A Super-Polluting $1.5 Billion Project in the Heart of a Roadless Wilderness
ConocoPhillips wants to build a 48-well, $1.5 billion oil field in Alaska near the village of Nuiqsut where Inupiat Native Americans live off the land and sea by hunting caribou, moose, seals and bowhead whale.
A proposed road for the project is on the eastern edge of a caribou range that some caribou cross during the annual fall migration. Construction of the wells could scare away caribou and wolves and wolverines.
“It’s disturbing to see the Trump administration pushing forward with an oil development that will cut across America’s largest roadless area,” said Miyoko Sakashita, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The drilling project will scar the land and pollute the air and water.”
The oil field would be in the National Petroleum Reserve, established in 1923 by former President Warren Harding. The reserve is the single largest parcel of public land in the United States, 10 times the size of Yellowstone and larger than Maine, South Carolina or 10 other states.
A 2013 land management plan established five areas across the nearly 23 million-acre reserve for special protection. One of those areas, the Colville River Special Area, where peregrine falcons nest, would be just 0.11 miles from the oil field.
The Bureau of Land Management put together a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed project using laxer standards after David Bernhardt, the Interior deputy secretary, rescinded policies that emphasized climate change and conservation. Bernhardt is a former lobbyist whose clients have included oil and gas companies.
The proposed oil field, Greater Mooses Tooth 2, would be near another development, Greater Mooses Tooth 1, where construction began in February 2017.
The Bureau of Land Management ordered ConocoPhillips to pay $8 million in mitigation payments for the first project under former President Barack Obama. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has criticized mitigation payments that companies make to offset negative environmental impacts.
“Some people would call it extortion,” Zinke said. “I call it un-American.”
About 450 people live in Nuiqsut about 18 miles from the Beaufort Sea. The village was re-established in 1973 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which created Alaska’s system of native corporations.
Featured image: Prudhoe Bay oil production area (by Gary Baarsch, WorldViewofGlobalWarming.org)