Feds to resume work on possible Cook Inlet lease sale

An oil platform at dusk
Cook Inlet oil platforms are visible from shore near Kenai, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The federal government said it will continue taking steps toward a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet after a Louisiana district court judge ordered the Biden administration to resume its lease programs there and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has been at odds with several Republican states over the federal leasing program since Biden halted the two auctions and promised to review the program earlier this year. It was part of a larger executive order aimed at fighting climate change.

The state of Alaska and 12 other states then sued the Biden administration in March, arguing the decision was bad for economic development and that the federal government bypassed the public process when they hit pause on the sales.

The area of the proposed Cook Inlet lease sale, covering just over 1 million acres, is outlined in yellow. Blocks outlined in green were purchased by Hilcorp Alaska in the last sale. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

This June, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana sided with the states.

The Interior Department said it appealed that order last week. But while the appeal is pending, the department said it will continue with the lease sale processes in the inlet and the gulf.

At the time of Biden’s executive order in January, the federal government was gearing up to sell leases for one million acres in Cook Inlet, from the southern end of Kalgin Island down to Augustine Island.

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had already released an environmental impact statement on their plans for that sale. Now, the agency will issue a revised statement with a new public comment period, a spokesperson for the Interior Department said.

The department said in a news release that it’s expecting the assessment to come out this fall. It also said it “continues to review the programs’ noted shortcomings, including completing a report.”

The department can still decide to cancel a lease sale after an environmental impact statement is filed. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management canceled lease sales in 2006, 2008 and 2010 in Cook Inlet due to lack of industry interest.

A date has not yet been set for a potential sale in Cook Inlet.

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