ENVIRONMENT

Ex-Trump Official Who Pushed For Arctic Drilling To Join Oil Company

Joe Balash, who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands, had encouraged drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Congress in 2017 opened up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil development. A Shell oil drilling rig is
Congress in 2017 opened up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil development. A Shell oil drilling rig is seen in the Chukchi Sea.

Joe Balash, a former Trump official who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands, is joining a foreign oil company that’s expanding operations in Alaska.

News of Balash’s career move, first reported by The Washington Post, follows his resignation on Friday as assistant secretary for land and minerals management, a role he served in for nearly two years.

Balash will join the Papua New Guinea-based company Oil Search as senior vice president for external affairs for its Alaska location, a representative told HuffPost. 

“Joe is a proud Alaskan and brings significant regulatory and external affairs experience to Oil Search, a company relatively new to operating in the United States,” Keiran Wulff, president of Oil Search Alaska, said in a statement.

Oil Search purchased land in Alaska’s North Slope in 2018 that includes the Nanushuk field. The company’s website describes the Nanushuk field as being one of the largest conventional onshore oil discoveries in the past 30 years.

A polar bear sow and two cubs are seen on the Beaufort Sea coast within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Joe Balash
A polar bear sow and two cubs are seen on the Beaufort Sea coast within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Joe Balash had advocated for drilling here.

Balash, in an interview with the Post, said he will not be lobbying his former agency, part of a Trump administration ethics pledge that bars appointees from lobbying their former agencies for five years. Instead, he said: “I’ll supervise those who do.”

“I have a ton of restrictions dealing with the Department of Interior. Most of Oil Search’s properties are state lands. There isn’t really the federal nexus,” Balash added.

Balash had been one of the Trump administration’s biggest advocates for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a portion of which Congress voted to open for oil development under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Balash’s resignation follows a similar path taken by former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who took a consulting position with a coal company after resigning last summer amid corruption allegations. In April, he registered as a lobbyist with Indiana regulators, the Indy Star reported.

This article has been updated to include  a comment from Oil Search Alaska.

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