BOEM calls for public input on potential Cook Inlet lease sale

U.S. government agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), will be seeking public input regarding a revised draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), analysing the possible environmental impacts of a potential oil and gas lease sale in the Cook Inlet area, off Alaska.

Cook Inlet planning area; Source: BOEM

President Joe Biden paused new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters in January until an analysis of their impacts on the environment and value to taxpayers could be completed. However, a federal judge ordered a resumption of auctions in June. The decision was justified by citing the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which outlines that the government is required by law to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry.

Therefore, in compliance with this order from a U.S. District Court, BOEM published a revised draft EIS analyzing the potential environmental effects of a proposed 2022 oil and gas lease sale 258 on the federal submerged lands of Cook Inlet for public comment. This was done as a follow-up to the Department of the Interior’s announcement on 24 August 2021. A revised exploration and development scenario has also been published.

As the Department of the Interior will use the findings to reach a decision on whether to hold the lease sale, the publication of the draft EIS does not indicate that the lease sale will indeed be held. BOEM announced on Friday that the availability notice for the EIS draft would be published in the Federal Register on Friday, 29 October, while it would be available on the public inspection website a day prior to that.

This will open a 45-day public comment period which is scheduled to end on 13 December. The organisation intends to host three virtual meetings and comments can also be submitted via the federal government’s official commenting website.

Cook Inlet proposed lease sale area; Courtesy of BOEM

All received comments will be properly analysed and used for the preparation of the final EIS, while BOEM will continue to closely collaborate with the State of Alaska, Alaska Native Tribal governments and other local communities and stakeholders throughout this process.

The Cook Inlet lease sale 258 is listed within the Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.

Consisting of 224 Outer Continental Shelf blocks toward the northern part of the inlet stretching roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south, the area identified for the potential sale covers approximately 1.09 million acres of the seafloor. Within the proposed lease sale area 258, BOEM estimates that approximately 192.3 MMbbl of oil and 301.9 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas could be discovered and developed as an economic resource.

A range of alternatives, which can be considered for leasing, are analysed within the draft EIS along with the leasing area’s important environmental resources and their uses. The draft EIS identifies robust mitigation measures, which should be considered in leasing the area.

It also provides estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and the social cost of these emissions for the range of alternatives. These include the ones associated with shifts in foreign consumption and BOEM is seeking feedback on the approach and methodology for estimating these impacts.

BOEM started the process of analysing possibilities for oil and gas exploration in the Cook Inlet in March 2012, after issuing a request for information to seek industry input on oil and gas exploration interests in the region. 

In the meantime, the U.S. government is preparing for an oil and gas lease sale for approximately 15,135 unleased blocks located from 3 to 231 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which is scheduled to be live-streamed from New Orleans on 17 November 2021.

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This lease sale 257 will be the eighth offshore sale under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Earlier this year, ORPC’s CEO referred to Cook Inlet as “a premiere tidal resource,” which could help the U.S. to achieve its net-zero emissions, thus, ORPC submitted a preliminary permit application in May 2021 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a tidal energy project at East Foreland in Alaska.

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