This week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its plan to offer up over one million acres of the Cook Inlet for oil and gas leasing. The lease sale will include 224 blocks of offshore acres in the northern area of the Cook Inlet (shown below) and is expected to take place in June of this year.
Lease Sale 244’s environmental impact statement (EIS) was published in December of 2016. The environmental impact statement is an exhaustive assessment of the region’s ecosystem accounting for the impacts of future oil and gas development. Finding that the impacts of development to be minimal to the environment, the EIS also accounts for the benefits of development, acknowledging the benefits of energy production:
“Oil and gas from the Cook Inlet OCS could help meet the Nation’s energy needs and lessen the need for imports.”
Once a notice of the proposed sale has been published in the federal register, the 60-day comment period is enacted, allowing stakeholders to submit comments. After the comment period, BOEM will then post a final notice of sale, and initiate the schedule for the lease sale.
The process for allowing oil and gas lease sales is straightforward thanks to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Leasing Program. After much assessment and analysis, the 2012-2017 leasing program designated the Cook Inlet as a permissible area for leasing and scheduled it for 2017.
Unfortunately, areas of the Arctic that should be going through this very same process in the next few years will not have that option because they were removed from the 2017-2022 leasing program. When the previous administration announced the final plan, lease blocks in the Beaufort and Chukchi that had previously been up for consideration were eliminated. On top of the Beaufort and Chukchi removals, President Obama also announced his decision to permanently remove most areas of the Arctic from the leasing program entirely. Instead of simply of leaving leases out of the latest five year plan, the former administration attempted to block energy production in Arctic for the foreseeable future.
BOEM’s Lease Sale 244 has followed the regulations laid out in the OCS leasing program and is on track to conclude in June of this year. Arctic OCS should be allowed the same procedure, or America will forego the massive resources contained in the region.