Judge overturns Trump-approved ConocoPhillips Alaska project

By Robert Burnson upon 8/19/2021

(Bloomberg) – The Trump administration’s approval of a ConocoPhillips oil field project on Alaska’s north slope was overturned by a federal judge who said it did not adequately protect polar bears and did not adequately consider the effects on climate change. .

Federal officials also did not adequately consider the potential damage from the Willow project to Lake Teshekpuk, US District Judge Sharon Gleason said in a 110-page ruling issued Wednesday night.

“The court recognizes that vacatur would have significant financial consequences for ConocoPhillips, which has already made a significant investment in Project Willow,” the judge wrote. “And it would have a negative impact on the many other stakeholders in the project.”

But Gleason, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, said the evidence leaned in favor of rescission of the approvals and referred the matter to the appropriate agencies for additional procedures consistent with his decision.

A spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips said the company would “review the decision and evaluate the options available with respect to this project.”

The Trump administration approved permits for the project last year after concluding that it would not harm the environment or wildlife. The Biden administration defended the project in court.

The Willow project is projected to produce more than 160,000 barrels of oil per day and about 586 million barrels over its 30-year life. Construction of the project has not started.

Environmentalists and Native Americans sued to halt the project, which they claimed would destroy polar bear and caribou habitat and forever alter the ecology of the North Slope.

The case is Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic v. Bureau of Land Management, 3: 20-cv-00290, US District Court, District of Alaska (Anchorage).

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