Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hosted the third in a series of four planned regional public meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, regarding the future of energy development on the OCS. The meeting provided a diverse group of local stakeholders, including Governor Sarah Palin (R), the state's congressional delegation, industry, and environmental groups, with an opportunity to discuss the issue of offshore oil and gas development. The meetings are designed to assist Secretary Salazar and Interior in the preparation of policies that will guide future OCS energy development. Industry supporters and conservationists rallied outside the Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center prior to the meeting, a display that encapsulates the polarizing nature of the issue.
Governor Palin advocated for OCS development and added, that without such production, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline would be in jeopardy of an early shutdown. Governor Palin also noted that natural gas from the OCS is essential to the development of a new pipeline supplying gas to the lower-48. Secretary Salazar responded by saying, "The people who are going to build that pipeline are not going to build it unless they know they have a natural gas supply," an assurance the Secretary suggested can not be given at this time. Both of Alaska's Senators were supportive of sensible efforts to move forward with OCS oil and gas development. Senator Begich (D) said, "Oil and gas will continue to supply the majority of this nation's energy for a long time. I believe most of it should come from secure, reliable domestic production -- especially Alaska." In contrast to state-wide officials, local fishermen and Mayor Edward Itta of the North Slope Borough argued the benefit of OCS development is not worth the risk of a major oil or gas spill. Mayor Itta noted, "spill response [is] virtually impossible in Arctic waters."
Local coverage of the meeting can be found in the Anchorage Daily News. Additional information and a video of the event can be obtained from Interior’s website. The agency's final regional public meeting is scheduled for April 16 in San Francisco, CA