The legacy of offshore drilling is one of disaster, explosions and deadly spills. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill may be the most familiar — an event that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The sad oil-soaked pelicans and seals, dead birds, and destroyed fisheries? Yeah, that’s offshore drilling.
So, when Donald Trump approved an offshore drilling project off the coast of Alaska in 2018, Friends of the Earth jumped into action. Represented by Earthjustice, we brought a lawsuit in federal court with four other environmental organizations to challenge the project’s approval. And, two years later, we won.
The plan for Hilcorp’s proposed “Liberty Project” was to build a giant 24-acre drilling rig off the north coast of Alaska — a project that would have generated 65,000 barrels of oil a day and transported that oil via an underwater pipeline.
Hilcorp made the case that the project would not adversely affect the habitat of a range of endangered species, including polar bears, whales, and walruses. In a move so disingenuous it’s almost comical, the company also tried to justify the project by claiming it would benefit the climate, instead of exacerbating global warming by unearthing more fossil fuels.
Seeing as this is the same Big Oil industry that spewed those 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, killing tens of thousands of animals and destroying the ecosystem, we don’t quite buy that.
Thanks to our member’s actions and donations, we were able to take the Trump administration to court! In December 2020, the federal court ruled that the administration had misused economic models to measure the project’s effect on the climate, and that the Trump administration had failed to properly analyze the effects on polar bears in the area. Had it not been for the legal battle from Friends of the Earth and our fellow environmental groups, this project would have been quickly pushed through by Trump’s oil loving cronies and the Arctic would have been decimated by the first offshore drilling operation in the region.
Whether in court or on the streets, Friends of the Earth will continue to be vigilant and fight to protect our planet!