Feds set Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale for Dec. 30

The sale comes as the State of Alaska prepares to hold its own lease sale, also in December

The federal government will hold an oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet on Dec. 30, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Monday. That sale, called Lease Sale 258, will open about 960,000 acres of seafloor between Kalgin and Augustine islands in Cook Inlet to oil and gas development.

The sale, first announced in 2020, will come after years of back-and-forth between the federal government and others. The sale was paused by President Joe Biden after he took office, which prompted legal challenges by the State of Alaska and 12 other states. As a result of that challenge, federal oil and gas leasing programs were allowed to continue while the federal government appealed.

The sale was again canceled in May due to “lack of industry interest” before being revived by Biden through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. That legislation, signed in August, directed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hold the sale by the end of 2022.

An environmental impact statement published last month said that some blocks will not be made available for lease in order to mitigate the impact of the sale to local wildlife. Of the 224 blocks outlined in the sale area, 14 are already leased and 17 will be exempt because they are located in beluga whale and northern sea otter critical habitats.

The sale has received consistent pushback from local environmental groups, such as Cook Inletkeeper, which last year organized an art sale to raise awareness about the sale. The group opposes the development of oil and gas in the area because of threats to salmon and halibut fishing grounds and to beluga whale habitat.

Lease Sale 258 will come as the State of Alaska prepares to hold its own oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet. That sale, which is being offered by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas, will open roughly 2.8 million acres of Cook Inlet to oil and gas leasing. The department said last month that the state sale is meant to coincide with the federal Lease Sale 258.

More information about Lease Sale 258, including a timeline and supporting documents, can be found on BOEM’s website at boem.gov/oil-gas-energy/leasing/lease-sale-258.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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