JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge has denied requests made by conservation groups that lobbied for the courts to block ConocoPhillips from starting construction on its new Willow oil field.
Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups sued the Trump administration in 2020 and argued the federal government violated environmental laws when it approved the oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the western North Slope.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason on Monday denied the group’s request to pause construction until the lawsuits are resolved. One of Gleason’s reasons for denial included that the groups did not demonstrate that polar bears would likely suffer “irreparable injury” if the construction work was allowed while she considered the lawsuits, KTOO-FM reported.
The conservationists have appealed the judge’s decision and the lawsuits will continue as planned.
“We are hopeful that the court will put us back on the right path and stop the Trump administration’s last-minute effort to allow work on this environmentally reckless project to begin,” said Earthjustice attorney Jeremy Lieb in a statement.
ConocoPhillips will employ about 120 people to work on the project this winter, said spokeswoman Rebecca Boys. The company said it expects to begin producing oil from the field in about 2026.
Willow would be the North Slope’s westernmost oil field. ConocoPhillips has said that the field would be able to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak.