The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has revealed plans to offer about 1.09 million acres in the Cook Inlet, offshore Alaska, in a proposed lease sale this year.
The Cook Inlet Oil & Gas Lease Sale 244, due to take place in June 2017, would offer 224 blocks toward the northern part of the Cook Inlet Planning Area, stretching from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south.
The sale would be the last in the Department of the Interior’s 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil & Gas Leasing Program, which proposed one lease sale (OCS Oil & Gas Lease Sale 244) in Cook Inlet. But, the sale has been some time coming.
Back in 2014, the Environmental Impact Statement for the lease sale was due to published in October of that year, followed by the lease sale in 2016. The EIS was finally published in December last year and included mitigation measures to protect sea otter, beluga whale and commercial fisheries in Cook Inlet.
Cook Inlet is a mature basin with a long history of oil and gas development in state waters, where existing infrastructure could support new activity. It is also included in BOEM's 2017-2022 OCS plan, with one sale in the northern area planned for that period.
BOEM has previously said the area covered by Gas Lease Sale 224 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.
BOEM has notified Alaska Governor Bill Walker of this announcement and there will be a governor’s 60-day review and comment period.
A final decision to hold the lease sale will be held following the review period and a Final Notice of Sale.
“Following a robust environmental analysis, we are moving forward with the Lease Sale 244 process,” said Walter Cruickshank, BOEM’s acting director. “We look forward to hearing Governor Walker’s comments and recommendations as we continue to balance environmental considerations with careful development.”