Comments sought on proposed Cook Inlet lease sale

Plans for a proposed 2021 oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet were announced on Wednesday, Jan. 13, along with a notice from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management soliciting comment on those plans through March 1.

The area identified by BOEM includes 224 blocks toward the northern part of Cook Inlet and covers some 1.09 million acres of seafloor, stretching roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south.

“The federal submerged lands of Alaska’s Cook Inlet have been shown to hold considerable promise for oil and gas exploration and are in close proximity to existing industry infrastructure,” said James Kendall, director of BOEM’s Alaska regional office. “By publishing this draft EIS, we are looking for input from a wide range of stakeholders that will ultimately help us finalize a thorough environmental analysis.”

The BOEM announcement drew a quick response from Bob Shavelson of Cook Inletkeeper in Homer, who described the plan as “rushed and lawless efforts to ram oil and gas development through the rich and productive fisheries of Lower Cook Inlet.”

“BOEM is simply a governmental arm of the oil and gas industry,” Shavelson said. “It never listens to fishermen or everyday Alaskans and it always does industry’s bidding.”

The million-acre lease sale will unfold on the doorstep of Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek, Alaska Native villages off the road system which rely heavily on subsistence harvests from Lower Cook Inlet.

“BOEM never listens to us,” said Tommy Evans, an Alaska Native resident of Nanwalek. “We tell them more oil and more pollution will destroy our subsistence culture, but they don’t care.”

The draft environmental impact statement analyzes a range of alternatives to be considered for leasing. Once the EIS is finalized, the Interior Department will use the findings to inform its decision to hold the lease sale.

During the 45-day public comment period on the draft EIS BOEM said it would provide more information, supporting documents, and instructions for commenting via a virtual meeting room at boem.gov/CookInlet2021. Three virtual meetings, accessible via the same URL, will be held 2-4 p.m. Feb. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 10 and 2-4 p.m. Feb. 11.