Friday, September 22

US Interior Dept retracts draft analysis of Alaska ConocoPhillips project

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The US Interior Department on Friday retracted a draft environmental analysis of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil and gas drilling project in Alaska, hours after posting it to its web site.

The draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) had been highly anticipated by the oil and gas industry and environmental groups as President Joe Biden seeks to balance his goals of fighting climate change with calls to increase oil and gas supplies in the face of soaring fuel prices .

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“Due to an error, we have temporarily removed the Draft SEIS from this site. We will post it again as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience,” the agency wrote on a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) web site where the document had been posted.

It was not clear what was incorrect about the analysis. The department had no additional comment. A ConocoPhillips spokesperson did not comment on the error.

The draft, posted earlier in the day, had analyzed five potential options for the project, including not building it at all. The bureau said it had selected a reduced “overall gravel footprint” with fewer drill sites as its “preferred alternative.”

In a press release issued at the same time as the document, BLM had not specified a preference out of the range of alternatives.

The analysis is being released nearly a year after a federal judge reversed the Trump administration’s approval of the massive development, which Alaskan officials hoped would help offset declining oil production in the state.

In the August order, Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason vacated the BLM’s approval of Willow and said federal agencies must reconsider their environmental analysis. (Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and William Mallard)