Court wont block Northstar oil field

Judges reject challenge by Native group, Greenpeace

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

ANCHORAGE - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a challenge to the development of the Northstar oil field in the Beaufort Sea.

The environmental group Greenpeace and a group of North Slope Natives had argued that the environmental impact statement for the project was inadequate. The group also said BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. did not have an adequate oil spill response plan.

In its ruling Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said the impact statement "reasonably documented the environmental effects of Northstar." The judges also dismissed the group's complaint about BP's spill plan.

Jenna App, the lawyer who argued the case for Greenpeace, said she was disappointed with the decision. But BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said the ruling was not unexpected.

The 176 million-barrel Northstar field lies primarily beneath the Beaufort Sea and is the first offshore oil project in Alaska Arctic. Drilling would take place on an island, six miles offshore and oil would be carried to shore through a six-mile-long pipeline. Production at Northstar is expected to begin in November.

Greenpeace filed the lawsuit nearly two years ago on behalf of Natives who fear an oil spill at the site could hurt marine mammals they depend upon for subsistence.

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