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Judge Pulls Brakes On Alaska Oil Project

An Alaska federal judge has ruled against the Willow project led by ConocoPhillips in Alaska, saying the Interior Department did a poor job of assessing the environmental impact of the project.

In the case brought against the Bureau of Land Management and Conoco by local environmental organization Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic and the Center for Biological Diversity, along with several other organizations, the judge granted some of the demands made by the plaintiffs, such as revoking the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the project.

“BLM’s exclusion of foreign greenhouse gas emissions in its alternatives analysis in the EIS was arbitrary and capricious,” Judge Sharon Gleason wrote, adding that “BLM acted contrary to law insofar as it developed its alternatives analysis based on the view that ConocoPhillips had the right to extract all possible oil and gas from its leases.”

The Bureau of Land Management approved the Willow project last October, with its head, Chad Padgett, saying at the time, “The project is an important job creator for families in Alaska, with more than 1,000 jobs expected during peak construction and more than 400 jobs during operations, creating more revenue for the State, and offering protections for important resource values such as caribou and subsistence activities.”

Not everyone was happy with this decision that could see Alaska’s oil output rise by some 160,000 bpd. Environmentalist organizations were vocally opposed to the decision, and lawsuits followed. Earlier this year, an appeals court blocked work on the $2-billion project, which then got an unexpected supporter: President Biden’s administration.

“The project can’t move forward without a significant amount of redoing,” said one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, adding that the ruling could be an “opportunity to actually engage in a process that complies with the law and honors the campaign promises of making science-based decisions and protecting biodiversity and taking the concerns of Indigenous populations seriously,” per the Washington Post.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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