The U.S. government called on industry leaders to indicate their level of interest in oil and natural gas exploration off the southern coast of Alaska. \"This is the first step in a careful process designed both to gauge industry interest in oil and gas exploration in the Cook Inlet planning area and to develop information about the potential effects of that activity,\" Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement. The area is included in a proposed 2012-17 Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program. The proposed lease area would cover a region with more than 75 percent of the estimated undiscovered and recoverable oil and gas resources on the OCS available for exploration and development, the U.S. Interior Department said. There were 13 exploration wells in the federal waters of the Cook Inlet area from 1978-85. There are no current active oil or natural gas exploration facilities in those federal waters and the government said its request for interest didn\'t indicate a specific decision to lease in the Cook Inlet planning area. The Interior Department didn\'t provide an estimate of the potential reserves available in the Cook Inlet planning area.