CD-5 production to begin in December

In what is likely the final action in a lengthy environmental lawsuit against ConocoPhillips’ CD-5 project on the North Slope, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason denied the plaintiff’s final motion for a summary judgment to invalidate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Record of Decision and permits for the project.

The suit was filed in 2013 by several residents of Nuiqsut, a nearby Inupiat village. The project itself, a satellite of the producing Alpine oil field near the Colville River, has been under construction since 2013 and is nearing completion.

Although Gleason ruled in 2014 that the Corps did not adequately justify its permit for CD-5, she refused to issue an injunction that would have halted construction.

ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said CD-5 will begin production as scheduled in December, and will produce about 16,000 barrels per day at peak production. About 700 people were employed in construction on CD-5 over the past two winter seasons, Lowman said.

Drilling has also started on production wells, she said. The cost of the project is about $1.1 billion for ConocoPhillips and its minority partner, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision. Construction of CD-5 is almost complete,” Lowman said, “and we expect to see first production in the fourth quarter of 2015.”

In a statement, Trustees for Alaska, an environmental law firm representing the plaintiffs, said the permits approved by the court allow ConocoPhillips to build multiple bridges and a six-mile-long road between CD-5 and the Alpine facilities .

“The project runs directly through sensitive fishing and hunting areas for the residents of Nuiqsut. The Colville River Delta is the largest and most complex delta in the Arctic Coastal Plain,” the statement said.

Sam Kunaknana, a Nuiqsut resident and lead plaintiff in the case, said, “I am very unhappy with the decision. This development is in the heart of our most important hunting and fishing areas. The high embankments make the road impassable, and prevented me from hunting for seal this winter.”  

In her decision, Gleason said the Corps made a reasoned evaluation of changes to the CD-5 project configuration since the agency’s Record of Decision was issued. The changes were the basis of the plaintiffs’ 2013 challenge. The Corps review met the legal requirements, so no further environmental evaluation is required, the judge ruled.

Although the plaintiffs were from Nuiqsut village, Kuukpik Corp., the village corporation at Nuiqsut, sided with ConocoPhillips and the Corps and against the plaintiffs in the case. All residents of Nuiqsuit including the plaintiffs are shareholders in Kuukpik.

Also, Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the Alaska Native regional corporation for the North Slope, sided with ConocoPhillips and the Corps. ASRC owns the subsurface mineral rights at CD-5 and will receive oil production royalties that will be shared with Kuukpik Corp. and, under terms of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, all other Native regional and village corporations in the state.   

11/21/2016 - 8:17pm