Forty-five years ago a group of Alaskans with a passion for Cook Inlet took on the oil and gas industry. And in a remarkable David and Goliath battle, they prevailed.
Thanks to this small but dogged group of fishermen, scientists, artists and activists, the epic view across Kachemak Bay – and the remarkable resources of this one-of-a-kind ecosystem – are not marred by oil platforms, pipelines and refineries.
But the fight to protect Lower Cook Inlet never ends. Since 1976, the federal government has offered our public waters in southcentral Alaska up to the oil and gas industry for drilling nine times. Now, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans another oil and gas lease sale in Lower Cook Inlet. They’re calling it Lease Sale 258.
Fending off the oil companies under previous Administrations was hard enough. Now, the Trump Administration – in its quixotic quest for “energy dominance” – is putting the pedal to the floor to drive more oil and gas drilling in the sensitive frontier waters of Lower Cook Inlet.
As Alaska warms more than twice as fast as the Lower 48, it’s a gut punch to see more oil and gas leases in our backyard, especially when the Trump and Dunleavy Administrations have fought any and all efforts to address global warming.
And it’s horribly ironic to see leasing in Lower Cook Inlet when federal managers closed the Pacific cod fishery last year in the Gulf of Alaska – for the first time ever – due to climate change.
Now we face an existential question: do we draw a line in the water and say “no” to more oil and gas drilling? Or do we allow heavy industry to move-in and crowd-out our fishing and tourism economies and cultures?
Hilcorp is the sole leaseholder in the federal waters of Lower Cook Inlet, and presumably will try to expand its holdings in this lease sale. Last Fall, Hilcorp’s sent a giant vessel into Lower Cook Inlet to blast seismic shock waves through our fisheries for weeks on end, in an attempt to locate subsea oil. Neither BOEM nor Hilcorp conducted any studies to understand the impacts to our fish or whales from the seismic blasting.
Assuming Hilcorp finds commercial reserves of oil off our shores, it will construct offshore platforms, pipelines to the Kenai Peninsula and processing facilities – replete with routine toxic dumping and regular oil spills – that will make Homer and Anchor Point look like North Kenai and Nikiski.
Cook Inlet is blessed with world class renewable energy assets – we have massive tides, active volcanoes and prolific winds that can power our state and beyond. These cleaner energy sources can pave the way to a more sustainable economy and a future that does not rely on the smothering emissions of fossil fuels.
Sadly, BOEM has chosen to ignore its mandate from Congress to develop the renewable energy resources in our federal waters, and instead, simply does what’s engrained in its bureaucratic DNA: give large oil and gas companies access and control over our public waters.
BOEM is taking comments until October 13. But Inletkeeper is not going to waste your time asking you to submit detailed comments. Instead, please consider signing this letter, telling BOEM it has lost our trust – and we’ll see them in federal court.
For more info contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907.299.3277.