Ignoring once more the existential necessity of keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to a global energy system powered by renewable sources, the Trump administration on Wednesday delivered another major victory for Big Oil by quietly approving a Texas company’s plan to drill in federal Arctic waters six miles off the coast of Alaska.
Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity, denounced the plan developed by Hilcorp Energy as a “disaster waiting to happen” and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that the project doesn’t move forward.
“This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic,” Monsell said in a statement after Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke approved Hilcorp’s plan. “We’ll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow. We won’t passively watch the oil industry and this inept administration harm Arctic wildlife and leave a legacy of climate chaos.”
If completed, Hilcorp’s so-called “Liberty Project” would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska and is expected to produce as many as 70,000 barrels of crude oil per day at peak production.
“As the Arctic warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet, it is irresponsible to permit new oil development that will only exacerbate the problem of climate change,” said Dan Ritzman, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands, Water, Wildlife Campaign. “Not only will expanded offshore drilling threaten our climate, the Liberty development will also threaten a unique region of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that supports a rare diversity of wildlife.”
“Rather than pushing for new development to benefit their friends in the fossil fuel industry,” Ritzman concluded, “Ryan Zinke and the Department of the Interior should be leading the way towards a clean energy economy which would protect our climate and our oceans.”
On top of highlighting the catastrophic effects continued oil and gas drilling will have on the climate in the very near future, environmentalists also issued dire warnings that Hilcorp’s project could also pose an immediate threat to the Arctic waters and wildlife, given the company’s well-documented history of spills and “regulatory noncompliance.”
“In December 2017, Hilcorp Alaska discovered crude oil leaking from a subsea pipeline that connected a pair of oil production platforms in the Cook Inlet,” the Washington Post reported. “Nine months before that discovery, the Coast Guard was dispatched to investigate a Hilcorp oil leak from an abandoned well head in the Gulf of Mexico. A news release by the Coast Guard reported ‘an estimated 840 gallons of crude oil in the water.’”
Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity warned that “an oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up and the region is already stressed by climate change.”
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