Bill to provide free access to Cook Inlet seismic surveys moves forward

a Hilcorp platform in Cook Inlet
Hilcorp’s offshore Spark platform in Cook Inlet. (Creative Commons/Ground Truth Trekking)

A bill aimed at increasing oil and gas production in Cook Inlet took a step forward Monday. The proposal advancing out of the House Resources Committee would provide companies and researchers free access to seismic survey data used to locate oil and gas deposits in Cook Inlet.

Gas companies have warned that current production levels in Cook Inlet are too low to meet demand, threatening to drive up prices

Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, who chairs the committee, said he believes the proposal could spur more drilling.

“By making seismic data more accessible, we hope to stimulate interest and investment from new players in the Cook Inlet energy sector,” McKay said in a Feb. 5 hearing.

Seismic surveys are often proprietary. But in Alaska, to be eligible for certain tax credits, companies are required to turn the data over to the state. The state keeps it confidential for 10 years, then charges other prospective drillers to access it.

State officials with the Department of Natural Resources say the bill would not result in a significant amount of lost revenue, since just 3% of seismic data sales are in Cook Inlet. Officials say just 20 customers purchased Cook Inlet survey data between 2018 and 2023, bringing in roughly $330,000. The bill would make that data free to “qualified persons,” meaning oil and gas producers, domestic researchers and others approved by the department.

Rep. Donna Mears, D-Anchorage, was the only member of the Resources Committee to vote against the bill. She said she’s not convinced it’ll have much impact.

“I think we should be considering bills and policies that actually move the needle,” Mears said after the vote. “There’s not a barrier to the cost for getting this data from the department. The barrier that I’ve heard from the industry is the timeliness of the release of that information.”

Mears said the department has been slow to release seismic data, even after the 10-year confidentiality period expires. She said lawmakers should focus on making sure the Department of Natural Resources has enough staff to release its data in a timely manner. 

Department officials told the committee they’d recently improved their workflow and were releasing data regularly.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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