The hot-button topic of drilling rights on Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is sure to get some passionate dialogue later this month when public comments will take place in several communities, including a native community on the refuge.
The federal government’s first public meetings in preparation for oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will begin this month in the only village in the refuge, with meetings also planned in Alaska cities and Washington, D.C.
The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday released a list of seven communities where it will hold meetings to collect information from the public as it prepares an environmental assessment on the impact of leasing and drilling in the refuge’s 1.6-million-acre coastal plain.
Republicans in Congress opened the refuge in northeast Alaska to drilling in December after 40 years of unsuccessful attempts. Supporters say oil production from the refuge will support the Alaska economy and national security, while critics say development will harm the region and wildlife such as migrating caribou.
“It’s important that we take the time to gather all the relevant issues to guide our environmental analysis of the coastal plain,” said Karen Mouritsen, BLM’s acting state director, in a prepared statement Wednesday. “We realize the importance of this place to not only Alaskans, but the nation in its quest to responsibly develop our natural resources and achieve energy dominance.”