U.S. Interior Dept. delays offshore drilling plan: report

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Ice is broken up by the passing of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sails through the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska on July 16, 2017. The Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and throught U.S. coastal waters is on hold, according to a Wall Street Journal story. (David Goldman/AP)
The Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and throughout U.S. coastal waters is on indefinite hold. That’s according to a Wall Street Journal story quoting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Acknowledgment of the delay follows a court order last month from U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason. It blocks new lease sales in parts of the Arctic and the Atlantic that President Obama closed to drilling.

Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash said the department has stopped active work on the national offshore leasing plan in light of Gleason’s order.

“That’s created a variable that we have to figure out – what to do and how to do our next step,” Balash said. “Because Alaska is a big piece of the puzzle for us.”

Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management for the Department of the Interior, answers reporters’ questions on proposed lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Balash said the Arctic is key to the plan because of its oil and gas potential. And in Alaska, unlike most other coastal states, the governor does not oppose offshore drilling.

As Balash sees it, Secretary Bernhardt’s remarks are consistent with what the secretary has been saying for weeks.

“I don’t think we view this as a big pause, as maybe has been reported, but it is going to require some decision-making,” he said.

The draft plan Interior issued in January 2018 called for lease sales in the Beaufort Sea as soon as this year.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Premier of Northern Canadian territory frustrated by slow oil and gas development, CBC News

Finland: The world could transition entirely to cheap, safe renewable energy before 2050: Finnish study, Yle News

Norway: Norway expands Arctic drilling while promising emissions cuts, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Gazprom launches construction of giant gas field in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Federal judge says U.S. gov must reassess climate impacts of oil leases, Alaska Public Media

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Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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