Interior cancels Beaufort, Chukchi offshore lease sales

A proposed final federal program for offshore oil and gas leasing from 2017 through 2022 takes the Beaufort and Chukchi seas planning areas off the list, and leaves one sale off the Alaska coast in the Cook Inlet program area.

“The plan focuses lease sales in the best places, those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict, and established infrastructure, and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, in announcing the list on Nov. 18.

“Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”

The Obama administration announcement is at odds with that of president-elect Donald Trump, whose 100-day action plan, announced on May 16, including lifting moratoriums on energy production in federal areas and revoking “policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker expressed disappointment with Jewell’s decision, saying “there is enough opportunity and protection in the plan that it should have been an easy decision to move forward with our proposal.  The state nominated the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to ensure Alaskans’ interests were protected in this process,” Walker said. “The nominations provided subsistence protection, as well as the benefits under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  With the trans-Alaska pipeline three-quarters empty, we must spur more oil production.”

Walker said his administration would reconvene with the whaling communities on the North Slope and industry to determine next steps.


Kara Moriarty, president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, called the decision “a slap in Alaskans’ face.

“A diverse group of Alaskans, including Alaska Natives, labor unions, industry leaders and everyday Alaskans have repeatedly advocated for keeping America’s energy options open,” Moriarty said. “With more than 27 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, development represents the next generation of Alaska’s oil and gas industry,” she said, in a statement released by AOGA.

Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation condemned the decision to remove the Beaufort and Chukchi seas from the proposed final program.