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Interior Department Invites Industry Interest in Potential Oil and Gas Lease Sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

WASHINGTON —The Department of the Interior, as part of the Obama Administration’s focus on expanding responsible oil and gas development, is seeking input from industry to determine interest in oil and gas exploration off the coast of South-Central Alaska – a key step in the planning process for a potential oil and natural gas lease sale in the Cook Inlet Planning Area. This is the latest step by the Obama Administration towards responsible production in Alaska’s offshore areas, and builds on broader steps to increase responsible production in Alaska.

“Today’s announcement is part of our commitment to increasing safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “We will continue to support efforts to safely expand offshore oil and gas exploration, using the best science to assess where recoverable resources lie and providing industry with abundant opportunity to lease and develop areas that contain those resources.”

The Department’s Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017, which makes federal offshore areas containing more than 75 percent of estimated undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources on the U.S. OCS available for exploration and development, includes one potential special-interest lease sale in the Cook Inlet Planning Area (Sale 244). A special-interest lease sale first asks operators to nominate specific tracts in the planning area they potentially would be interested in exploring and developing through a Request for Interest (RFI). This initial request asks industry, the public, and key stakeholders about geologic, biological, archaeological, subsistence and/or or socio-economic conditions that might bear on potential leasing and development decisions.

“This is the first step in a careful process designed both to gauge industry interest in oil and gas exploration in the Cook Inlet Planning Area, and to develop information about the potential effects of that activity,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “Through this process, BOEM will consider a range of important factors including industry interest, resource potential, and the need to protect and respect Alaska’s communities and unique environments. Any future decisions regarding a lease sale in this planning area will be based on rigorous science and stakeholder input.”

The publication of this RFI does not indicate a decision to lease in the Cook Inlet Planning Area. BOEM will not make a decision about any potential lease sale before finalizing the 2012–2017 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, and determining whether there is adequate interest in holding this sale and conducting thorough environmental reviews.

If BOEM moves forward with planning for the potential sale, the bureau will then conduct environmental review and consultation under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws. BOEM will remain in close coordination with the state of Alaska, as well as with local and Native Alaskan governments, and other stakeholders throughout this process.

Between 1978 and 1985, 13 exploration wells were drilled in the federal waters of the Cook Inlet Planning Area. Currently, there are no active oil or gas exploration or development facilities in the federal waters there. The area’s state waters contain 16 production platforms, 12 of which are currently active.

The RFI notice will be available for public inspection Monday morning in the Federal Register at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.

After publication of the RFI in the Federal Register, comments on the proposal may be submitted at http://www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/Public-Engagement/Public-Engagement-Opportunities.aspx (click on the “Open Comment Documents link).

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