One of the most high-profile oil & gas lease possibilities sitting before the Interior Department has been denied by the Biden administration. The decision, which puts an end to drilling for oil on nearly 1 million acres within Alaska’s Cook Inlet, comes at a complicated political time when the price of gas is at all-time highs.
The Department of the Interior said in a statement originally obtained by CBS News that the choice to “not move forward” with the Cook Inlet leasing sale was based on a “lack of industry interest in leasing in the area.” Due to “conflicting court rulings that impacted work on these proposed lease sales,” the government also stopped two leases inside the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bureau of Ocean Power Management of the Interior Department has already suspended lease sales within Cook Inlet 3 times in 2007, 2008, & 2011, claiming “lack of industry interest” as the reason for the cancellations.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Repub from Alaska, issued a statement Friday refuting the administration’s claim that the lease auction drew little interest from the sector, as reported.
“Citing a ‘lack of industry interest’ is nothing more than fantasy from an administration that shuns U.S. energy production. Cook Inlet is the sole source of the natural gas that more than 400,000 people in Southcentral Alaska—and significant military bases that are critical to our national security—depend on,” Senator Murkowski expressed himself.
“I can say with full certainty, based on conversations as recently as last night, that Alaska’s industry does have interest in lease sales in Cook Inlet. To claim otherwise is simply false, not to mention stunningly short-sighted. The Biden administration needs to recognize how this decision is going to hurt Alaskans, reverse it immediately, and get the federal oil and gas program back on track now.”
The Department of such Interior is legally required to follow a 5-year leasing plan when attempting to sell offshore leases. These lease sales had to be finished before the expiration of the current 5-year plan, which is set to retire at the end of next month.
The White House has been silent on the big Alaska lease until now. Nevertheless, revoking this sale would’ve been keeping with President Joe Biden’s campaign commitments to fight climate change. However, in the face of rising gas costs, such pledges are becoming a political hurdle.
“They don’t want to get hit by the Republicans in light of the high gas prices,” one environmentalist told CBS News on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “They’re getting killed on attacks based on inflation. The most visible sign of inflation is high gas prices.”
A biggest environmental official exposed her hands in a message that copied a CBS News correspondent, revealing the precarious political position. White House national weather advisor Gina McCarthy wrote: “the Cook inlet sale was canceled. It is not proceeding.”