Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona and two of his colleagues in the House today wrote a letter to the Interior department demanding the agency halt its work on offshore oil leasing and permitting during the partial government shutdown.
It was spurred by Interior’s decision last week to bring in 40 employees to work on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s national offshore oil leasing plan. That plan, as initially drafted, would open up far more of Alaska’s federal waters to oil development.
Grijalva now chairs the House Resources Committee and is often at odds with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda. He thinks Interior is breaking the law by proceeding with offshore oil work during the shutdown.
“This is an outrageous step,” the letter states, calling Interior’s justifications for the decision, “farcical, and make it clear the administration cares only about the impacts to its favorite industry and not about workers, their families, and ordinary Americans.”
The letter states that if Interior does not stop the work, Democratic lawmakers “insist” that acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt come to Capitol Hill to explain the agency’s reasoning.
In a statement, Interior spokesperson Faith Vander Voort said, “we are happy to meet with the Committee, as appropriate, and we are confident that we are fully meeting our legal obligations.”
This is not the first time Grijalva and Interior have locked horns over oil development work continuing despite the shutdown in recent weeks. Last Monday, the congressman wrote a letter to Interior demanding answers about the agency’s move to keep advancing work on oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in addition to proceeding with public meetings on potentially expanding oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The agency wrote back, claiming that work was also legally funded and “critical to the state of Alaska and the nation.”
Democrats and environmental groups are also calling for the Interior department to extend the comment period for its program to hold an oil lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because of the shutdown. The Bureau of Land Management has announced it is postponing public meetings related to that program, but the comment deadline — February 11 — remains the same.
- The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division says the numbers in the bill don’t add up — there’s a $102 million gap between projected revenue and expenses if the bill were to pass.
- According to NOAA, over 180 gray whales have washed up dead along the West Coast so far this year. But each new specimen adds a little more clarity for scientists.
- Juneau International Airport officials have organized a simulated emergency exercise for Saturday. The exercise is required to be held every three years as part of the airport's FAA certification.
- Richard Glenn is an inconvenient truth for opponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge. He presents a challenge to a prevalent narrative in Washington, D.C., that Native people oppose development in the Arctic.