ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Trump administration Tuesday took a major step toward opening Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve — the largest roadless area in the United States — to new, industrial-scale oil development. The project threatens polar bears, caribou and migratory birds that live and travel through the ecologically rich reserve.
The Bureau of Land Management announced it would prepare a development plan and study for ConocoPhillips to build up to five new drill pads, 250 wells, roads and pipelines in the reserve at its Willow site.
“This massive oil project threatens one of the wildest, most beautiful places in America,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It will scar the land, harm wildlife and worsen climate change. We can’t let Trump allow the oil industry to suck the life out of this amazing place.”
The reserve is the single-largest parcel of public land in the United States at 23 million acres — larger than 12 states. The Willow project would be located within the Bear Tooth Unit of the Reserve, approximately 30 air miles west of the Native village of Nuiqsut.
In addition to the wells, roads and pipelines, the oil company would build and operate a processing facility, an infrastructure pad, an airstrip, a gravel mine and a temporary island to support module delivery via sealift barges.
ConocoPhillips is also seeking to develop the Greater Moose’s Tooth Unit, located just east of the Bear Tooth Unit.
BLM is accepting public comments on scoping for an environmental impact statement until Sept. 6. The agency’s announcement states that the EIS will be prepared in accordance with President Trump’s executive orders on minimizing National Environmental Policy Act review and other regulatory requirements.
“Drilling and fracking the Arctic is dirty and dangerous business. Shortcutting environmental analysis raises the risk of oil spills and other pollution,” Monsell said. “Skirting comprehensive review to drill hundreds of oil wells on Alaska’s rugged, unpredictable northern frontier is a recipe for disaster.”