Joe Balash

Joe Balash


  • B.A., Government & Politics, Pacific University Oregon (2001). [1]
  • Duquesne University (1993). [1]


Joseph “Joe” Balash formerly served as the Chief of Staff to Senator Dan Sullivan and is the former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. He was nominated by President Donald Trump to become Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Land and Mineral Management. [2]

Ryan Zinke welcomed Balash into the Department of the Interior (DOI). “I am so glad we finally have an Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals! It’s been a while,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Zinke. “Joe has waited a very long time, and we look forward to his experience being brought to the table at our next meeting. […]” [3]

Balash worked at the Alaska Governor’s office for the duration that Sarah Palin was governor, and at the beginning of Sean Parnell’s governorship. [1]

Stance on Climate Change

October 2017

“I believe climate change is not a hoax and that man has an influence,” Balash said, as reported in Alaska Public Media. [4]

Key Quotes

February 12, 2018

Speaking of the proposed repeal of methane rules that would regulate emissions from oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands, Balash said: [5]

“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations, not punitive regulations.” Balash added, “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”

September 11, 2014

Balash travelled along with representatives from the BP oil company regarding Alaska’s LNG Project. [6]

 “These were BP’s meetings. They set them up and handled the invitations, and we were invited to come along,” Balash said. “There is a lot of confusion in Asia about Alaska and the opportunities here, so we felt it was important to do this with BP and for us to be seen standing alongside each other. It’s an important way of demonstrating alignment,” Balash said in an interview.

Key Deeds

February 2019

Speaking at an event hosted by the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Balash told attendees that the Trump administration would soon be pushing for large coastal areas of the Atlantic Ocean to be opened up for oil and gas exploration. [17]

Balash provided a revealing take on how the administration’s bureaucrats are able to enact significant policy moves with minimized public scrutiny:

One of the things that I have found absolutely thrilling in working for this administration is the president has a knack for keeping the attention of the media and the public focused somewhere else while we do all the work that needs to be done on behalf of the American people.” [17]

He assured the association’s members that the Trump administration was doing everything in its power to assist the fossil fuel industry:

We have been working aggressively to put America on track to achieve the president’s vision for energy dominance.” [17]

August 7, 2018

Balash spoke at the Heartland Institute‘s “America First Energy Conference” (AFEC 2018) in New Orleans, Louisiana. [16]

The purpose of this event is to promote and expand energy freedom in the United States, as outlined in President Donald Trump’s bold America First Energy Plan, a proposal first released during the 2016 presidential campaign. The president’s plan marks a decisive change in direction from the Obama administration’s ‘war on fossil fuels’ and focus on the theory of catastrophic man-caused climate change,” the conference description reads[7]

Balash delivered the group’s closing keynote speech on August 7, The Washington Examiner reported. [8]

April 20, 2018

At an Arctic-focused symposium that coincided with the anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010—Balash previewed an upcoming decision for Hilcorp’s Liberty project, saying he expected a final decision later that year. “Given where oil priorities are today, I’m assuming that would be an affirmative decision,” he said, “that would be supportive of that kind of activity.” The drilling project was later overturned by a federal court. [18]

When questioned, he emphasized that the decision had not yet been made on the project, and “Ultimately, the decision on whether to go forward with the decision is going to be based on the law and regulations, not our feelings toward the applicant.”

He went on to defend Hilcorp’s record, including a 2017 underwater methane gas leak from a Hilcorp pipeline in Cook Inlet. [19]

Hilcorp had a number of violations and spills since it began operating in Alaska in 2012. In a November 2015 report, first reported at Inside Climate News, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission wrote of Hilcorp: [20]

The disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp’s approach to its Alaska operations and virtually assured the occurrence of this violation. Hilcorp’s conduct is inexcusable.”

At the 2018 symposium, Balash boasted he had played a role in bringing Hilcorp to Alaska while he worked as commissioner for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). [18]

I’m familiar with Hilcorp,” he said. “As DNR commissioner, I helped bring them to Alaska.” [18]

He described his work in Alaska, according to a transcript of the event reviewed by DeSmog: “I’m involved day-to-day in the work that’s being done here,” Balash told the group of Alaska oil and gas industry representatives. “Which is a little unusual for an assistant secretary to spend this amount of time on.” [18]

Balash was later featured in the Department of Interior’s press release announcing approval for Hilcorp’s Liberty drilling project in Arctic waters. That press release commented on the government’s “rigorous evaluation process based on the best and most recent science available.” [21]

Using input from North Slope communities, tribal organizations, and the public, we have developed a robust set of environmental mitigation measures and safety practices that will be applied to this project,” Balash said in the statement. [21]

September 2016

Balash was among DNR staff members who signed an initial finding giving Caelus Energy preliminary approval. The proposed royalty reductions would likely be worth about $75 million to Caelus Energy, Anchorage Daily News reported. [9]

September 2014

Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Balash had “accompanied BP officials to Asia on the first formal sales trip for the giant project.” Balash also met in Seoul with KOGAS, Korea’s natural gas company. The meetings were with regards to the Alaska LNG Project, to “demonstrate the alignment between Alaska and the producer companies.” [10]

“These were BP’s meetings. They set them up and handled the invitations, and we were invited to come along,” Balash said. [10]

“There is a lot of confusion in Asia about Alaska and the opportunities here, so we felt it was important to do this with BP and for us to be seen standing alongside each other. It’s an important way of demonstrating alignment,” Balash said in an interview. [10]

Balash was reportedly set to also accompany BP officials on tour of an LNG project in China. [10]


While working as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Balash claimed about 20,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be used for oil and gas leasing. [11]

Our hope is that BLM will move quickly to convey the lands so we can offer them for leasing,” Balash said.

