The Trump administration is pursuing its plans of opening up more federal lands in Alaska to oil and gas drilling.
Reuters reports the Alaska Bureau of Land Management had not canceled a scheduled public meeting on the topic on Wednesday despite the shutdown, which has affected the Department of Interior, along with another eight federal agencies, albeit partially.
Plans to open up more land to drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska have already been discussed at several public meetings, which the Bureau of Land Management is obligated to hold, but some have questioned the legality of the meetings scheduled and held during the shutdown.
“There were a lot of people concerned about how they’re conducting business during the shutdown,” said Martha Itta, an administrator for the tribal government of an Alaskan village of 450, told Reuters. “There was even a question to them if the meeting was illegal,” she said.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, however, said public hearings about drilling permits for the National Petroleum Reserve were exempt from the government shutdown.
“The Bureau continues to process permit applications as they are an exempted activity during a lapse in appropriations,” the spokesman said.
Yet, Reuters notes, the Alaskan unit of the BLM earlier this week said it will postpone the public hearings on another drilling expansion plan for the Arctic: opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The deadline for submitting public comments on the topic has been extended to February 11.
Congress voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling in December 2017, after forty years of often heated discussions of the issue. In 2018, the Department of the Interior said it had allocated US$4 million for construction work ahead of the start of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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