Quantcast

Army Corps OKs Access to Alaskan Oil Reserve

Insights + Opinion

Conoco Phillips was issued a key federal permit (under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dec. 19 to begin work on the first-ever commercial oil well in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

According to an Army Corps press release about the project, the modified wetlands-fill permit authorizes construction of a drill pad, six-mile long access road, four bridge crossings, two valve pads with access roads and new pipeline support structures connecting its CD-5 project with the Alpine oil field on state land just east of the petroleum reserve. It also includes 22 conditions intended to minimize the impact on the environment within the Arctic Coastal Plain. In addition, Conoco Phillips agreed to pay mitigation fees to the Conservation Fund to compensate for unavoidable losses to aquatic resources.

Here's the Corps' fact sheet about the permit.

Initially, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service objected to a bridge and a pipeline that the energy giant has wanted to build over the Colville River to reach its leases in the 23-million-acre North Slope reserve. The decision by the Alaskan District of the Corps comes two weeks after these agencies removed their objection.


The petroleum reserve on the North Slope was originally created by President Warren Harding in 1923 and covers 23 million acres—an area slightly smaller than the state of Indiana. As of July, the reserve had 310 authorized oil and gas leases totaling more than three million acres. A federal lease sale Dec. 7 took high bids of $3 million for 141,739 more acres. This project is expected to be the first in a chain of small oil fields in the NPR-A that would feed into the Conoco Phillips-operated Alpine field on state land.

In October 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated there were nearly 900 million barrels of oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas within NPR-A and adjacent state waters. The oil estimate was about 90 percent less than what USGS had projected in 2002.

Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity in Anchorage, however, called it "another big gift to the oil companies" from President Obama's administration. "After initially finding that a bridge across the Colville River would not be the least environmentally damaging way for Conoco Phillips to access new oil fields in the NPRA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has flip-flopped," she said in an email to the Associated Press. "The Conoco Phillips bridge will go up in the heart of a rich ecosystem that harbors a wide variety of plants, fish, birds and mammals, including threatened polar bears and Steller's and spectacled eiders."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Supply boats beside Aberdeen Wind Farm on Aug. 4, 2018. Rab / CC BY 2.0

President Donald Trump doesn't like wind turbines.

In April, he claimed they caused cancer, and he sued to stop an offshore wind farm that was scheduled to go up near land he had purchased for a golf course in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. He lost that fight, and now the Trump Organization has agreed to pay the Scottish government $290,000 to cover its legal fees, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Read More Show Less