Quantcast

Trump Administration Sued Over Controversial Arctic Drilling Project

Energy
The planned Liberty Project is an artificial gravel island to allow oil drilling in the Arctic. Hilcorp / BOEM

Conservation groups are suing the Trump administration to halt construction of a controversial oil production facility in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters.

Hilcorp Alaska received the green light from the Interior Department in October to build the Liberty Project, a nine-acre artificial drilling island and 5.6-mile underwater pipeline, which environmentalists warn could risk oil spills in the ecologically sensitive area, threaten Arctic communities and put local wildlife including polar bears at risk.


In the lawsuit filed Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife and Pacific Environment—all represented by the environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice—claim the administration's approval violated federal laws and ignores the causes and effects of climate change.

"We can't let this reckless administration open the Arctic to offshore oil drilling. It threatens Arctic wildlife and communities and will only make climate chaos worse around the world," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release. "Liberty is the bad step down a very dangerous path. An oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up in a region already stressed by climate change."

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth, and the region's air temperatures in the past five years between 2014-2018 have exceeded all previous records since 1900, government scientists warned in a report earlier this month.

Ironically, the Liberty Project has already been delayed because of the effects of climate change. The region's unusual warmth has resulted in unstable land-fast sea ice, meaning that the ice simply isn't thick enough to transport construction materials.

Furthermore, when the administration approved the Liberty Project, it did not "account for climate-change impacts already happening in the Arctic like permafrost melt, sea-ice melt and increasing storms that make this an exceedingly dangerous prospect and increase the potential for oil spills," said Rebecca Noblin, staff attorney with Earthjustice, in the release.

"This danger is even more worrisome given Hilcorp's appalling record of safety and environmental violations," Kevin Harun, Arctic program director at Pacific Environment, noted in the release.

Last year, Hilcorp struggled to fix a natural gas leak from its underwater pipeline in Alaska's Cook Inlet. For nearly four months, the ruptured pipeline released roughly 200,000 cubic feet of methane a day into the inlet.

Additionally, Hilcorp has been the most heavily fined oil company in Alaska in recent years, with state regulators writing "disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations."

The Trump administration is aggressively pursuing Arctic oil and gas development. In October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted Hilcorp's oil and gas project as part of his plan for "American energy dominance."

"In a rush to drill for oil in Alaska's pristine Arctic coastlines, Donald Trump is flouting the law and endangering some of the most delicate coastlines in the world," said Marcie Keever, legal director with Friends of the Earth, in the press release. "This project is just one in a series of giveaways to oil companies looking to enrich their CEOs and investors on America's public lands and waters. Drilling for new oil off our shorelines and on our public lands, especially in the Arctic, puts the health of our children and their future on this planet into jeopardy."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More