US To Auction Nearly 1 Million Acres In Alaska For Drilling

The Biden administration is set to auction almost one million acres off the Alaskan coast for new oil and gas drilling in December. This action is required by the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in August and was demanded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to win his support.

On Dec. 30, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will offer hundreds of thousands of acres just off the state’s south central coast for new drilling projects.

According to the IRA, the lease sale of 958,202 acres in Cook Inlet must be completed by the end of 2022.

The Department of Interior estimated that over the lifetime of the leases production could reach almost 200 million barrels of crude oil and 300 million barrels of natural gas. This, of course, assumes that drilling is actually allowed to take place.

The agreement with the moderate West Virginia senator directly counters the Biden administration’s policy of opposing new domestic drilling. In fact, the lease sale at Cook Inlet was canceled by the White House in May before being reinstated as part of the package’s compromise.

The Biden administration cited a “lack of interest” when it pulled the plug on the initial lease sale.

According to Bloomberg, the plan drew “outrage” from environmental groups.

The area, which encompasses federal waters from Kalgin Island to Augustine Island, is home to the Cook Inlet beluga whale. This species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, is one of the most endangered whale populations on the planet.

The whale and other species are believed by the nonprofit to be threatened by potential drilling. Of course, this will result in legal challenges to any project moving forward.

In October, BOEM released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for potential drilling at the site. The publication detailed steps to be taken to protect wildlife in the area.

It also listed several measures intended to ensure the safekeeping of area fisheries if commercial exploration of the site proceeds.

The reinstated lease sale is only one of several offerings previously canceled that are back on track. Instead of a change of heart by the domestic energy-averse Biden administration, it reflects the political reality the White House faced to guarantee Manchin’s vote.