Governor asks Trump administration for more public meetings on offshore drilling proposal

Map showing previous offshore wells drilled in Alaska. (Image courtesy Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

A public meeting on a Trump administration draft proposal to open up more of Alaska’s waters to oil drilling is being rescheduled, due to the brief government shutdown.

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The meeting was originally set to take place tomorrow in Anchorage. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hasn’t yet settled on a new date.

The Department of Interior is aiming to reverse Obama-era offshore drilling policy, which largely blocked oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Interior’s draft proposal would allow oil lease sales in the Arctic and also off all Alaska’s other coasts, except for the North Aleutian Basin, by Bristol Bay.

Governor Bill Walker advocated for Arctic waters to be included in the federal offshore drilling plan. But Walker says he’s asking Interior to expand its outreach effort in Alaska by holding more than one public meeting.

“We also are asking that the hearings be held, not just one in Anchorage, but in the particular areas where the activity would take place,” Walker said.

Walker was speaking in Washington, D.C., where he was attending a ceremony for the King Cove road deal.

Some groups, like communities across the Bering Strait region, strongly oppose drilling in areas the Trump administration is proposing to open up. Walker didn’t respond directly to a question about whether he will ask Interior to remove some areas included in the proposal. Instead, the governor said he will listen closely to communities that could be affected.

Alaska Public Media Washington, D.C. correspondent Liz Ruskin contributed to this story.