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

A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less
Jennifer A. Smith / Moment / Getty Images

By Brenda Ekwurzel

When temperatures hit the 80s Fahrenheit in May above latitude 40, sun-seekers hit the parks, lakes, and beaches, and thoughts turn to summer. By contrast, when temperatures lurk in the drizzly 40s and 50s well into flower season, northerners get impatient for summer. But when those 80-degree temperatures visit latitude 64 in Russia, as they just did, and when sleet disrupts Mother's Day weekend in May in Massachusetts, as it just did, thoughts turn to: what is going on here?

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Shrimp fishing along the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

By Paula Ezcurra and Octavio Aburto

Thousands of hydroelectric dams are under construction around the world, mainly in developing countries. These enormous structures are one of the world's largest sources of renewable energy, but they also cause environmental problems.

Read More Show Less
Activists in North Dakota confront pipeline construction activities. A Texas bill would impose steep penalties for such protests. Speak Freely / ACLU

By Eoin Higgins

A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would make protesting pipelines a third-degree felony, the same as attempted murder.

Read More Show Less
An Australian flag flutters in the wind in a dry drought-ridden landscape. Virginia Star / Moment / Getty Images

Australia re-elected its conservative governing Liberal-National coalition Saturday, despite the fact that it has refused to cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions or coal during its time in power, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Tree lined street, UK. Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

The UK government will fund the planting of more than 130,000 trees in English towns and cities in the next two years as part of its efforts to fight climate change, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
A tropical storm above Bangkok on Aug. 04, 2016. Hristo Rusev/ NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

First off: Bangkok Wakes to Rain, the intricately wrought, elegantly crafted debut novel by the Thai-American author Pitchaya Sudbanthad, isn't really about climate change. This tale set in the sprawling subtropical Thai capital is ultimately a kind of family saga — although its interconnected characters aren't necessarily linked by a bloodline. What binds them is their relationship to a small parcel of urban land on which has variously stood a Christian mission, an upper-class family house, and a towering condominium. All of the characters have either called this place home or had some other significant connection to it.

Read More Show Less
orn_france / iStock / Getty Images

By Susan McCabe, BSc, RD

Dioscorea alata is a species of yam commonly referred to as purple yam, ube, violet yam, or water yam.

Read More Show Less