Biden administration announces potential Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

The Biden administration has announced plans for a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet in 2026, but environmental groups oppose it.
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:02 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Biden administration has announced plans for a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet in 2026, but at least one environmental advocacy group is hoping to stop it from happening.

The leases are for units across roughly one million acres west of Homer. The Biden administration canceled a lease sale in May for the same area, citing a lack of industry interest and opposition in court. Now, it is poised to move forward with the process again.

Liz Mering, advocacy director of Cook Inletkeeper, says she is disappointed as the group believes the federal government could have announced a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan while excluding Cook Inlet.

The area is rich in wildlife, and it’s popular for recreational and commercial fishing, and bear viewing. Mering said that there has been long-held opposition for development of lower Cook Inlet, which has much less infrastructure than off-shore drilling areas closer to Anchorage.

“That’s not a future that many people want for Cook Inlet,” she argues.

Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, was looking at the positives on Wednesday of the Biden administration announcing one potential offshore lease sale for Alaska.

“They recognize the potential for at least one, I guess that’s better than none,” she said.

There are questions, though, about the level of interest oil and gas companies have in developing the area. There have been six Cook Inlet lease sales since 2004: Four were canceled due to a lack of industry interest, one had no bids, and one in 2017 was successful, but Hilcorp was the only bidder.

Moriarty said it’s tough to determine current levels of industry interest because companies often decline to confirm whether they will bid or not until they learn more details about a lease sale.

A 90-day public comment period is set to begin on Friday. Alaskans can share their opinions on the proposed Cook Inlet lease sale and whether they want it to happen.

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