The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has released a draft of an environmental impact statement (EIS) that analysed the possible impacts of an oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet, off Alaska’s south central coast.

The draft EIS reviewed important environmental resources and uses such as sea otter and beluga whale populations, subsistence activities, commercial fishing of pacific salmon and halibut that currently live within the Cook Inlet planning area.

It also identified robust mitigation measures to be considered in leasing the area. The draft EIS also analysed a range of alternatives to be considered for leasing. 

"The US Department of the Interior will use the findings to take a decision whether to hold the lease sale."

The release of this draft does not indicate the decision has been made to hold the lease sale. This means that once the EIS is finalised, the US Department of the Interior will use the findings to take a decision whether to hold the lease sale.

A 45-day public comment period will open that will close on 6 September and during this time, BOEM will hold public meetings and accept comments online which will be used to in preparation of the final EIS.

BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper said: “Cook Inlet has oil and gas potential, as well as sensitive marine and coastal resources that Alaska Native communities depend on for subsistence.

"We look forward to discussing this draft EIS with the public and representatives from Cook Inlet communities, and getting meaningful feedback.”