ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it would cancel a public comment period for a proposed oil and gas lease sale in Alaska.
The announcement Thursday came after President Joe Biden signed a Jan. 27 executive order that paused new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters as the government reviews the program.
Biden’s order was done in conjunction with other actions that limited oil and gas activity in Alaska, such as temporarily halting oil and gas work in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and delaying an oil exploration project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The public comment period was scheduled to last through March 1. It was intended to inform an environmental impact study on the lease sale. Online virtual meetings scheduled for next week were also canceled.
The cancellations will delay the date of the 2021 sale, said John Callahan, a spokesman with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
“If a decision is made to restart the lease process, then we’ll reopen the comment period,” Callahan said.
The lease sale covers almost 1,600 square miles (about 4,100 square kilometers) in federal waters in Cook Inlet west of the Kenai Peninsula and was proposed by the Trump administration to be held later this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The BOEM estimates that the federal waters contain 810 million barrels of economically recoverable oil.
Conservation groups in Alaska praised the cancellation as a win in the fight against climate change.
“Alaska is already reeling from the effects of climate change, and we have to break the Big Oil stranglehold if we want to keep the things that make Alaska unique,” said Bob Shavelson with Cook Inletkeeper in a statement.
Tim Dillon, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, said he hopes the state’s federal representatives can ensure the Cook Inlet lease sale takes place.
“All of our natural resources seem to be a target right now, but this shouldn’t come as secret to anyone” because Biden signaled these intentions during his campaign, Dillon said.