December 31, 2001 --- Vol. 7, No. 160December 2001

MMS issues information call for two proposed Cook Inlet lease sales

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service issued a call for information and nominations Dec. 31 for two Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sales included in Interior's proposed 2002-2007 five-year program.

The area has the potential, the agency said, of containing 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

MMS said it will hold meetings in communities in January and early February to gather information and will also ask the oil and gas industry about interest in exploring in the area, some 2.5 million acres three to 30 nautical miles offshore in federal waters in Cook Inlet from just south of Kalgin Island to just north of Shuyak Island in depths of 30 to 650 feet. No leasing is proposed in Shelikof Strait.

"The Southcentral area of Alaska continues to grow and its demand for natural gas is rising," said MMS Regional Director John Goll. "Cook Inlet has the potential to supply natural gas to this area.

"Companies are now looking for natural gas onshore. We estimate that the offshore potential could exceed 1 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas. This can contribute an additional option for long-term natural gas supply for the Southcentral region," Goll said.

One environmental impact statement will be prepared. MMS said it has written four Cook Inlet environmental impact statements since leasing began in 1977. After the first EIS is completed for sale 191 (proposed for 2004), MMS said it will prepare either an environmental assessment or a supplemental EIS and a coastal zone consistency determination for sale 199 (proposed for 2006), focusing on any new issues that arise.

MMS said the public will have the opportunity to comment on each sale proposal.

There are nine ongoing MMS-sponsored studies applicable to the Cook Inlet planning area, including preparation of a sea ice atlas, an assessment of seabirds, an update of the oil industry labor factors, continued contribution to the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissues Archival Project and publication of a synthesis on the socio-economic effects of oil and gas industry activity on the Alaska outer continental shelf.

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