Tomorrow the Bureau of Land Management will officially notice the start of a 60-day public scoping period for the preparation of an environmental impact statement for oil and gas leasing on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, BLM has announced. This action results from a provision within the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, requiring the Department of the Interior to conduct oil and gas lease sales in the ANWR coastal plain.
"Developing our resources on the coastal plain is an important facet for meeting our nation's energy demands and achieving energy dominance," said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the Department of the Interior. "This scoping process begins the first step in developing a responsible path forward. I look forward to personally visiting the communities most affected by this process and hearing their concerns."
Predictably, the announcement has prompted widely divergent opinions.
"Alaskans have long supported leasing and responsible development in the coastal plain, which was set aside for oil and gas development," said Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. "We are encouraged that the Department of Interior wants to hear from Alaskans across the state about this important issue. AOGA looks forward to participating in this public process."
"The Department of the Interior is pursuing an irresponsibly aggressive timeline for Arctic Refuge drilling that reflects the Trump administration's eagerness to turn over America's public lands to private industry for development," said Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society. "They are taking reckless shortcuts that are a terrible violation of public trust … the Wilderness Society remains opposed to opening the Arctic Refuge coastal plain to drilling."
The Alaska Congressional delegation expressed its support for the BLM action.
"We welcome this scoping announcement and the department's continued work to implement our legislation opening the coastal plain to responsible energy development," the delegation said. "We appreciate the department following the law, planning multiple public meetings with Alaskans, and moving forward on this important program to help ensure the energy and economic security of our nation."
- ALAN BAILEY