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Offshore drilling proposal meeting draws supporters, critics



ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska residents had the opportunity to weigh in on the Trump administration’s proposal to open federal waters near the state to oil and gas development, but the process was not what some were expecting.

Residents weren’t able to voice their support or criticism in person. Instead, they were directed to type in their comments on laptops that were provided. Some attendees criticized the process and also that the meeting was in Anchorage instead of a location that would see the effects of offshore drilling.

“I was here to voice my frustration that there was no comment drawn from coastal communities, no meetings were held in any coastal communities,” said Noah Sunflower with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held the public meeting Wednesday for state residents to provide comment on the draft offshore drilling proposal, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported .

The meeting competed with protesters who were outside voicing concerns about potential environmental consequences of offshore drilling. A group of drilling supporters also rented a room near the meeting site where speakers cited the potential economic benefits of the project.

Jim Kendall, the Alaska regional director for the bureau, said the meeting was held in Anchorage because the city is centrally located. The meeting was initially proposed for Juneau.

“We needed to keep on schedule, we don’t have unlimited resources and we are taking a very national approach to this national program,” Kendall said.

When the Department of the Interior releases the next stage of the proposal, Kendall said meetings will likely take place in the communities near where the drilling could occur.

The department is expected to make a final decision on its offshore drilling plan at the end of 2019.

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