Conservation groups sue US to halt oil project in Alaska

A side view of a polar bear in snow
A polar bear in Arctic Alaska. (Photo Credit: Terry Debruyne/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Conservation groups are suing the Trump administration to halt the approval of a development plan for a ConocoPhillips oil project in Alaska, arguing that officials underestimated the plan’s harm to local wildlife.

The groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Interior Department, under which the agencies fall.

Groups involved in the lawsuit include the Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club.

They also claim the federal land bureau failed to provide a plan to mitigate harm to Arctic communities and public health, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska involves multiple drill sites, a processing facility and gravel roads and pipelines. The Trump administration approved the plan in October.

The Bureau of Land Management said the project could produce up to 160,000 oil barrels daily, or 600 million barrels over 30 years and would help boost state revenue in Alaska.

The agency in a statement Wednesday said it stands by its environmental analysis for the development.

“Our science-based decisions are legally compliant and based on an extensive process involving input from BLM career subject matter experts and the public. The BLM continues to implement its multiple-use mission and safely and responsibly develop its natural resources,” the agency said.

ConocoPhillips has said production could start by the mid-2020s.

Natalie Lowman, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips Alaska, told The Associated Press that the company does not comment on ongoing litigation. The conservation groups do not name ConocoPhillips as a defendant in their lawsuit.

Conservation groups said the project is a threat to the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, a complex in the 36,000 square-mile reserve that supports birds and caribou. The groups said the oil project could negatively affect polar bears.