The US Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement with ConocoPhillips regarding its proposed Alpine Satellite Development Plan (CD-5) in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The agreement confirms that the company’s plans to construct a pipeline and bridge over the Colville River’s Niqliq Channel are acceptable if specific terms are met, Deputy US Interior Sec. David J. Hayes said on Dec. 5.
Hayes said the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which is considering ConocoPhillips’s application for a permit for the project, asked EPA and FWS to evaluate its potential environmental impacts. Conditions include engineering changes and substantial mitigation measures that ConocoPhillips proposed based on consultations with the two federal agencies, he indicated.
Hayes, who facilitated the discussions in his capacity as chairman of President Barack Obama’s Inter-Agency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, said that ConocoPhillips also agreed to let other companies developing NPR-A leases use the same crossing, instead of having to seek approval for additional channel crossings in the area.
ACE is expected to carry out remaining steps associated with the permit application review in the coming weeks, he added.
“We believe this is a positive step in the process for granting the Section 404 permit for the CD-5 project,” a ConocoPhillips spokeswoman in its Anchorage office told OGJ on Dec. 5. “We have not seen the permit itself or any of its conditions, but we’re encouraged by today’s announcement.”
Alaskan officials were pleased with the news. Gov. Sean Parnell (R) said that the state submitted numerous reports that ACE’s preferred alternative—buried pipelines under the river—was not the least environmentally damaging approach. “We believe our input and advocacy helped in achieving this positive outcome, and we will continue to monitor the project through the permitting process,” he said.
US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, called the announcement “long overdue, but no less welcomed.” She added, “With this agreement, I expect the Corps to move quickly to approve the proposed bridge and road and allow access to the oil and gas resources within the reserve.”
Democrat Mark Begich, Alaska’s other US senator, said the process to reach the agreement had been long and frustrating. “This foothold into the NPR-A will bring new jobs and millions of barrels of oil to fill the [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System],” he said. Volumes in the pipeline have fallen as production from Alaska North Slope fields has declined toward the minimum level for the system to operate.
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