The Alaska delegation told Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday to back off from approving offshore drilling plans for several of the state's area inlets and waterways.
"We believe the strongest near-term offshore program in Alaska is one that focuses on the Chukchi, Beaufort, and Cook Inlet," just three areas, a letter sent Friday to Zinke said. Zinke had proposed 14 areas in the state's Arctic waters as targets to include in a final drilling plan.
"Such a program will maximize agency resources and reflect the areas with the broadest support for development among Alaskans," the delegation said.
In addition, they asked Zinke to "remove potential sales" in the remaining 11 offshore areas included in the recently published draft offshore plan.
Those areas included the Hope Basin, Norton Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Navarin Basin, Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Shumagin, Kodiak, and Gulf of Alaska.
The delegation includes Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who Trump has relied on for support in moving his energy nominees through the Senate confirmation process and approving his tax plan's proposed opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to limited drilling. The letter also included Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young.
“There are certain areas that we feel are not opportune for leasing and for development," Murkowski told Reuters Friday. “Let’s focus on where the opportunity is good and there is interest and defined resource with limited obstacles.”
Th Interior Department's Draft Proposed Program for Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing would replace the Obama administration's current leasing plan with one covering the 2019-2024 period. The Trump plan looks to open all areas of the country's coast to offshore drilling, spurring pushback from many of the states. Zinke bowed to pressure from Florida's Republican governor and congressional delegation to promise he would remove leases from the final five-year plan.
“We strongly support the inclusion of the Chukchi and Beaufort planning areas in the draft proposed program and encourage you to maintain three lease sales in each area over the 2019-2024 period," the letter added. "At the same time, given the diversity of stakeholders in this region, we urge you to commit your department to meaningful consultation with local communities."