The US Will Auction Nearly 1 Million Acres Off Alaskan Coast For Oil Drilling

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) calls for auctioning almost 1 million acres off the Alaskan coast for new oil and gas drilling. The United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will auction hundreds of thousands of acres off Alaska’s coast on December 30 to comply with the IRA for new oil and gas drilling projects. The auction sale will be 958,202 acres off Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

Estimates over the lifetime of lease sales predict a possible 200 million barrels of crude oil and 300 billion cubic feet of natural gas. However, the Department of Interior says the estimate remains to be seen based on the possibility of any drilling that occurs.

After the Biden Administration canceled the lease of Alaska’s Cook Inlet earlier this year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) encouraged the revival of the auction in the Democrats’ climate spending bill.

The Biden administration initially thought there would be a lack of interest in Cook Inlet.

Environmental groups are furious about the sale, including federal waters stretching from Kalgin Island to North Augustine Island. The Center for Biological Diversity said the activity would harm the world’s most endangered whale population — the Cook Inlet beluga.

In response to the announcement, the BOEM published a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the lease. Activists included a list of measures to consider in the auction area to help protect the sea animals and preserve recreational and commercial fisheries in the regions.

Advocacy director at Cook Inletkeeper, Liz Mering, said the decision is incredibly disappointing to the community. She added, “Alaskans have worked to ensure that Lower Cook Inlet remains this incredible place for our fisheries and tourism industry, which support a thriving local economy. Thirty-three years after the horrific Exxon Valdez disaster, Alaskans still remember and recognize the risk of more oil fouling our waters killing our fish and hurting Alaskans.”

The Democrats’ decision to renew this lease inside the IRA has many Alaskans feeling that Biden is breaking a campaign promise to end federal fossil fuel leasing. The plan also rejects a 2021 legal petition filed by conservationists and indigenous groups requesting no new leases.