Victory in the Arctic

On May 27th, a federal judge in Alaska found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law when it approved a project to allow oil and gas development in the Colville River Delta without fully considering how the project will impact residents of Nuiqsut and the area. The project, known as Colville Delta 5 (“CD-5,” because it is ConocoPhillips’ 5th oil pad in the Colville Delta area) would punch a road through the heart of the Delta — in the middle of our clients’ most important subsistence hunting and fishing areas — and allow ConocoPhillips to access a new development pad in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska.

In the decision, the court found that the Corps failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, a key environmental statute that ensures that agencies consider all the environmental impacts before making any decisions and involve the public in its decision making. In this case, the Corps relied on an outdated, ten-year-old environmental analysis without updating its review of the impacts to the environment and to those that rely on the land in the project area for their subsistence way of life. Trustees for Alaska, representing five Alaska Natives from Nuiqsut, brought this action because there was a fundamental failure by the Corps to engage with the public, understand their concerns, and address those concerns in an environmental analysis prior to making its decision. Instead, information was kept in a black box by the Corps and the public never had the opportunity to weigh in on new information the Corps relied on in making its decision. These concerns are real and significant — and the court agreed.

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Anchorage, Alaska—On May 27, 2014, a Federal Judge ruled in favor of five Alaska Natives from Nuiqsut, finding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) violated the law when it approved a permit for the Colville River Delta 5 (“CD-5”) project near their community. The court held that the Corps failed to consider all of the impacts from an oil and gas project in the ecologically valuable Delta. The project at issue is called the Colville Delta 5 (“CD-5”) project and is being advanced by ConocoPhillips.

“We depend on this area for our subsistence way of life, our traditions, and our culture. I want to be able to teach my grandchildren how to hunt and take care of the land like my elders taught me. This project threatens all of that,” said Sam Kunaknana, a plaintiff in the case.

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Read the full press release for more on this victory.

Click here to read the court decision (PDF). 

 

 

 

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