Salazar kills another Alaskan energy deal
North of the Arctic Circle, the tiny village of Nuiqsut, Alaska, has become the latest flash point in the struggle between oil drilling and environmentalism.
The town, with a population of 400, nearly all Eskimos, sits on the edge of the Colville River and the National Petroleum Reserve, or NPR. How isolated is it? It takes four flights and eight hours to get there from Seattle.
Conoco Phillips wants to build a road bridge and pipeline over the river to connect to the nearby Alpine development, which sits just outside the NPR. But the Army Corps of Engineers rejected the plan telling, the oil company it had to go under the river.
Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar supports the Corps' decision.
"It has to be done the right way in the right place in making sure we’re taking into account environmental protections," Salazar said.
Conoco Phillips said piping below the river is too expensive and risky. In its application, the company argued the oil coming out of the NPR would be a mix of oil, gas and water which poses a greater threat of corrosion. If pipes are underground, they're harder to monitor if a problem arises.
The NPR, 23 million acres of North Slope wilderness, was established by President Warren Harding in 1923 for oil to fuel the U.S. Navy. While reserve estimates have been downgraded in recent years, it’s still believed to contain 900 million barrels of oil.
It sounds like the plan endorsed by the Corps of Engineers and Salazar would be less safe for the environment. Its advantage to Salazar is that it effectively kills the deal and means there will be no energy coming from the area. That fits within his anti energy policies particular with respect to energy coming from Alaska.