Interior Department officials have published a revised draft environmental impact statement for public comment on a proposed 2022 oil and gas lease sale on federal submerged lands in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, an area critical to commercial and subsistence seafood harvesters.
The draft EIS analyzes potential environmental impact of the proposed activity that would follow the lease sale.
The area identified for the potential sale includes 224 outer continental shelf blocks toward the northern part of the inlet and covers about 1.09 million acres of seafloor, stretching roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south. A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management statement said the draft EIS analyzes a range of alternatives to be considered for leasing and the leasing area’s important environmental resources and their uses, plus mitigation measures to be considered in leasing the area.
The draft EIS also provides estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions for the range of alternatives, including those associated with shifts in foreign consumption.
BOEM also noted plans to host three virtual meetings on Nov. 16, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 17 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Nov. 18, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., all Alaska time.
The 45-day public comment period ends Dec. 13.
BOEM spokesman John Callahan said the biggest changes in the draft EIS include: increasing the duration of activities from 36 to 40 years; the number of offshore platforms from four to six; production wells from 48 to 81; service wells from 17 to 27; aircraft and vessel trips from 28 to 42 per week; the length of oil and gas pipelines by 10 miles; the production estimate of oil from 162.7 million barrels to 192.3 million barrels; and production of liquid natural gas from 290.7 billion cubic feet to 301.9 billion cubic feet.
Liz Mering of the Homer, Alaska-based non-profit water conservation and ecology organization Cook Inletkeeper noted that Lease Sale 258, as it is known, would take place in critical habitat in Lower Cook Inlet for endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales, near world class protected lands including Katmai, Lake Clark and Kachemak Bay State Park, and near the highest concentration of brown bears in the world, in the same waters the federal government closed to the Pacific cod fishery, citing rising temperatures associated with climate change as the reason for low population numbers.
Lower Cook Inlet also supports important commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, Mering said, and bear viewing tourism that brings in $40 million in revenue annually. She also noted the challenge that California is facing to clean up after an oil spill caused by a leak from underwater pipes. Addressing such a spill or other accident in winter conditions in Lower Cook Inlet would be a much harder and more expensive proposition, she said.