Input sought on Cook Inlet oil and gas leases

ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Interior Department announced Saturday it would be seeking input on a possible oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet

In a news release, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the request for comments is a key step in the planning process for responsible oil and gas development along Alaska’s shoreline.

“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,” he said.

The leases would cover an area with more than 75 percent of the estimated undiscovered and recoverable oil and gas resources in the United States, the Interior Department said.

This request for input asks industry, the public, and key stakeholders opinions about geologic, biological, archaeological, subsistence and/or or socio-economic conditions that might influence leasing and development decisions.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski responded to the announcement by saying she appreciated the president’s interest in increasing domestic production of oil and gas but wishes the Interior Department would look at other water she considers to have greater potential.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee said she has worked for the past six years to help companies that hold leases for exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to get permits to work there.

“Offering up leases is one thing, making sure companies receive the permits they need to develop those leases is quite another,” Murkowski said in a statement. “The true test will be whether the administration allows the Arctic offshore program to proceed.”

Saturday’s announcement is the first step in the development process, with any future decisions to be based on both stakeholder input and an environmental review, according to the Interior Department.

Between 1978 and 1985, 13 exploration wells were drilled in the federal waters in the Cook Inlet Planning Area. No active oil or gas exploration or development facilities are currently in federal waters. State waters contain 16 production platforms, 12 of which are currently active.

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

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