Denial of ConocoPhillips'
permit by Corps of Engineers causes outrage
February 08, 2010
(SitNews) - The US Army Corps of Engineers denied ConocoPhillips'
application to build the bridges over the Colville River, in
a decision Friday, saying other alternatives would meet overall
project goals while better preserving marine wildlife.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell
was outraged with the Corps of Engineers ruling. In a prepared
statement released Saturday, the Governor said, "Just in
the last six months, we've fought the federal government for
tying up Outer Continental Shelf leasing, and for adding bureaucratic
nightmares and costs with Endangered Species Act listings and
critical habitat area designations. We've seen the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency
show reluctance to approve anything related to jobs in Alaska."
"And then -- first, by
delay, and now, through their decision -- the Corps of Engineers
continues to set back our nation's chances for economic recovery,
domestic energy production, and Alaskans' prospects for jobs."
said Gov. Parnell.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska),
reacted Friday to the Obama administration's denial of Conoco
Phillips' permit to construct a bridge that would allow access
to what would have been the first oil and gas lease in Alaska's
National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA). The US Army Corps of Engineers
is insisting the company instead use directional drilling for
Murkowski said in a prepared statement, "For decades, those
who oppose developing ANWR or Alaska's offshore fields have continually
cited the 23 million-acre NPRA as the area where development
should occur instead. If a producer cannot get across the Colville
River, however, NPRA's resources are effectively off-limits."
"I am alarmed and amazed by this short-sighted decision,
which totally ignores the economics of future energy development
in all of northern Alaska," Murkowski said. "Directional
drilling can work in ANWR because the oil is concentrated in
the northwest corner. That is an entirely different situation
than the vast and widely distributed deposits in the NPRA, however,
and the administration knows it."
While the one oil deposit that Conoco is trying to access may
be within reach of directional drilling, the known deposits that
are next in line for development are more than 10 miles away
from existing infrastructure and far outside of the technological
scope of extended reach drilling. The bridge and the related
pipelines are essential for additional oil and gas development
from the petroleum reserve said Murkowski.
"If allowed to stand, this myopic decision will kill all
future oil development from the nation's largest designated petroleum
reserve and probably stop all future natural gas production from
the area as well," Murkowski said. "The loss of energy
potential is staggering for the nation and it would happen for
absolutely no environmentally sound reason."
"America is dangerously reliant on foreign oil. Restricting
access to even more of our domestic resources is simply unacceptable,"
Although Conoco Phillips may
reapply for the permit, it is clear that they have lost another
drilling season because of this regulatory overreach said. Murkowski.
U. S. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
said in a prepared statement Friday, "Today's announcement
by the Army Corps that Conoco-Phillips' permit is not approved
is obviously disappointing to me and the many Alaskans who are
eager to develop the oil and gas potential in the NPRA. Conoco-Phillips
had already announced they wouldn't be able to proceed with development
Begich said, "After the
parties worked together for years to get agreement on NPRA development,
I am deeply disappointed the first project just got knocked off
Begich said, "I hope that
in the coming months both the company and the permitting agencies
can work together to get this valuable project moving forward
both economically and in an environmentally responsible way."
"This decision shows that
Alaska needs a comprehensive plan to allow development in the
NPRA to happen expeditiously and responsibly," said Begich.
Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), and Alaska House
Resources Committee Co-Chair Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), were
also outraged by the decision.
"Conoco has permits for exploration in NPR-A. The last remaining
obstacle was the bridge permit for the Colville River. This is
a project that garnered widespread support from the outlying
communities, within the industry, and stood to finally open up
the reserve for development," Speaker Chenault said in a
prepared statement. "Today's [Friday] action is another
example of administrative obstruction and sets back development
for the near term.
"The companies have a long track record of compliance with
the permitting process, and have an approved Environmental Impact
Statement for the development in the Colville River Delta,"
Speaker Chenault added. "That the Corps took nearly five
years to rule is unbelievable in and of itself."
"It's another sign that Alaska's clearly not open for business,
through no fault of our own," Johnson said in a prepared
statement. "Today's [Friday's] decision by the Corps sends
a terrible message to companies who want to help open up the
known reserves on federal lands. They had drilling and exploration
permits. They had a road permit. They worked with the government
to get this far only to meet resistance from an unresponsive
federal bureaucracy. The move means development needs of the
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System will have to be met on state land
or through renewed development and production at Prudhoe Bay
"I was disappointed to read that there was a delay last
month, and I am shocked by today's action," Johnson added.
"That's half a billion dollars of development lost. That's
a lot of jobs for Alaskans and revenue for ARSC and the region.
The work was pushed back a year due to company concerns, but
now the concern is on any development, period, going forward.
That's bad news for Alaska."
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers'
Alaska District found that issuing a permit for the applicant's
proposal is not in compliance with 404 (b)(1) guidelines, which
states "that no discharge of dredged or fill material shall
be permitted if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed
discharge which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic
ecosystem, so long as the alternative does not have other significant
adverse environmental consequences".
Other alternatives with less
environmental impacts could include horizontal directional drilling
but would require new permit applications. These alternatives
minimize impacts to the Colville River Delta, which is the largest
and most complex delta on the Arctic Coastal Plain and drains
nearly 30 percent of the North Slope. The delta serves as habitat
for approximately 80 species of birds, numerous fish, migrating
caribou, and is
within the subsistence hunting and fishing areas of the village
of Nuiqsut. The delta also represents nearly 70 percent of overwintering
fish habitat within the North Slope.
Dow Jones reported that Houston-based
ConocoPhillips plans to appeal the decision, company spokeswoman
Natalie Lowman said Monday. She also said the company is "disappointed
with their decision."
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Alaska Governor Sean Parnell
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowksi
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers'
Alaska House Majority
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