The State Intervenes in Federal Lawsuits that Challenge Willow Project and Opposes Effort to Stop Construction
March 27, 2023
The State will oppose the related preliminary injunction motions on Willow. A U.S. District Court judge is expected to rule in April on whether to halt construction.
“Despite the smaller footprint of the project and the track record of safe and responsible energy development in Alaska, environmental groups still aren’t satisfied. This is a poster child for them, but it is jobs, infrastructure, and healthy communities for Alaskans. You see the Congressional Delegation, the Legislature and the State Administration coming together on this one. We all understand the importance of defending this project.” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor.
If Willow proceeds and produces according to projections, up to $4 billion is estimated to go into a development impact mitigation fund for grants for Alaska residents living near the development.
The State filed March 23rd in U.S. District Court for Alaska to join the case with defendants ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc, the North Slope Borough, Arctic Regional Slope Corporation (ASRC), and Kuukpik Corporation. The State serves the broader interests of the residents of the State as a sovereign landowner in the development of natural resources.
“Producers in some countries don’t have Alaska’s high standards for the environment and human rights. Outside environmental groups are interfering in a project that has had rigorous environmental studies. They’re meddling in a region that continues to have healthy caribou and subsistence harvests after 20 years of Alpine’s operations,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. “The revenues from oil and gas development proposed for Willow would bring billions of dollars in State and local taxes and in grants to North Slope communities. The plaintiffs’ challenges could result in the loss of those revenues.”
Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic and the Center for Biological Diversity Plaintiffs challenge the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) record of decision (“ROD”) on the Willow Master Development Plan (“MDP”) and related federal actions. The Willow MDP authorizes ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. to construct and operate infrastructure necessary to allow production and transportation to market of oil and gas from ConocoPhillips’ leases in the Bear Tooth Unit, commonly known as the Willow Project, in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (“NPR-A”). The Willow Plan followed from years of robust environmental studies and public comment opportunities, the brief states.
Under the National Petroleum Reserves Production Act, the federal government is required to pay to the State fifty percent of the revenues received from the “sales, rentals, bonuses, and royalties on leases issued . . .” in the NPR-A. In turn, the State is required in the allocation of the funds “to give priority to use by subdivisions of the State most directly or severely impacted by development of oil and gas leased there. The State implements that allocation through annual appropriations from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska special revenue fund to award grants, commonly known as the NPR-A Impact Grant Program, to communities to mitigate the impact of development and provide vital infrastructure to these rural communities. The State has awarded more than $200 million in grants from the fund to communities. The State is estimated to receive $2 billion to $4 billion for the fund from the Willow Project leases.
This case could deprive the State of billions in much needed revenues to support rural communities and infrastructure necessary to maintain healthy communities and subsistence lifestyles.
“Substantial new employment opportunities for Alaskans would be jeopardized by a restraining order that stops work on the Willow Project,” said Acting Commissioner of Labor Cathy Munoz. “Up to 2,500 construction jobs and some 300 permanent jobs are at risk for a region that has lost some 4,500 oil and gas jobs in the last seven years. Willow will add jobs that are critical to the economy of the North Slope and Alaska.”