Nowhere is the disconnect between energy policy and climate impacts more evident than in Cook Inlet. In the same waters covered in last month’s federal Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258, federal fisheries managers closed the highly-lucrative Pacific cod fishery in 2019-2020, and they cited – for the first time ever – climate change as the reason. Like most of Alaska, Cook Inlet is experiencing the direct impacts of climate change at an alarming rate. From forest fires, to melting glaciers and sea ice, to massive salmon die-offs, Alaskans can no longer deny the devastating impacts of our fossil fuel addiction.
Unfortunately, federal and state leaders are responding to this crisis much slower than our climate is changing.
In 2022, we saw Congress mandate that Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258 in Lower Cook Inlet move forward before the end of the year; and the Biden Administration express support for the Alaska LNG project, and propose an Outer Continental Shelf Five-Year Plan (2023-2028) with continued future Cook Inlet lease sales.
All of this is happening as global events are changing the supply and distribution of oil & gas worldwide. Fossil fuel corporations and Alaskan leaders have quickly built a narrative that the war in Ukraine demands that Alaska develop as many new oil & gas projects as possible for national security and cheaper gas at the pump. Of course, this narrative is false. Further fossil fuel exploration and development will take years before it’s producing energy and, with the rapid growth in the renewable energy sector, the future cost of these fossil fuels is highly uncertain for local consumers.
Meanwhile, industry and pro-development-of-any-kind advocates cite the need for more renewable energy projects to fast-track mining in Alaska. This urgent rush for “critical” minerals with minimal oversight is a corporate bonanza with real risks to our waters, salmon, and communities.
These are just some of the challenging dynamics we are facing in Alaska.
We seek to change these narratives at Cook Inletkeeper. Here are some of our priorities for the year ahead and suggestions for ways that you can take action:
1) STOP NEW OIL & GAS LEASING IN LOWER COOK INLET
The time is NOW to stop oil & gas leasing in Lower Cook Inlet before we get locked into new fossil fuel development, increased pollution, and harmful emissions!
In August 2022, Congress mandated that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hold Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258 in Lower Cook Inlet by December, despite the climate crisis, significant local opposition to stop the sale, and the fact that BOEM already canceled the sale last May due to a lack of industry interest. Meanwhile, BOEM released a proposed Five-Year Plan (2023-2028) which includes future offshore oil & gas leasing in Cook Inlet.
On December 30th, Lease Sale 258 happened, and it was a flop. Hilcorp was the only bidder, and they bid on 1 block out of 193 available. Clearly, there really is no industry interest, and it’s time to move on to real solutions to supply Alaskans with home heating fuel and electricity.
- ACTION: Pressure the Biden Administration to remove Cook Inlet from all future Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing plans. Send letters to:
- Mr. Tommy Beaudreau
U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street NW, Washington DC, 20240
- Mr. Tommy Beaudreau
- ACTION: Write letters to the editor in response to the sale and emphasize why this is the market reflecting the reality of our need for an energy transition, despite the spin from the Dunleavy Administration. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
2) REFORM ELECTRIC UTILITIES
Alaskans have an extraordinary say in how our energy is produced as member-owners of democratic electric co-ops. We can vote for directors who commit to making the necessary energy transition happen, and we can hold our boards accountable to building an equitable, responsible renewable energy future.
At Homer Electric Association, every year there’s an election for a three-year term in each of the three districts. In May 2023, the following seats will be up for election:
District 1 | Kenai – Nikiski – parts of Soldotna; Current Director: Jim Duffield
District 2 | Soldotna – Sterling – Kasilof; Current Director: Charles “C.O.” Rudstrom
District 3 | Kasilof south of Kachemak Bay area; Current Director: Jim Levine
We don’t know yet who will be running, but we will need help in March and April to get the best candidates elected.
- ACTION: Help elect pro-renewable candidates for the Homer Electric Association annual election in spring 2023 using canvassing, phone banking, and direct contacts. Districts 1 & 2 will need the most help. (Contact email@example.com to volunteer)
- ACTION: Follow the public process, research, and comment on proposed energy projects in Cook Inlet, including hydro, tidal, solar, wind, and LNG. (Sign up for our monthly email newsletter HERE to get updates on comment periods)
3) BUILD LOCAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
Homer Drawdown and Central Peninsula Drawdown are de-centralized community efforts to mitigate the climate crisis at the local level. Using the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, we aim to identify meaningful and well-researched solutions that stabilize levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
- ACTION: Connect with the Central Peninsula Drawdown group and get involved in RE-Tree our Neighborhoods in Soldotna (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org) or with the Homer Drawdown group and the Non-Motorized Transportation effort (contact: email@example.com)
4) PROTECT SALMON HABITAT FROM LARGE MINE IMPACTS
As Alaskans have seen with mega-projects like the proposed Pebble and Donlin mines – and with the threat of increasing demand for critical metals – citizens must engage government and industry to protect critical salmon habitat, hold government and industry accountable for enforcing and complying with environmental laws, and pressure legislators to reform and strengthen mining laws. We should be looking to mine new landscapes only after reducing the overall demand for new minerals and increasing mineral recycling and reuse. And new mining must only take place if it meets high environmental, human rights and social standards.
- ACTION: During the state legislative session, keep an eye out for a bill to approve the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) taking over 404 wetlands permitting from the EPA. This would be an essential bill to speak out against. (Sign up for our monthly email newsletter HERE to get updates on legislative happenings)
- ACTION: Put April 29th on your calendar for the next annual electronics recycling event in Homer & Soldotna. Gather your old electronics in preparation for this yearly event. You can also volunteer to help keep electronics out of our landfills and curb the demand for more mining. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks for paying attention to the climate crisis, being action and solution-oriented, and helping to change the narrative that we have no choice but to fall off a cliff.
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned friends like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.