Alaska officials want some state areas out of drilling plan
Alaska's pro-development congressional delegation is asking the Trump administration to back off from a proposal to offer nearly all lands off the state's coast for oil and gas drilling.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young say Cook Inlet, where petroleum extraction now occurs, and Arctic waters should be offered in planned lease sales.
But the all-Republican delegation says in a letter Friday to Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke that the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Strait, the Aleutian Islands and other regions should be removed.
Alaska's Congressional Delegation released the following statement Friday:
“We commend you for taking an inclusive approach that allows for meaningful public input as you determine where responsible development should occur on our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf,” the delegation wrote. “For far too long, arbitrary and unilateral executive actions have undermined the open process that Congress established through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. This has harmed states like Alaska, where tens of millions of acres of waters were previously closed without public input, consultation, or support.
“We strongly support the inclusion of the Chukchi and Beaufort planning areas in the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) and encourage you to maintain three lease sales in each area over the 2019-2024 period. At the same time, given the diversity of stakeholders in this region, we urge you to commit your Department to meaningful consultation with local communities.
“We ask that you maintain the two lease sales the DPP envisions in the Cook Inlet planning area. While a mature basin, this area continues to provide an important supply of affordable energy for communities throughout southcentral Alaska.
“We believe the strongest near-term offshore program in Alaska is one that focuses on the Chukchi, Beaufort, and Cook Inlet. Such a program will maximize agency resources and reflect the areas with the broadest support for development among Alaskans. Accordingly, we ask that you remove potential sales in the Hope Basin, Norton Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Navarin Basin, Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Shumagin, Kodiak, and Gulf of Alaska from the DPP.”
The letter follows opposition to drilling in the Bering Strait region by Alaska Native groups.
The delegation says a drilling program focused on Cook Inlet and the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE) and Beaufort seas reflects the areas with the "broadest support for development among Alaskans."
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