On December 30, 2022 the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) held a lease sale in Cook Inlet with over 950,000 acres of the inlet up for auction. Only one oil company showed up, Hilcorp LLC, and they only bid on one block, 6255, with an appropriately low bid of $63,983.
The lease sale was originally scheduled during the Obama administration, but was cancelled in May by the Biden administration due to conflicting court rulings and a lack of industry interest. However, the Inflation Reduction Act passed in the fall required BOEM to hold the lease sale.
Cook Inlet is home to an isolated and endangered population of beluga whales, as well as northern sea otters. The lease sale excluded areas that overlap with critical habitat for both species and required mitigation measures, but an oil spill a fraction of the size of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill would impact these at-risk marine mammals. Cook Inlet is also home to the ever important Sockeye, pink, Coho, and Chinook salmon.
The solo and relatively low bid is consistent with the lack of industry interest we’ve seen in Cook Inlet over the last several years. This marks progress towards leaving offshore oil drilling in the past, where it belongs.