Arctic Village and Joe Balash

Joe Balash, left, walks toward a federal charter plane in June after a meeting between the Trump administration and tribal officials in Arctic Village, a Gwich’in community in Interior Alaska. At right is Chad Padgett, the top Bureau of Land Management official in Alaska. Balash was the Interior Department official leading the federal government’s planning process in advance of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Balash resigned from his federal oversight job in August to work for a Papua New Guinea oil company in Alaska. Photo by Nat Herz/Alaska’s Energy Desk

After resigning from the U.S Interior Department last month, Joe Balash has taken a position with Papua-New Guinea based oil exploration company Oil Search Ltd.

Balash, originally from North Pole, served as assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the Interior Department for about two years, during which he pushed forward the scoping process for oil exploration and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In the resignation letter he turned in to President Donald Trump on Aug. 20, Balash did not cite a reason for leaving the department, later telling Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin he was pursuing a new opportunity that he wouldn’t divulge at the time. 

Balash confirmed his new position with Oil Search Ltd. on Wednesday to the Washington Post but did not provide details about his role with the company as it works to expand its presence in Alaska.

In 2018, Oil Search took over production in an area of the North Slope called the Pikka Unit, which is made up of a combination of state and Native-owned land west of Prudhoe Bay. The area, once fully developed, could produce as much as 120,000 barrels of oil a day.

The former North Pole resident was confirmed to his position as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management in 2017, assigned to oversee the bureaus of Land Management and Ocean Energy Management. He previously served as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Balash also previously served as chief of staff for Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.