Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Arctic Oil Drilling Project Approved by Trump Administration

Popular
A drilling project off Alaska will be located in a polar bear habitat. Roderick Eime / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Trump administration's unrelenting quest for Arctic oil and gas took a major step on Wednesday as it approved an energy company's controversial production plan.

Hilcorp Alaska received the green light 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 sensitive Beaufort Sea and threaten polar bears and Arctic communities.


Once built, it will be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke boasted Wednesday in a press release.

"American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security," Zinke said. "Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe."

Environmental worries about the Liberty Project are emphasized by Hilcorp's struggle last year 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.

"If this company can't prevent or stop a gas leak in the Cook Inlet, it has no business in the Beaufort Sea," Miyoko Sakashita, the oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote last year in a Medium post.

Hilcorp Gas Leak-Cook Inlet Feb 2017 www.youtube.com

The Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) appears confident of the safety and environmental impact of the new project:

BOEM used a rigorous evaluation process based on the best and most recent science available to evaluate the safety and environmental impacts of the Liberty Project. The plan was conditionally approved only after incorporating input from the public, and from North Slope communities and tribal organizations. As the project moves forward, BOEM will continue to work with Hilcorp to ensure all appropriate safeguards are stringently applied.

Approval conditions include: restricted drilling into the hydrocarbon-bearing zone, which may occur only during times of solid ice conditions; seasonal restrictions on activities and vessel traffic to reduce potential disturbance to Cross Island subsistence whaling activities; and obtaining all required permits from other state and federal agencies.

Dipika Kadaba / Center for Biological Diversity

However, the Center for Biological Diversity contends that 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."

"Opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling is a disaster waiting to happen" and will also be dangerous for the climate, Kristen Monsell, the organization's ocean legal director with the center, said in press release emailed to EcoWatch.

"This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic. An oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up and the region is already stressed by climate change," Monsell added. "We'll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow. We won't passively watch the oil industry and this inept administration harm Arctic wildlife and leave a legacy of climate chaos."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less