A federal appeals panel has halted work at one of Alaska’s biggest proposed North Slope oil fields, putting dozens of contractors out of work and costing ConocoPhillips, the project’s developer, millions of dollars.
In a last-minute push, the Trump administration announced Thursday that it will auction off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in just over a month, setting up a final showdown with opponents before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Development in the Arctic is booming as the global climate warms and ice melts. But environmental opposition has come along with it, making some big banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase more reticent about investing.
A judge ruled that an environmental review of ConocoPhillips’ exploration work did not violate federal conservation laws, as the Nuiqsut tribal government and environmental groups alleged.
Arctic Slope Regional Corp. has long been one of the most aggressive advocates for opening ANWR to oil development.
Armstrong Oil and Gas, which found and then sold a massive field on Alaska’s North Slope, just bought up about 1 million acres in oil leases in the National Petroleum Reserve.
On the block are old, new and unbuilt projects: the Kuparuk River Unit, which is Alaska’s second-largest oil field; the newer Alpine unit to the west; and the undeveloped Willow prospect in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
A major proposed North Slope oil project is running into local opposition from residents of the village of Nuiqsut, who are already partially surrounded by development and wary of more.
The goal now appears out of reach because of two procedural steps still necessary before a sale can take place.
Democrats in Washington, D.C., are still hoping to block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The latest attempt surfaced at a U.S. House committee meeting.