Hilcorp clears some regulatory hurdles to conduct a seismic survey in lower Cook Inlet

2017 has seen a number of spills and violations by oil and gas producer Hilcorp.

Oil and gas development company Hilcorp is planning to survey an offshore lease site in lower Cook Inlet. This survey is looking for untapped oil and gas deposits it could develop near Anchor Point and Homer.

The Texas energy company had originally hoped to conduct the roughly 45-to-60 day survey earlier this year. However, due to concerns about the effect of the survey during the fishing season as well as permitting delays, its plans were pushed back.

Hilcorp still needs a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. But on Tuesday, the regulator released an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact. The bureau said the seismic survey, roughly 370 square miles, would have negligible effects on marine life and birds.

In a related development, NOAA announced provisions last week allowing Hilcorp’s proposed oil and gas activities across Cook Inlet. The authorization says its aim is to minimize harm to marine mammals over the next five years. 

Hilcorp representatives declined to be interviewed, but spokeswoman Lori Nelson released a statement Monday saying the company is working with “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure a strong regulatory framework that protects the environment and area wildlife.”

Cook Inletkeeper, an environmental group in Homer, has raised concerns. The nonprofit’s advocacy director Bob Shavelson says there’s a lot that’s still unknown about the effects of the survey. 

“Those monitoring activities don’t do anything for plankton and fish,” he said. “So you’re talking about the base of the food chain, you’re talking about the food chain. They do nothing for that.”

A permit with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still pending. 

Hilcorp says it hopes to begin its survey in lower Cook Inlet as early as next month. A public presentation on the scope of its work is slated for Friday, August 23 at Land’s End Resort on the Homer Spit at 6 p.m.