Oil and natural gas producers will have their first opportunity in nine years to bid for blocks offshore Alaska's southcentral coast, federal officials said Thursday.
Cook Inlet Oil & Gas Lease Sale 244 scheduled June 21 will offer for lease 224 blocks in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) covering 1.09 million acres, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said. The leases are located toward the northern part of the federal Cook Inlet Planning Area, with blocks stretching roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south.
"We conducted a robust environmental analysis and look forward to holding Alaska's first OCS lease sale since 2008," said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. "The areas offered for leasing represent a careful balance between jobs, energy development and natural resource protection."
The Cook Inlet lease sale is the 13th and final one under the five-year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 overseen by the Obama administration. Together, the 2012-2017 sales to date have netted more than $3 billion, BOEM said.
BOEM's final notice of sale and a copy of the record of decision affirming the Alaska sale were to be published on Monday (May 22) in the FederalRegister. The lease sale also is going to be entirely livestreamed beginning at 9 a.m. Alaska Time on June 21 to allow for more participants, BOEM said.
A final environmental impact statement for the Alaska sale was published by BOEM in December. Environmental resources and uses were analyzed that currently exist within the Cook Inlet Planning Area, including sea otter and beluga whale populations; subsistence activities; commercial fishing of pacific salmon and halibut; and more. BOEM also identified "robust mitigation measures" to be considered in leasing the area. Mitigation measures identified in the final notice would protect sea otter, beluga whales, and subsistence, recreational and commercial fisheries, officials said.
The lease sale terms include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.
In what was to be thefinal proposal for the five-year OCS lease plan for 2017-2022 to take effect July 1, the Obama administration last November said there would be one Cook Inlet lease sale. In December President Obama also issued a presidential memorandum to withdraw 115 million acres in the Arctic OCS and 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic OCS from future oil and gas drilling.
However, in anexecutive order (EO) issued in April, President Trump reversed the ban and directed the Department of Interior, which oversees BOEM, to consider broader leasing in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Specifically, the EO calls for annual lease sales in the Western and Central GOM, Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas and Cook Inlet, as well as the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic planning areas.