Court Rejects Trump Approval of Offshore Drilling Project in Arctic

by : Cameron Frew on : 08 Dec 2020 11:49
Court Rejects Trump Approval of Offshore Drilling Project in ArcticPA Images

The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has rejected the Trump administration’s approval of a hazardous offshore drilling project in Arctic waters. 

The ‘lame duck’ POTUS had approved Hilcorp Alaska’s Liberty project back in 2018, which would have seen the construction of an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline, putting polar bears and other Arctic wildlife and communities under threat from oil spills into the Beaufort Sea.


However, the court has ruled that the Trump administration hadn’t considered the full ramifications on the climate as a result of the project, as per the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as its claims it would actually benefit the climate in the long run.

TrumpPA Images

Represented by Earthjustice, a lawsuit against Liberty’s approval was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife and Pacific Environment.

In a statement, Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, ‘This is a huge victory for polar bears and our climate. This project was a disaster waiting to happen that should never have been approved. I’m thrilled the court saw through the Trump administration’s attempt to push this project through without carefully studying its risks.’

Polar BearsPA Images

Jeremy Lieb, an attorney for Earthjustice, added:

I’m pleased that the court today rejected the administration’s inaccurate and misleading analysis of this project’s impact to the climate.

In the face of a worsening climate crisis, the federal government should not be in the business of approving irresponsible offshore oil development in the Arctic. The world cannot afford to develop new oil prospects anywhere, but especially in the Arctic where warming is already taking such a significant toll.

Liberty would involve the ‘construction and operation of a nine-acre artificial island, with a 24-acre footprint, in about 20 feet of water and a 5.6-mile pipeline under Arctic waters to send the oil into onshore pipelines’.


The US Fish and Wildlife Service was also said to have violated the Endangered Species Act, after failing to effectively assess the extent to which polar bears would be affected by the project. As per Reuters, the outfit described it as an ‘incidental harassment authorisation’.

Polar BearsPA Images

Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director at Defenders of Wildlife, said, ‘Today’s news is a victory for Alaska’s imperiled polar bears that are threatened by oil and gas development throughout virtually all of their terrestrial denning critical habitat.’

Marcie Keever, legal director with Friends of the Earth, added, ‘Thankfully, the court put the health of our children and our planet over oil company profits. We will continue to fight against future oil and gas projects in the Arctic.’


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Arctic, Climate Change, Donald Trump, Environment, Now, Polar Bears


Center for Biological Diversity and 1 other
  1. Center for Biological Diversity

    Federal Court Rejects Trump’s Approval of Offshore Oil-drilling Project in Arctic

  2. Reuters

    Trump admin seeks to allow polar bear disturbance for oil in Alaska refuge