Federal regulators have issued a mixed ruling on Conoco Phillip's embattled plan to access a proposed drill site on its oil leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The drill site would be a satellite of the oil company's Alpine oil field near Nuiqsut. If developed, it would be the first commercial oil production from NPR-A.
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers struck a major blow to the project. The Corps said the project, which involved building a road and bridge across the Colville River, would violate the Clean Water Act because it wasn't the least environmentally damaging, feasible alternative. A pipeline buried under the Colville River was a less harmful way to move oil and other liquids between the NPR-A drill site to Alpine, the agency said.
The decision prompted an outcry from Alaska oil boosters, the Alaska congressional delegation and Gov. Sean Parnell, who argued in favor of the project, citing the prospect of new jobs and new oil for the trans-Alaska pipeline.
Conoco Phillips filed an administrative appeal of the permit denial. In a Dec. 2 decision, the agency's review officer rejected some of the company's arguments but agreed to remand several aspects of the appeal back to the agency's district office in Alaska.
Conoco Phillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman told Petroleum News last week that the company is still reviewing the decision and evaluating its options.
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