PRESS RELEASE

Legal Petition to Interior Department Urges Climate Analysis, Phasedown of Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
CONTACT
Cooper Freeman, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 531-0703, cfreeman@biologicaldiversity.org
Kay Brown, Pacific Environment, (907) 529-6970, kbrown@pacificenvironment.org
Nauri Simmonds, Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, (907) 691-4832, nauriaq@silainuat.org
Pamela Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, (907) 308-1629, pamela@akaction.org
Tara Starlight, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, (907) 575-0330, tara@fbxclimateaction.org
Tim Whitehouse, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (202) 265-7337, twhitehouse@peer.org

 


Legal Petition to Interior Department Urges Climate Analysis, Phasedown of Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Several environmental groups filed a legal petition today asking the Department of the Interior for a new analysis of the climate damage and other harms related to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The petition also calls for a plan to phase down the pipeline’s operations.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Environment, Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility submitted the petition.

The existing environmental analysis, now over two decades old, does not include any examination of the climate harms of the extraction and burning of oil moving through the pipeline. International scientific consensus urges a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. The environmental analysis also fails to properly examine pipeline operations’ harm to caribou, polar bears and other vulnerable wildlife and subsistence resources in Alaska.

“We can’t wait 10 more years for federal officials to wake up to the daily climate devastation Alaska’s oil pipeline enables,” said Cooper Freeman, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not only are they ignoring current threats, but fossil fuel extraction is actually expected to grow on the North Slope in the coming years. To ward off climate devastation here in Alaska and globally, we have to move quickly to plan for the end of this pipeline. The sooner we confront reality and put all our energy toward a rapid and just transition away from oil, the better.”

Massive new drilling projects on federal and state lands on Alaska’s North Slope, including the Willow and Pikka projects, could dramatically increase the oil transiting the pipeline in the coming years. Enhancements in oil recovery techniques that are unlocking huge “heavy” oil deposits in existing fields could also contribute to even more oil in the pipeline.

“To build a healthy economy that doesn’t further warm the planet, Alaska must transition beyond fossil fuels,” said Kay Brown, Arctic policy director at Pacific Environment. “Alaska is warming faster than any other state and nearly four times faster than the global average. As the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System approaches the end of its life, climate change is impacting Alaska and the Arctic region significantly. It’s time for the Department of the Interior to review this nearly 50-year-old aging infrastructure and put a plan in place to decommission it. Alaska can have a thriving economy based on its abundant renewable energy as the world transitions away from fossil fuels.”

The nearly 50-year-old pipeline is also increasingly threatened by climate change-driven environmental shifts and events, such as thawing permafrost and major floods. The pipeline was originally projected to have a life expectancy of 30 years, and the risk of oil spills grows annually.

“It’s foolhardy for the Department of the Interior to ignore the hazards associated with further dependence on fossil fuels and aging infrastructure of the TAPS given the climate crisis that we are facing,” said Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “It is sadly ironic that the pipeline is in peril largely because of climate warming and lack of planning for this consequence. We call on Interior for a visionary approach to stopping harmful oil development and to make it possible for a quick transition to clean, renewable energy. BLM must implement a plan to safely decommission the pipeline.”

The pipeline has transported oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Port Valdez since construction finished in 1977. Congress authorized the Bureau of Land Management to grant the first 30-year right-of-way for the pipeline system in 1974, with another 30-year right-of-way granted in 2004 and set to expire in 2034.

“Alaskans are on the frontlines of climate tipping points,” said Tara Starlight, communications manager at Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition. “We must act urgently to ensure that Alaskans do not also bear the brunt of inevitable and enormous costs for Dismantlement, Removal, and Restoration (DR&R) of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline when the time comes due. If we seize the opportunity to plan ahead and include impacted communities early, we can build a future that ensures the health of people and our ecosystems.”

In 2002, in advance of renewing the right-of-way, the BLM completed an environmental impact statement for the pipeline system. Today’s petition argues that an abundance of new information, including new science about the climate crisis, the risk of oil spills, and harms to people and wildlife from fossil fuel development shows that the existing analysis is woefully outdated.

“A coherent national climate plan must consider the Trans-Alaska Pipeline,” said Tim Whitehouse, PEER’s executive director, noting that the TAPS system will be the means for new Alaskan crude oil supplies to reach market. “In order to understand America’s climate outlook, we need to start paying attention to how much longer TAPS will operate, as well as what type and how much Alaskan oil crude it will carry.”

The petition asks Interior to immediately initiate and complete a supplemental environmental impact statement, include meaningful alternatives and mitigation measures, and draft a plan for the decommissioning, removal and restoration of the pipeline.

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Read the legal petition to the DOI

Phone: 202-265-7337

962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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Environmental Responsibility

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