In early January, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) spit out an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 1 million acre + Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258. BOEM spent a mere 3 months on the EIS; never before had the federal government rushed through an environmental review so quickly, and BOEM’s haste is a damning indictment of its single-minded efforts to make Lower Cook Inlet a heavy industry zone.
On January 27, however, President moved forward on his campaign promise to aggressively confront climate change, and put a hold on oil and gas leasing in federal waters – including Cook Inlet – until his Administration’s conducts a thorough review. While that’s a great first step, we need to stop the endless steamroller of oil and gas leasing in Lower Cook Inlet once and for all. Read on and sign the petition below….
The Lower Cook Inlet region is world renowned for its wildness and stunning landscapes. The rich and productive waters of Lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay are considered some of the most biologically productive marine waters in the world and are a critical component to the ecological integrity and biological productivity of the Gulf of Alaska.
Lower Cook Inlet supports multiple small scale sustainable commercial fisheries, subsistence fisheries as well as charter and personal use sport fisheries that are the foundation for the economy and way of life on the Lower Kenai Peninsula.
Climate change and ocean acidification pose grave threats to Alaska’s fisheries and the coastal communities they support. In 2020, federal fisheries managers closed the Pacific cod fishery in Lower Cook Inlet for the for the first time ever, citing climate change as the driving force for low population numbers.
In total disregard to the stress of climate change on the Gulf of Alaska marine ecosystem, the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy & Management (BOEM) has proposed Oil and Gas Lease Sale 258 for over 1 million acres of waters in Lower Cook Inlet, stretching from just below Kalgin Island down to Augustine Island and across to the mouth of Kachemak Bay.
In the 1996 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Lease Sale 149 in Lower Cook Inlet, the federal government estimated a 72% likelihood of an oil spill over two million gallons.
Today, oil and gas development leases in these same marine waters are being offered again. In 2019, BOEM allowed the privately-owned Texas-based Hilcorp to conduct harmful seismic testing in Lower Cook Inlet without requiring any background research or baseline data collection to understand impacts that seismic exploration may have on fish, whales and lower trophic level organisms vital for the food chain integrity.
Hilcorp has had over 65 environmental violations over the past several years in Alaska, including spilling 10,000 gallons on Alaska’s North Slope in 2015, as well as major work place safety violations. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) stated, “The disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp’s approach to its Alaska operations and virtually assured the occurrence of this violation … Hilcorp’s conduct is inexcusable.”
Pursuing oil and gas development in Lower Cook Inlet is asking for a second Exxon Valdes oil spill tragedy. We cannot allow for oil and gas development in the pristine waters of the Lower Inlet. A catastrophic spill event in Lower Cook Inlet would disperse oil throughout the Gulf of Alaska and down through Shelikof Strait. It would cause irreparable harm to fish, marine mammals and sea birds, and would have term devastating impacts on all Gulf of Alaska fisheries and fishing communities.
As fishermen and residents of coastal Alaska, it is our collective responsibility to protect the integrity of our marine ecosystems in support of healthy oceans and coastal communities. Oil & gas development and healthy sustainable fisheries simply don’t mix.
Sign the Petition! By signing this petition in opposition to Oil and Gas Lease Sale 258, your voice will add strength as we appeal to the federal government to reverse this lease sale – to protect Lower Cook Inlet, the broader Gulf of Alaska and our small-scale fisheries and coastal communities, and to focus instead on renewable energy development.