I’m pleased we are now able to award these leases to the 2011 bidders and clarify the acreage that is available for oil and gas exploration in this highly prospective area,” he said of the lease awards.

Our next step is to determine how the state’s assertion will affect existing leases on (other) tidal and submerged lands along the ANWR boundary.” [11]

May 2013

Balash was described as “one of the key players on Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill to lower oil taxes” as well as taxes on natural gas policy. Alaska Public Media reported Balash also reportedly attended LNG17, a conference that’s billed as this year’s “biggest global gas event.” [12]

Governor Sean Parnell had said that the TransCanada and North Slope oil producers were at the “preliminary front end engineering design” as of summer 2013. [12]

That’s a lot of words to say actually doing the math and understanding what it’s going to take to physically put together the pipe,” said Balash. [12]

August 22, 2013

Balash filed an appeal to the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its decision to bar the state from seismic studies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, E&E News reported. [13]

June 16, 2011

Balash testified before Congress to support a bill that would “expedite oil and gas leasing and energy infrastructure permitting” in Alaska’s Natural Petroleum Reserve. Some criticized the bill, saying it could “imperil sensitive habitats for birds and caribou.” [14], [15]


  • Senator Dan Sullivan — Chief of Staff (Dec 2014 – Oct 2017). [1]
  • Alaska Department of Natural Resources — Commissioner (Nov 2013 – Dec 2014); Deputy Commissioner (Dec 2010–Nov 2013). [1]
  • Office of the Governor, State of Alaska — Special Assistant (Dec 2006 – Dec 2010). [1]
  • Alaska State Legislature — Committee Aide (Jan 1998 – Dec 2006). [1]

Social Media


Balash has testified before Senate regarding oil and gas exploration on public lands in Alaska. [14]


  1. Joe Balash,” LinkedIn. Accessed July 24, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  2. President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts,” The White House, July 19, 2017. Archived August 11, 2017. URL:
  3. Alaska’s Joe Balash Confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management,” U.S. Department of Interior, December 7, 2017. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  4. Liz Ruskin. “How Trump nominees talk about climate; what it means for Alaska,” Alaska Public Media, October 10, 2017. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  5. Timothy Cama. “Overnight Energy: Trump budget targets EPA, Interior for cuts | Trump eyes environmental review changes | Officials want to repeal most of methane rule,” The Hill, February 12, 2018. URL:
  6. Balash heads to Japan with BP to market LNG,” Alaska Journal of Commerce, September 11, 2014. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  7. About,” America First Energy Conference 2018. Archived July 23, 2018. URL:
  8. John Siciliano and Josh Siegel. “Daily on Energy: Environmentalists savage Brett Kavanaugh, ‘the new Scott Pruitt’,” Washington Examiner, July 18, 2018.
  9. Legislators to review proposed North Slope royalty relief for new field,” Anchorage Daily News, November 27, 2014. Archived July 24, 2018.
  10. Balash heads to Japan with BP to market LNG,” Alaska Journal of Commerce, September 11, 2014. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  11. Tim Bradner. “State claims 20,000 acres on edge of ANWR,” Alaska Journal of Commerce, October 22, 2014. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  12. Parnell Administration Shifts Focus From Oil To Natural Gas,Alaska Public Media, May 2, 2013. Archived July 24, 2018. URL
  13. Alaska urges Obama admin to reconsider ANWR seismic studies,” E&E News, August 22, 2013. Archived July 24, 2018. URL:
  14. Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources” (PDF), House Committee on Natural Resources . Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  15. Phil Taylor. “Obama admin objects to Alaska development bill,” E&E News, June 16, 2011. Archived June 24, 2018. URL:
  16. Speakers,” America First Energy Conference 2018. Archived August 1, 2018. URL:
  17. Jimmy Tobias. “US official reveals Atlantic drilling plan while hailing Trump’s ability to distract public,” The Guardian, March 14, 2019. Archived March 14, 2019. URL:
  18. Ashley Braun. “Alaska Drilling Project Squashed By Court Decision Was Touted By Oil-Friendly Former Trump Official,” DeSmog, December 10, 2020.
  19. Sabrina Shankman. “Natural Gas Leak in Cook Inlet Stopped, Effects on Marine Life Not Yet Known,” Inside Climate News, April 15, 2017. Archived January 4, 2021. Archive URL:
  20. Sabrina Shankman. “As Hilcorp Plans to Drill in Arctic Waters, a Troubling Trail of Violations Surfaces,” Inside Climate News, August 10, 2017. Archived January 4, 2021. Archive URL:
  21. (Press Release). “Interior Approves Long-Awaited First Oil Production Facility in Federal Waters Offshore Alaska,” U.S. Department of Interior. October 24, 2018. Archived January 5, 2021. Archive URL

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