cook Inlet was published in July of last year.

The EIS analyzed the important environmental resources and uses like the sea otter and beluga whale populations, subsistence activities, commercial fishing of Pacific salmon and halibut, and others that currently exist within the Cook Inlet Planning Area and identified robust mitigation measures would protect sea otter, beluga whale, and commercial fisheries.

To remind, the outgoing Obama Administration removed the Arctic from the proposed 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas lease sale program. During the five-year plan, only one lease sale is envisioned off the coast of Alaska, in the Cook Inlet Program Area, while as many as 10 lease sales are planned for the Gulf of Mexico.

Providing rationale for the inclusion of the Cook Inlet in the proposed lease sale plan, the Administration said that the area is a mature basin with a long history of oil and gas development in state waters, where existing infrastructure could support new activity.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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