State seeks to intervene in suit defending BLM Willow decision
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On April 15, the State of Alaska asked the U.S. District Court in Anchorage for permission to participate in a lawsuit to defend the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the Willow Project, which is west of the central North Slope.
Willow is in the northeastern portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area set aside by the federal government for oil and gas development.
The initial discovery of oil in the Willow area was made by ConocoPhillips Alaska in 2017, and the company has since undertaken the process to have a full development plan approved by an array of state and federal agencies.
“Oil and gas development is critical to North Slope communities, and Alaska has long anticipated bringing the Willow Project online. With the potential to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day, it is imperative that Alaska is given the opportunity to responsibly develop our resources,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a press release from his office.
“Without ongoing developments like Willow, North Slope communities’ would struggle to fund basic governmental services. These developments not only contribute directly to jobs for the region, but they also provide revenues to local communities through impact mitigation grants,” Dunleavy said.
“The Impact Mitigation grant program provides a portion of the revenue from federal oil and gas leases directly to the local communities in which the developments are located to help fund basic local government operations, community programs, and infrastructure improvements for the benefit of Alaskans within the NPR-A,” the press release said.
Economic impact $4.8 - $12.9B“The State is prepared to defend the responsible development of Alaska’s resources for the benefit of all Alaskans,” Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor was quoted as saying in the governor’s press release. “Here, the BLM and the State found that ConocoPhillips’ development plan checked all of the appropriate boxes, and we see no lawful reason to withhold State support of the project.”
The Greater Willow Area is estimated to hold between 400 million and 750 million barrels of oil equivalent and could produce in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil per day, per ConocoPhillips.
“Half of all royalties from the Willow Project are shared with the State of Alaska, and the estimated economic impact to the State from the Willow Project is estimated between $4.8 and $12.9 billion over the life of the project,” the governor’s office said.
Light, sweet oilThe lighter Willow oil is also more environmentally acceptable than Prudhoe crude.
Lighter oils have higher API gravities. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission lists crude from the main Prudhoe Bay reservoir at an API viscosity of 28 degrees. Oil from the Willow field runs between 41-44 degrees.
U.S. District Court in Anchorage has not yet ruled on the State of Alaska’s intervention request.
- KAY CASHMAN