The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced that it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in support of a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet, off Alaska’s south central coast.
The EIS analysis will focus on the potential effects of leasing, exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas in the proposed lease sale area, which BOEM identified in November 2013.
That Area Identification reflected BOEM’s approach of using scientific information and stakeholder feedback to proactively determine, in advance of the potential lease sale, which specific areas within a planning area offer the greatest resource potential and industry interest while reducing potential conflicts with environmental and subsistence considerations.
BOEM has said that the area identified last November for the proposed Cook Inlet sale is closer to existing infrastructure, avoids nearly the entire area designated as critical habitat for the beluga whale and the northern sea otter, completely avoids the critical habitat for the Stellar sea lion and the North Pacific right whale, and reduces effects on national parks, preserves and wildlife refuges. It also excludes much of the subsistence-use area for the Native villages of Nanwalek and Port Graham that were identified during the last lease sale process in the area.
“We look forward to receiving thoughtful, substantial input on this EIS,” said Dr. Walter Cruickshank, BOEM Acting Director. “In particular, we need to hear from residents of the communities along Cook Inlet on how the proposed leasing area is currently being used and what specific areas need extra attention. To address these issues, we will use rigorous science together with traditional knowledge and input we receive from The Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS is an early step in the leasing process.”
The Notice does not indicate that a final decision to hold a lease sale has been made. Rather, information gathered via the scoping process will help BOEM prepare the EIS, which in turn will inform a final decision on whether to hold the sale.
Currently, there are no active leases nor oil/gas exploration or development facilities in the Cook Inlet federal waters. The Department of the Interior’s 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program proposes one potential Cook Inlet Oil and Gas lease sale.