This past weekend there was quite the stir in Homer as a jack-up rig came down Cook Inlet, into Kachemak Bay, and around the spit. Meanwhile, California communities were hit with the news of a massive oil spill from a pipeline leak off the southern coast.
These events made me reflect on the history of oil and gas in Cook Inlet and why our petition to stop Lease Sale 258 to protect Cook Inlet for the future is so important.
First, the drilling rig (a “jack-up rig”) in Kachemak Bay provided us a brief glimpse into the history of Cook Inlet and what could have been if the Alaska Legislature had not bought back Kachemak Bay oil and gas leases in 1976. Usually, it is hard for me to look out at the Bay and imagine what it would have looked like without the buyback program. This weekend as I watched the rig move by the spit, it was easy to imagine oil and gas platforms and infrastructure littered around the Bay.
But the buyback almost didn’t happen – it was three votes short of passing until a relatively small oil spill in Kachemak Bay happened from a jack-up rig named the George Ferris. The rest is history: the legislature voted for the buyback and to create the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area.
Now, 45 years later, it’s hard to imagine Kachemak Bay any other way. In a different reality, we might have had oil but we would not have Homer’s thriving tourism industry, which runs off of Kachemak Bay’s fisheries, birds, and wildlife.
Ultimately, this jack-up rig will only be here for a few days before it is moved to another location but it is a stark reminder of what Alaskans prevented in Kachemak Bay in the 70s.
Second, the spill of 136,000 gallons of oil off of California’s coast from a leaking pipeline had me considering the future of Cook Inlet. History has repeatedly shown that accidents, spills, and leaks will occur from pipelines, tankers, and drilling platforms. Upper Cook Inlet already has over 300 miles of aging pipelines – pipelines with a long history of leaks. And if Lease Sale 258 in Lower Cook Inlet occurs, miles of new pipeline would be installed along with the drilling rigs, platforms, and other infrastructure. Cook Inlet has incredibly strong tides, sea ice, earthquakes, and large waves that will test any installed infrastructure for generations to come.
I know the future I want for our Inlet, our economy, our tourism, our fisheries, and our community. It is a future where we have protected Lower Cook Inlet from industrialization and pollution. It is a future where we stop relying on dirty fossil fuels and look to renewable energy. It is a future where Alaska Natives can continue to subsist off the land as they have for time immemorial. It is a future where our fisheries are thriving. We, like Alaskans in the 70s, must stand up for this future.
Join me, along with over 1,500 other Alaskans, in asking the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to cancel Lease Sale 258 and protect Lower Cook Inlet from future lease sales. Please join me and sign the petition here!
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned citizens like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.