The U.S. Department of the Interior has rescheduled an Augusta public meeting on potential oil and gas exploration in the North Atlantic for March 7.

A Jan. 22 meeting by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was postponed because of the disruption caused by the recent three-day federal government shutdown. The bureau now plans to hold the open-forum-style meeting at the Augusta Civic Center from 3 to 7 p.m. on March 7.

The bureau also will hold public meetings Feb. 27 in Boston and March 5 in Concord, New Hampshire.

On Jan. 4, the Trump administration signaled a major shift in energy policy when it proposed allowing exploration for oil and gas all along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines for the first time in decades. Under the five-year draft plan, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would offer 47 potential lease sales to energy exploration companies nationwide, including two in the North Atlantic in 2021 and 2023.

The plans, however, have encountered strong bipartisan opposition. All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have come out against oil or gas drilling in the North Atlantic. Maine Gov. Paul LePage has yet to take a position on the proposal, although he supported the Interior Department’s decision to include the North Atlantic in the initial plan with the expectation that areas will be excluded because of potential impacts to tourism or fisheries.

The bureau is holding roughly two dozen public meetings across the country. Rather than a public hearing, the meetings are an “open-house format” in which participants can arrive any time to speak with federal representatives and scrutinize the displays.

For more information, go to: www.boem.gov/National-Program-Participate/.

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