Lawsuit Challenges Approval of Offshore Oil Drilling Project in the Arctic

On 17 December, conservation groups filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government’s approval of the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters. Hilcorp Alaska received approval in October 2018 to build and operate the Liberty project, an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline in the Beaufort Sea.

The Liberty project involves construction of a nine-acre artificial island with a 24-acre footprint in about 20 feet of water and a 5.6-mile pipeline under Arctic waters to send the oil into onshore pipelines. Construction of the project has already been delayed by a lack of stable shoreline sea ice.

The Trump administration has proposed expanding offshore oil leasing in the Arctic and other U.S. oceans and relaxing offshore drilling safety regulations. The administration plans to offer another lease sale in the Beaufort Sea in 2019.

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, and Pacific Environment, all represented by Earthjustice. They say the Liberty approval violated federal laws and ignores the causes and effects of climate change.

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