Inlet, Shelikof waters back on table

Feds to write new offshore oil, gas leasing plan

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2001

All federal waters in Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait are back on the table as the Minerals Management Service writes its new five-year plan for oil and gas lease sales.

Robin Lee Cacy, public affairs officer for Minerals Management in Anchorage, said that is what the law requires, despite five years of controversy that led the service to cut its last Cook Inlet-Shelikof sale from the original 3.7-million-acre proposal to just 430,000 acres.

Planning for that sale began in 1992. Minerals Management originally included areas from Shelikof Strait to Kalgin Island, but eventually dropped Shelikof Strait, Kamishak Bay and more. The final 1997 offering included only federal holdings from Kalgin Island to a line just north of Anchor Point.

"Right now, we're starting all over, so what will be (on the table) now is the entire planning area of Cook Inlet, because that's what we're required to do under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act," Cacy said.

The five-year plan will lay out the agency's oil and gas leasing plans for offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the East and West coasts and Alaska. There are 15 planning areas off Alaska, including Cook Inlet-Shelikof Strait, the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak, the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea.

A presidential proclamation puts Bristol Bay, which falls in the North Aleutian Basin planning area, off limits to oil and gas leasing until June 30, 2012, Cacy said. Minerals Management does not expect to hear anything about that from President-elect George W. Bush until after the inauguration.

Cacy said she expects Minerals Management will plan lease sales for Cook Inlet, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and maybe also for the Gulf of Alaska.

"There will probably be five sales in areas where people are fairly confident there is some gas or oil," she said.

The last OCS leasing plan covered the period from July 1997 to July 2002. Minerals Management is starting work on a new plan for the years from 2002 to 2007. It will take public comments, write a draft proposed plan, then refine that to produce a proposed plan and a final proposed plan for approval from the Secretary of Interior. It also must write an environmental impact statement.

The service will take public comments until Feb. 1 to help it develop the draft proposed plan and determine the scope of the environmental impact statement. It plans an informational meeting Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Soldotna city clerk's office in city hall at 177 N. Birch St.

The service seeks public comments on:

n National energy needs and the role of offshore leasing;

n The economic, social and environmental value of other OCS resources and how oil and gas development could affect them;

n Geographical, geological and ecological characteristics of OCS planning areas and coastal areas;

n How to balance the benefits of development against the environmental risks;

n Other uses such as fisheries, navigation, sea lanes and ports;

n Relative environmental sensitivity of different OCS planning areas;

n Environmental, social, cultural and archaeological information for offshore and coastal areas;

n Ways to ensure that the government receives fair market value for oil and gas leases;

n Areas the industry would like to see offered for lease; and

n The number and timing of lease sales the industry wants for each planning area.

For more information, call Minerals Management at (800) 764-2627 or visit http://www.mms. gov/alaska/latenews/5-YearFR Notice.pdf on the Internet.

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