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Greenpeace seeks injunction to halt ice road construction at Northstar

Posted: Wednesday, December 06, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Attorneys for Greenpeace went to court Tuesday seeking an injunction to halt BP's use of water for construction of ice roads for the company's Northstar project.

Greenpeace also wants an order revoking the state Division of Governmental Coordination's coastal consistency permit for the project.

BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said the company had no response to the filing.

But he said BP has applied for and expects to receive all permits required to construct ice roads needed this winter for the Northstar project.

''There is business as usual on the North Slope,'' Chappell said.

Northstar is about six miles offshore from Prudhoe Bay. It's the first oil development in the Alaska Arctic with a sub-sea pipeline.

Greenpeace says the offshore field is environmentally dangerous and that BP should spend money to develop alternative energy sources instead.

Melanie Duchin, Greenpeace spokeswoman in Anchorage, said the filing comes on the heels of a Superior Court finding in October that the state Department of Natural Resources acted unconstitutionally in granting water use permits to BP.

Superior Court Judge Sigurd Murphy ruled that water permits allowing oil companies to withdraw as much as 55 million gallons of water a year from two reservoirs near Prudhoe Bay were invalid.

The state Department of Natural Resources failed to follow proper permitting procedures, including never opening the water use question to public review, he said.

Developers spray water on the tundra to build ice roads to remote drilling and development sites. The roads can handle heavy loads and they melt away in spring with little environmental impact.

For the Northstar development, BP also plans to use an ice road to connect the offshore drilling site with roads on land.

Duchin said that BP never had valid permits to withdraw water for roads last winter and cannot use the same permits for ice road construction this winter.

But Chappell said BP recognized last year that the permits for using water from the reservoirs was going to be challenged and obtained new permits using other water sources. He said 86 percent of the water used for ice roads last year came from other sources.

He said Judge Murphy's decision did not find fault with BP, just with how the Department of Natural Resources granted the rights.

''Our use of that water was not illegal,'' Chappell said.

Chappell said the company expects to build far fewer miles of ice roads this winter and will need less fresh water. One of the main efforts, he said, will be the road across sea ice to resupply the drilling rig. Most of that will be done with sea water, Chappell said.



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