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Alaskans ponder a future with increased offshore drilling

April 15, 2009 |  8:48 am


Alaskans are passionate about many things, offshore drilling among them.

In case you missed it, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a public hearing on the topic Tuesday in Anchorage. Gov. Sarah Palin, who not long ago questioned the science used to make predictions regarding diminishing sea ice, implied that increased natural gas production on the outer continental shelf could help ease global warming.

Some but not all were in agreement, because another thing Alaskans are passionate about is the pristine nature of their environment. Proposed drilling sites include Bristol Bay and the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the last two of which are home to Pacific gray whales and other marine mammals.

Marilyn Savage, a resident of Fort Yukon, was quoted on the KTVA website as  saying, "The offshore drilling will hurt the lifestyle of my people and my grandchildren and the unborn. They have no voice here, and if I am not speaking for them here, who is?" 

Those in support said jobs and revenue generated by drilling were important, while opponents claimed the risk to the environment would simply be too great.

Salazar, at least, is to be commended for visiting Anchorage and listening to the citizens. He said he has not yet taken a public stance on the issue, but Alaskans can probably look forward to more drilling in the not-too-distant future.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A protester in a polar bear suit waves a sign outside of the building where U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a public hearing in Anchorage on the federal government's proposed five-year oil and gas leasing program. Credit: Al Grillo / Associated Press