Dear Secretary Debra Haaland and Director Amanda Lefton,
As members and supporters of Alaska’s thriving subsistence and business communities, we are asking for your help to secure permanent protection for lower Cook Inlet from offshore oil and gas drilling, thereby protecting the region’s world-class natural resources. We, like all Alaskans, strongly support a diverse economy that provides for today and future generations. However, offshore drilling in lower Cook Inlet would be severely at odds with the immense benefits provided by the region’s biodiversity.
We ask you to recognize that the healthy fisheries and marine ecosystems of the lower Cook Inlet are vital to subsistence traditions and economic stability in the region. The imminent threats posed to the ways of life and livelihoods of area coastal communities far outweigh any potential benefits from oil and gas exploration and drilling and include the following:
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s analysis, small oil spills are virtually guaranteed and a large oil spill has a 19% probability of happening “one or more times” over the course of a full lease. The lower Cook Inlet region is surrounded by protected lands and waters, sees the fourth-highest tides in the world with currents regularly running over 13 knots, is a hotbed for tectonic activity and feeds the strong currents of the Gulf of Alaska - meaning the 85% probability of spills coming from subsea pipelines would make any cleanup efforts extraordinarily difficult and the damage far-reaching. Dispersants used in oil spill cleanup efforts are known to damage a variety of trophic levels, including fish eggs.
Seismic surveys have been shown in studies to significantly reduce catch rates for fish (more than 70% in some cases) for several days; may alter and/or delay salmon migration; can kill fish eggs, larvae and adult fish within close proximity to the airgun source and may cause a variety of sublethal impacts to fish and crab such as damage to hearing and reproductive organs, potentially resulting in reduced survival or reproductive success.
Contaminated drilling muds can kill or cause sublethal effects to fish eggs, fry and small prey in the mixing zone even at volumes permitted by the EPA and can contain a variety of contaminants including heavy metals that bioaccumulate, such as mercury.
Infrastructure construction and emplacement would cause loss of access to fishing areas, could impair the quality of freshwater salmon habitat in the Cook Inlet watershed and may affect the marketability of fish, fishing charters and tourism in the region.
Lasting consequences of an oil spill are already known in this region which was, and continues to be, impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. While cleanup efforts can generate temporary economic benefits for those who participate, the long-term financial, ecological and social costs of a large spill and disbursement contamination are immeasurable.
For these reasons and more, the undersigned respectfully urge you to protect lower Cook Inlet permanently from all future offshore oil and gas leasing for the long-term sustainability of the region’s coastal communities and the marine resources upon which they wholly depend.