Starting next year, the Trump Administration plans to offer 19 offshore oil and gas leases across Alaska except for Bristol Bay. It’s part of a roll out that includes sales in all US offshore waters, the largest number in history.
This follows Trump’s repeal of offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Reaction to the plan by coastal Alaskans was fast and furious. Susan Murray is deputy vice president of the Pacific for Oceana in Juneau.
“The Bering Sea is the fish basket of the US, the production there is amazing, as well as in the GOA asnd Aleutian Ialdns. And to put that resource at risk for reckless offshore oil exploration is ridiculous.”
Linda Behnken is director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.
“It’s really deeply disturbing to see a willingness to place at risk up and down our coast the renewable resources that are the cornerstone of the economy and people’s way of life.”
United Fishermen of Alaska’s Mark Vinsel feels the same.
“You need to be careful up here, whatever you’re doing, this is really, really dangerous waters. Fishermen know that. And everyone in the Arctic rim knows that.”
Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty was surprised at the extent of the plan.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of push-back, from not just the enviro community but from coastal communities such as mine and other fishery-dependent communities across the country.”
In Nome, Austin Ahmasuk works for Kawerak, which represents tribes across the Bering Strait region. He says they’ve opposed oil and gas development in their waters for decades.
“You know, they’re areas where our people have hunted and commercially fished for quite a long time. It’s where we make our living. So we’re quite concerned about the aggressive nature of this draft proposed program.”
Meanwhile, Alaska’s congressional reps called Trump’s plan “good news.”
The Interior Department could remove some areas from the final plan, depending on public feedback.
One public meeting for Alaska is set for the evening of January 23 at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.
Public comment is open for the next two months.
Thanks to the assist from APRN’s Alaska Energy Desk.