BLM retains ANWR public comment deadline
The federal Bureau of Land Management announced on June 4 that it will not extend the public comment period for the scoping of an environmental impact statement for an oil and gas lease sale program for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As previously determined, the comment period will end on June 19, the agency said.
The question of opening the ANWR coastal plain for oil and gas activities is highly contentious, being strongly opposed by environmental organizations while strongly supported by Alaska lawmakers and proponents of oil and gas development. While some people from North Slope communities have expressed support for the opening, the Gwich’in people from the Yukon Flats region of Interior Alaska and the nearby region of western Canada remain opposed because of concerns about potential impacts on the Porcupine caribou, a vital subsistence resource for Interior communities.
The purpose of the EIS is to analyze the potential environmental impacts of different leasing alternatives. The EIS may also consider any exploration, development and production activities that may result from the leasing.
“I have heard diverse and extensive messages across the state regarding thoughts, interests and concerns of a broad range of stakeholders, and these consistent messages will inform the development of the EIS,” said Joe Balash, U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals. “The heartfelt and quality comments we have received to date are what we have come to expect from Alaskans. I sincerely appreciate the interest shown in the coastal plain EIS.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made Balash responsible for the completion of the EIS and for the ANWR lease sale program. - ALAN BAILEY