Friday, May 24, 2013
Public Hearing on Chukchi Sea Oil Development to be Held in Fairbanks
Both supporters and opponents of Chukchi Sea oil development are rounding up constituents to testify at a Thursday public hearing on the issue in Fairbanks.
FAIRBANKS — Both supporters and opponents of Chukchi Sea oil development are rounding up constituents to testify at a Thursday public hearing on the issue in Fairbanks.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is hosting a hearing on the Chukchi drilling plan from 7-10 p.m. at the Westmark Fairbanks Gold Room. A series of public hearings are being held throughout the state to collect testimony about a new environmental report on the outer continental shelf lease sale.
It’s the first time the federal agency has held a local hearing on Chukchi drilling, after bypassing the Interior during previous statewide tours in October 2010 and this March. Other hearings are scheduled in Kotzebue, Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Barrow and Anchorage.
More than $2 billion in leases were sold in 2008 in the Chukchi Sea, but a lawsuit by environmental groups and Alaska Native villages has stalled development. After the initial environmental impact statement on the drilling plan was challenged, the federal agency issued a 600-page environmental report earlier this month that contained more information, including an analysis of a potential oil spill in the Chukchi.
The Fairbanks-based Northern Alaska Environmental Center was one of the organizations that challenged the initial environmental report, saying it was incomplete and needed to be revisited by the federal agency. Pam Miller, the Arctic Program manager for the organization, said the group wants a better review, including more detailed plans for responding to a spill.
“If you’re looking to establish a major new industrial zone, the caution is warranted, especially in light of the Gulf of Mexico spill,” she said.
Miller said the environmental center is “encouraging the public to get out and support the Arctic.”
The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce has launched a more formal effort to bring supporters to the hearing. The business organization sent an email, complete with talking points, urging members to testify Thursday in favor of Chukchi drilling. The chamber also is hosting an “OCS Yes” event in the Rampart Room at the Westmark from 7-8 p.m. to gather supporters.
“We are in favor of responsible resource development,” Executive Director Lisa Herbert said.
Herbert said offshore drilling is an issue the organization is passionate about. An event earlier this year netted 100 comment cards in favor of Chukchi exploration, and the chamber’s Natural Resources Committee plans to vote on a resolution on the issue today affirming its support.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.