The Trump Administration plans to start offering 19 offshore oil and gas leases next year in all regions of Alaska except for Bristol Bay.
A single public meeting was held last Wednesday in Anchorage. Put on by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, it was more like a pro-energy trade show and carefully orchestrated to limit public input.
About 100 people showed up, said Elizabeth Harball of Alaska’s Energy Desk. Inside the Dena’ina Center, they were greeted by a rally where speakers raved about the economic promise of oil development off Alaska’s shores.
“The outer-continental shelf provides an opportunity to run our economy for another 100 years, to keep our pipeline full.”
People were then guided to a looped video on a large screen extolling the “enthusiasm” that’s greeted Trump’s offshore drilling plans across Alaska.
“Based on comments received by citizens, elected officials, tribes and others, as well as BOEM’s analysis, the Secretary made his decision and considered the areas shown on this map for potential for oil and gas leasing.”
Continuing the trade show meme, friendly federal employees manned tables ready explain the processes used to decide where drilling should or should not be allowed.
There was no opportunity for public comment. Instead, BOEM spokesman John Callahan directed them to five computers.
“Here are the stations where people can post their comments.”
Callahan said to log into the federal website – regulations.gov – to read what people typed in.
Harball said she heard many complaints about the meeting.
Noah Sunflower, with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, objected to its being held hundreds of miles away from areas directly affected by Trump’s drilling plans.
I was here to voice my frustration that there was not a comment drawn from coastal communities, no meetings were held in coastal communities.
It made sense to hold the meeting in Anchorage because it is centrally located, said Jim Kendall, the BOEM manager for Alaska.
“We needed to keep on schedule, we don’t have unlimited resources and we are taking a very national approach to this national program.”
Kendall said Alaskans from coastal regions may still have a chance to weigh in on as plans move forward.
So far almost a half million comments have been made by U.S. citizens; a scan of the nearly 240 pages found not one in favor.
Comments are open till March 9.
Thanks to the assist from Alaska’s Energy Desk.