August 15, 2016

Dr. James Kendall
Alaska Regional Director, Alaska OCS Region
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
3801 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 500
Anchorage, AK 99503-5823

 

Re: Cook Inlet Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale 244

Dear Dr. Kendall:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to support proposed Lease Sale 244 in the Cook Inlet Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Planning Area. The proposed lease sale is clearly in the best interest of Alaska and its residents.

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska's oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. Our membership includes all of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC's purpose is to expand the state's economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

The proposed lease sale is located offshore in the northern portion of the federal waters of Cook Inlet. The area identified for the proposed lease sale is close to existing leases in Cook Inlet state waters, avoids nearly all of the areas designated as critical habitat for the beluga whale and the northern sea otter, avoids the critical habitat for the Steller sea lion, and excludes much of the subsistence-use area for Native villages.

The discovery of oil in the Cook Inlet region led to Alaska’s statehood and has remained a vital resource for energy security for local residents. Federal waters in Cook Inlet offer significant potential for new natural gas reserves to meet future demand. Approximately 85 percent of the electricity generated in Southcentral Alaska relies on natural gas fired turbines, and approximately 60 percent of Alaskans rely on Cook Inlet natural gas as a source of heat or electricity for their homes and businesses.

Lease Sale 244 offers new opportunities for economic development and diversification along the southern reaches of the Kenai Peninsula. New oil and gas production would create hundreds of new direct and indirect jobs and boost tax revenues to local government. The oil and gas industry is a major component of the Southcentral Alaska economy, sustaining thousands of jobs and significant revenues which help fund local programs and services.

Oil and gas development and production has coexisted with other industries, including fishing and tourism, for more than 50 years in Cook Inlet. Alaska has shown that oil and gas development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. Extensive monitoring programs and environmental studies conducted throughout the Cook Inlet basin over the last 50 years have found no evidence of adverse environmental impacts from oil and gas development. The industry’s record clearly indicates it has the knowledge, experience and expertise to avoid impacts to sensitive areas. Spill prevention and response capabilities are a major part of industry plans and operations to protect sensitive areas and the rich fishery resources of Cook Inlet.

Although interest in exploration and development in Cook Inlet may be limited at this time, RDC urges the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to proceed with Lease Sale 244. While industry investment has slowed due to low prices, no one can accurately predict what the price of oil and gas will be when the lease sale occurs. If there is no interest when the lease sale occurs, the federal government does not have to hold the sale. BOEM should allow market dynamics to decide the fate of a future lease sale.

Clearly, proposed Lease Sale 244 is in the best interest of the region, Alaska, and the nation. Moreover, a 2014 poll found that 73 percent of Alaskans support offshore development in the Alaska OCS, including Cook Inlet.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Lease Sale 244.

Sincerely,

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.