The Dec. 19 action culminates a nearly year-long review that included an analysis of engineering alternatives and supplemental technical information from state and federal agencies.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires ConocoPhillips to use the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.
The CD-5 permit authorizes construction of a drilling pad, a 6-mile access road, 4 bridge crossings, 2 valve pads with access roads, and new pipeline support structures.
The permit also includes 22 special conditions intended to minimize the impact to the environment within the Arctic Coastal Plain. ConocoPhillips also agreed to pay mitigation fees to the Conservation Fund to compensate for unavoidable losses to aquatic resources, the Corps said.
The Corps evaluated practicable alternatives that included underground and above-ground pipelines. Additional information from ConocoPhillips, along with opinions from government agencies, documented that an above-ground pipeline posed less of a risk of damage to the aquatic ecosystem in this particular case.
‘Quick and effective’
Col. Reinhard Koenig, commander of the Corps’s Alaska District, said the ConocoPhillips proposal “will provide year-round quick and effective pipeline monitoring, leak detection, and spill response.”
A spokeswoman in ConocoPhillips’s Anchorage office said that in coming months, ConocoPhillips plans to evaluate and incorporate the permit’s terms into the project plan.
Deputy US Interior Sec. David J. Hayes also noted issuance of a final permit will allow construction of pipelines and a bridge over the Niqliq River.
“The Department of the Interior will continue to work with industry to develop the abundant resources in the NPR-A—protecting critical habitat for millions of migratory birds and calving areas for the Teshekpuk Lake caribou and safeguarding Native Alaskans’ subsistence needs, while guiding sensible, productive energy exploration and development,” Koenig said.
Alaska government officials also expressed their approval. Gov. Sean Parnell said potential new production from the NPR-A could lead for more jobs for Alaskans and improve the US economy and energy security.
US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) said NPR-A long has been cited as an example of the federal government’s commitment to domestic oil production, but that in reality its gates have been locked by bureaucracy and regulatory red tape.
“The Corps’s revised decision finally unlocks those gates,” she maintained.
Democrat Mark Begich, the state’s other US senator, said, “The wetlands permit for ConocoPhillips’s CD-5 development will give the industry a chance to show once again that we know how to do development right in Alaska, that we can help fill the [Trans-Alaska] pipeline, and that we can create hundreds of good-paying construction jobs to build this new field in NPR-A.”
Alaska’s at-large US House member, Republican Don Young, said the decision was overdue and should have been approved the first time the company applied.
“Nevertheless, this is a project that will allow ConocoPhillips to start developing [its] leases in the NPR-A and help put oil in the pipeline – both of which will help grow Alaska’s economy and lessen our dependence on foreign oil,” Young said.