ConocoPhillips’ large oil drilling project in Alaska has been blocked by a federal judge, after approval by both the Biden and Trump administrations.
The oil drilling project by oil giant ConocoPhillips, slated for Alaska’s North Slope, would potentially have produced over 100,000 barrels of oil a day for at least the next 30 years. Under the current oil price of $63.69 per barrel, that would be a gross production of nearly $70 billion.
The Trump administration originally approved the project, and the Biden administration defended its construction permits, but environmental groups sued in Alaska’s courts. They alleged that the federal government failed to sufficiently take into account the environmental affect the drilling and its infrastructure requirements would have on wildlife, and the additional impact the eventual burning of any fuel produced would have on global warming.
Federal Judge Sharon L. Gleason, U.S. District Court for Alaska, ruled on Thursday that the project was permitted without adequate consideration. Her ruling pointed specifically at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management’s exclusion of any mention of greenhouse case emissions in their environmental impact analysis. The exclusion was due to Trump-era executive orders removing climate-change considerations from the purview of the federal government.
Gleason called the exclusion “arbitrary and capricious.” Her ruling has entirely vacated the original approval of the project.
ConocoPhillips will have to begin the permitting process anew, with new broader environmental impact studies under the restored BLM regulations.
The project is intended to include up to 250 wells in the environmentally sensitive North Slope, an on-site processing facility and 2-3 refineries elsewhere, a gravel mine, an airstrip, and hundreds of miles of roads. ConocoPhillips’ plan included running giant chillers to re-freeze thawing permafrost around their drill sites, which would inevitably contribute to emissions and rising temperatures in Alaska, worsening the current thaw.
Photo: A view of Alaska’s North Slope from the Dalton Highway. Credit: Shutterstock