The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has announced that it is offering State lands for competitive oil and gas leasing in the Alaska Peninsula and the Cook Inlet.
Bidding will start on June 19 and includes around four million acres onshore and 1.75 million acres offshore on the northern side of the Alaskan Peninsula. The Cook Inlet lease sale encompasses about 4.2 million acres divided into 815 tracts ranging in size from 640 to 5,760 acres.
The leases on offer are essentially the same as those offered last year, with no oil companies expressing interest.
The Cook Inlet and Alaska Peninsula lease sales have traditionally been held in May, but this year’s June date coincides with a planned sale in neighboring waters. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management plans to offer leases in waters beyond Alaska’s offshore boundary just south of Kalgin Island, covering about 1.09 million acres.
On April 4, the Alaska announced that it will offer all available state acreage in the Beaufort Sea, North Slope and North Slope Foothills areas, tentatively scheduled for fall 2017.
In December 2016, Barack Obama permanently protected large areas of U.S. waters in the Arctic from oil and gas drilling. However, a new bill — Senate Bill 883 introduced by Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan — would effectively cancel these protections and force the Department of the Interior to approve new oil and gas leasing.
S. 883 would require the Department to add at least three leases each in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and one in Cook Inlet to each five-year leasing plan. It would be required to establish a new near-shore Beaufort planning area with annual lease sales for the next three years.
The bill would also overturn Obama’s decision to stop exploration and drilling permanently in most of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
“It’s not possible to drill safely in the Arctic, as we just saw from the leaking oil and gas well on the North Slope,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean programs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation’s nothing more than a giveaway to oil companies. It’ll hurt Alaska’s healthy habitat and endangered wildlife.”
The Center has issued a statement saying that leading climate scientists say the vast majority of untapped fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic, irreversible changes to the climate. “Unleased federal waters contain an estimated 75 billion barrels of crude oil, more than twice that of unleased federal lands. Stopping the expansion of new leases in federal waters would keep 61.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere and oceans.”