Delegation Urges Interior to Keep Chukchi, Beaufort, and Cook Inlet in New Offshore Program

Calls for Robust Public Consultation to Deliver Strongest Possible Final Program

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to provide comment on the Alaska-specific offshore areas in the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing for 2019-2024 that should be included in its Final Proposed Program. 

“We commend you for taking an inclusive approach that allows for meaningful public input as you determine where responsible development should occur on our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf,” the delegation wrote. “For far too long, arbitrary and unilateral executive actions have undermined the open process that Congress established through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. This has harmed states like Alaska, where tens of millions of acres of waters were previously closed without public input, consultation, or support.

“We strongly support the inclusion of the Chukchi and Beaufort planning areas in the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) and encourage you to maintain three lease sales in each area over the 2019-2024 period. At the same time, given the diversity of stakeholders in this region, we urge you to commit your Department to meaningful consultation with local communities.

“We ask that you maintain the two lease sales the DPP envisions in the Cook Inlet planning area. While a mature basin, this area continues to provide an important supply of affordable energy for communities throughout southcentral Alaska.

“We believe the strongest near-term offshore program in Alaska is one that focuses on the Chukchi, Beaufort, and Cook Inlet. Such a program will maximize agency resources and reflect the areas with the broadest support for development among Alaskans. Accordingly, we ask that you remove potential sales in the Hope Basin, Norton Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Navarin Basin, Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Shumagin, Kodiak, and Gulf of Alaska from the DPP.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.

The DPP is the initial step in the decision making process and the first opportunity for public comment on the draft program. Areas that are included in the draft program may be included in the final, but areas that are excluded from the DPP, like the North Aleutian Basin, are excluded from further consideration in this five year program.

The DPP was published in the Federal Register earlier this month, and the deadline for public comments is March 9, 2018. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is conducting public meetings with local stakeholders across the country, including one in Anchorage, Alaska on February 21.

The DPP proposes 19 lease sales in Alaska’s OCS, including three sales in the Chukchi Sea, three sales in the Beaufort Sea, two sales in Cook Inlet, and one sale each in 11 other program areas. BOEM recently increased its estimate for the Beaufort Sea by 700 million barrels to a total of 8.9 billion barrels, while the Chukchi Sea is estimated to contain 15.4 billion barrels. The Cook Inlet is a mature basin but remains a critical source of natural gas for Southcentral Alaska.

Related Issues: Energy, Arctic