U.S. Department of the Interior officials canceled an oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet, Alaska, citing “a lack of industry interest in leasing in the area.” The announcement drew congratulations from environmentalists and fishermen and strong criticism from the two Republican senators from Alaska.
“(D)Due to lack of industry interest in leasing in the area, the department will not proceed with the proposed Cook Inlet OCS 258 Oil and Gas Lease Sale,” the official announcement from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on not holding the lease sale in the Lower Cook Inlet States.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management previously canceled Cook Inlet lease sales in 2007, 2008 and 2011, also citing a lack of industry interest.
Veteran journalist Larry Persily, a former federal coordinator for a gas line project in Alaska, said there was no overwhelming industry interest in selling the lease.
“The industry wasn’t dying for this one anyway,” Persily said. “And being offshore, it would have taken a decade to extract the oil and gas, and by then the crisis would be over.”
Holding the lease sale for Lower Cook Inlet would also do nothing to resolve current pump gas prices in the Lower 48, he added. Environmentally, Persily said there was always a risk of drilling offshore in an area as important to fishing as Cook Inlet.
Liz Mering, advocacy director at Cook Inletkeeper in Homer, Alaska, said the Interior Department’s decision would protect the region’s sustainable fishing economy by not blocking Cook Inlet in more than 40 years of exploration and drilling for carbon-based fuels, a critical step in tackling the climate crisis.
Lower Cook Inlet veteran commercial fisherman Josh Wisniewski also welcomed the decision, saying “our fisheries, our quality of life and our regional economy depend on the health of this wild landscape in which we are privileged to live.”
However, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, said the Biden administration falsely claimed industry had no interest in leasing in the Cook Inlet Basin.
“Invoking a ‘lack of industry interest’ is nothing more than a fantasy of an administration shunning American energy production,” Murkowski said. “Cook Inlet is the only natural gas source upon which more than 400,000 people in south-central Alaska depend – and major military bases critical to our national security.”
Sullivan noted that President Biden has said he is doing “everything in his power” to bring down historically high energy prices.
“The administration’s announcement that it will be rescinding these lease sales is further proof that it is not,” Sullivan said.