ConocoPhillips, citing ‘regulatory uncertainty,’ delays Arctic drilling

Oil giant ConocoPhillips is scuttling plans to explore for oil off Alaska’s coast in 2014, blaming “the uncertainties of evolving federal regulatory requirements.” 

“While we are confident in our own expertise and ability to safely conduct offshore Arctic operations, we believe that more time is needed to ensure that all regulatory stakeholders are aligned,” said Trond-Erik Johansen, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska. 

The company noted Interior Department plans to create Arctic-specific standards for operating in federal waters off Alaska’s coast.

“Once those requirements are understood, we will re-evaluate our Chukchi Sea drilling plans. We believe this is a reasonable and responsible approach given the huge investments required to operate offshore in the Arctic,” Johansen said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate’s Energy Committee and an advocate of Arctic drilling, slammed the Obama administration after ConocoPhillips’ announcement.

“The administration has created an unacceptable level of uncertainty when it comes to the rules for offshore exploration that must be fixed if we’re going to end our dependence on oil from the Middle East,” she said.

The company’s move follows Shell’s decision to abandon plans to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast in 2013 after a series of 2012 mishaps, while another major company, Statoil, has also delayed Arctic drilling plans.

Environmentalists oppose industry plans to drill in what are believed to be oil-rich waters off Alaska, calling it a threat to whales, polar bears and other endangered and sensitive wildlife that inhabit the region.


“As we have said all along, the risks associated with drilling in the pristine Arctic Ocean are just too great. Today’s announcement from ConocoPhillips is further proof that no oil company is ready to drill in the harsh and unpredictable environment of the Arctic Ocean,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.