Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 26, 2018

Trump Administration Approves Offshore Oil Drilling Project In Arctic

Center for Biological Diversity News Release

Liberty Project OK’d as Officials Seek to Expand Offshore Leasing, Relax Drilling Safety Rules

ANCHORAGE— The Trump administration today approved the first Arctic offshore oil drilling development in federal waters. Hilcorp Alaska received approval to build the controversial Liberty project, an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline that risks oil spills in the sensitive Beaufort Sea and threatens polar bears and Arctic communities.

The Trump administration is also in the process of drastically expanding offshore oil leasing in the Arctic and other U.S. oceans and relaxing offshore drilling safety regulations adopted in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, including special Arctic drilling rules President Obama adopted for these remote and treacherous waters.

“Opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “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.”

The Liberty project involves construction of a nine-acre artificial island with a 24-acre footprint in about 20 feet of water and a 5.6-mile pipeline under Arctic waters to send the oil into onshore pipelines.

Concerns about Hilcorp’s ability to build and manage the project were heightened last year when its underwater gas pipeline in Alaska’s Cook Inlet leaked for nearly four months because the company said the presence of sea ice prevented its repair.

Hilcorp has been aggressively expanding its Alaska fossil fuel holdings, spending more than $3 million to lease 14 new Cook Inlet tracts in federal waters in June 2017. 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.”

Hilcorp has applied for federal permits to harm whales, seals and other imperiled Arctic marine mammals during the project’s construction and operation. Noise from the project will disrupt essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding. It can also mask the communications of bowhead, gray and beluga whales. Construction of the ice roads that would be used to support activities offshore has the potential to kill ringed seals.

“We’ll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow,” Monsell said. “We won’t passively watch the oil industry and this inept administration harm Arctic wildlife and leave a legacy of climate chaos.”


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