Group says Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is launching "threats to career civil servants."
A governor is asking the president to intervene with career federal employees, accusing them of “undermining” the sale of lands that would benefit his state.
In a letter to President Trump dated March 1, first made public by the Anchorage Daily News, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, R-Alaska, requesting relief from an array of activities various federal agencies are engaged in through his state. The appeals included many standard state-level concerns, such as more Medicaid funding and exemptions from forestry rules. In one case, however, Dunleavy castigated “career federal employees” he said were intentionally sabotaging efforts to sell off parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.
“U.S. Fish and Wildlife career employees undermined seismic work this winter, so the sale will occur without valuable data, likely lowering the bids,” Dunleavy wrote. “These same U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees are working to undermine the lease sale.”
The governor attempted to appeal to Trump’s interests, saying drilling on the refuge was a “key element” to the president’s “goal of America to achieve energy dominance.”
Congress enabled the ANWR leasing as part of the tax reform Trump signed in 2017. Dunelavy suggested FWS employees are attempting to intentionally drag their feet on the process to delay the initial round of sales. The Bureau of Land Management, which is coordinating the leases with FWS, has proposed making more than 1 million acres available for leasing.
Opponents to the drilling, including some congressional Republicans, have voiced opposition to the Trump administration’s proposals, accusing the Interior Department of moving forward too quickly without sufficient consideration for detrimental impacts. FWS is currently analyzing the impacts of further seismic exploration by the oil industry to determine potential additional drilling sites.
Dunleavy’s allegations come as Interior has faced criticism for failing to disclose a series of memoranda that highlighted the unknown impacts of drilling in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain.
Molly Block, a spokeswoman for Interior, said concerns about the coastal region revolved around denning polar bears, but suggested BLM and FWS have gone "above and beyond" standard procedures. She added the department will "welcome public input" when proposed permits are made available.
"Under the Trump Administration, DOI is demonstrating how responsible energy development can happen hand in hand with conservation and wildlife protection," Block said. "We look forward to continuing to work closely with our state partners, including Governor Dunleavy." Block did not address questions specifically about Dunleavy's allegations.
Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, criticized Dunleavy for launching attacks on federal employees without evidence.
“These baseless accusations are viewed as threats to career civil servants,” Whitehouse said. “They are part of a coordinated campaign by the fossil fuel industry and their allies in government to question the loyalty of public servants who work hard to ensure that laws are followed and that government makes informed decisions.”
Whitehouse added Dunleavy’s comments were made in hopes the Trump administration would “silence” federal experts working on Arctic drilling efforts. Dunleavy's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Dunleavy also asked Trump for relief on BLM’s requirement for environmental impact assessments of an Alaska pipeline, Environmental Protection Agency regulations and restrictions on temporary visas for travelers with layovers in Alaska. The governor asked the president to tell the EPA he needed the agency “to be patient” with potential regulatory changes.
This story has been updated with comment from the Interior Department.
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