"An Act establishing a moratorium on the issuance of state shallow natural gas leases in the vicinity of Kachemak Bay, and precluding the commissioner of natural resources from reissuing or otherwise extending leases within the moratorium area if the leases fail to produce gas in paying quantities within the terms of the lease or if there is a breach of a term or condition of the lease; and providing for an effective date."
"HB 364 acts to reaffirm the State of Alaska's previous findings that Kachemak Bay and the Homer area are not appropriate for oil and gas development."
- Rep. Seaton
The SPonsor Substitute for House Bill 364 accomplishes three goals. First, it establishes a moratorium on future shallow natural gas leases (as defined by AS 38.05.177) in the Homer area. Second, it precludes the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from reissuing the current shallow natural gas leases in the Homer area if the leases do not produce gas in paying quantities within the terms of the lease (three years) or if there is a breach of contract. Third, SSHB 364 gives the Director of the Oil and Gas Division of DNR criteria to judge the merits of using his/her discretion to extend shallow natural gas leases. The Director would now have to consider the likelihood that extension of the lease would "expedite or lead to shallow natural gas development." This bill would in no way complicate future gas leasing in the Homer area through the Area Wide Lease Sale process, or some other leasing program.
The shallow natural gas leases recently let in the Homer area have created two major problems. First, the public is very concerned about the streamlined process under which these leases were let. The current shallow natural gas program provides for over-the-counter type leases; lacking a best-interest-finding, effective public notice, and regulatory provisions, and also decreasing fees and royalties paid to the state, this program has left local residents critical of the gas development in general.
Second, the gas formation underneath Homer follows the same geologic trend currently supporting the conventional natural gas industry on the Kenai Peninsula. To Homer's immediate north, conventional gas projects are underway in Ninilchik and on the North Fork Road. The industry incentives offered under the shallow natural gas lease program are not necessary to coerce the natural gas industry to the region. Homer was left out of the Cook Inlet Area Wide Lease Sale Program, and thus made available for leases under the Shallow Natural Gas Program, because of a political decision made by a previous administration. There is no geologic or economic reason that the gas in the Homer area should be developed differently than the rest of the Kenai Peninsula.
I ask for your support for this extremely important legislation.