Energy & Environment

Trump admin approves oil company’s Arctic drilling plan

The Trump administration has approved an oil company’s new plan to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the approval of Italian oil giant Eni SpA’s plan to drill exploratory wells from an existing artificial island in the Beaufort Sea about 15 miles northwest of Prudhoe Bay, as long as the company gets other federal and state approvals.

Eni is likely to start drilling in December and will only drill during the winter months to avoid some harm to wildlife.

{mosads}“Eni brought to us a solid, well-considered plan,” BOEM acting director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement. “We know there are vast oil and gas resources under the Beaufort Sea, and we look forward to working with Eni in their efforts to tap into this energy potential.”

It’s the first approval for Arctic Ocean drilling under the Trump administration.

Former President Barack Obama had put stringent requirements on companies hoping to drill in the Arctic and had prohibited any new leases for drilling rights there through 2022. But Eni already had its lease for the area at issue.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is far more friendly to fossil fuels in general and Arctic drilling in specific. Officials have already started the process of identifying offshore drilling restrictions from the Obama administration, including those in the Arctic, with an eye toward potentially undoing them.

Environmentalists slammed the approval. Greens have long fought Arctic drilling, saying the harsh conditions of the area make it especially dangerous and the oil and gas would be destructive to the climate.

“Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a dangerous project even riskier,” Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it’d be impossible to clean up,” she said. “The Trump administration clearly cares only about appeasing oil companies, no matter its legal obligations or the threats to polar bears or our planet.”

Eni’s existing artificial island is in Alaska state-owned waters. But through directional drilling reaching six miles, the company plans to tap into reserves that sit under federally owned waters.

Tags Alaska Arctic drilling Arctic Ocean Barack Obama Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Natural gas oil
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