08 September, 2006

Federal Judge blocks Alaskan oil drilling plan

EarthJustice won a temporary decision [pdf] against Dept of Interior's plans that would have opened more than 1.7 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve (under BLM management) to oil & gas leases, "including sensitive areas around Teshekpuk Lake, the largest and most biologically productive lake on the North Slope. The lake and the surrounding area have enjoyed special protection from oil drilling since the Reagan administration."
In the decision released today, US District Judge James Singleton, Jr. stated that the Department of Interior failed to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of widespread oil and gas drilling in the NPRA, a key point in conservation groups' arguments against the plan to lease the area around Teshekpuk Lake, and signaled that he intends to overrule the Department's plans for leasing the area.

"Having failed to fully consider the cumulative effects of the proposed development in NE [Northeast planning area of the] NPRA and the previously proposed action in the NWPA [Northwest NPRA planning area], Defendants have violated NEPA and abused their discretion," writes Judge Singleton in the preliminary decision, which was made public today. [snip]

. . . Alaska Native communities near the lake have voiced strong opposition to a federal plan to allow oil and gas drilling in the area around the lake, which is an important subsistence hunting and fishing ground.

The documentary Oil on Ice does a good job of laying out the issues of energy development on the North Slope. It's also an in-depth look at the disruption by the oil/gas industry of the traditional lifestyles of the Gwich’in Indian residents of Arctic Village, who rely on the migrating cariboo for subistence.


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