Officials with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are seeking public comment through Sept. 6 on a proposed 1.7 million acre oil and gas lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. BOEM plans to have its final environmental impact statement completed by early 2017 and the sale, if held, would be in June 2017.
BOEM announced a 45-day comment period back on July 22, and the conservation organization Cook Inletkeeper is now asking BOEM to extend that comment period on Lease Sale 244 for an additional 60 days.
Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper, in Homer, Alaska, told BOEM that by opening the comment period in the middle of Cook Inlet’s commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries many harvesters would not have enough time to read, digest and submit comments on the draft environmental impact statement released on July 22.
Mark Storzer, regional supervisor at BOEM’s Office of Environment, said the oil and gas industry’s level of interest in the sale was hard to tell at this time.
Industry spokesman Carl Portman, deputy director of the Resource Development Council, and a supporter of the lease sale, said that while industry investment is slowed due to low prices, no one can accurately predict what the price of oil and gas will be when the lease sale occurs. Portman said if there is no interest, the government doesn’t have to hold the sale. But BOEM should let market dynamics decide the fate of that lease sale, he said.
Portman was one of several people who testified at BOEM’s hearing in Anchorage earlier this week. BOEM has scheduled hearings at Homer today and at Kenai on Aug. 18 to gather more public comment.
Shavelson said that Cook Inletkeeper would present testimony at the Homer hearing.
He noted that back in 2009 Congress charged BOEM with promoting renewable energy development in federal waters and said BOEM should pursue renewable energy programs for Alaska rather then spending money on fossil fuel leasing.