Northstar oil field, USA


In October 1999, Greenpeace and six native Alaskan Inupiat Eskimos filed a petition against the development by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. of the Northstar oil field in the Beaufort Sea, the first offshore oil project in the Alaskan Arctic. The petitioners sought to challenge the US Secretary of the Interiors 1999 approval of the Development and Production Plan (DPP) of the Northstar oil and gas development project. The Inupiats alleged that approval would harm their subsistence lifestyle because it threatened their ability to continue hunting, fishing, and gathering traditional subsistence resources. The plaintiffs claimed that the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was inadequate; they argued that it failed to sufficiently analyse the impact of the Northstar project on the Inupiats lifestyle. The plaintiffs also claimed that the oil discharge prevention and contingency plan did not comply with the requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

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Basic Data
NameNorthstar oil field, USA
CountryUnited States of America
SiteNorthstar, Beaufort Sea
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific Commodities
Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date10/1999
Company Names or State EnterprisesBP
Relevant government actorsUS Secretary of the Interior
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.On 26 September 2001, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, denied the petitioners request to review the Department of Interiors approval of the DPP on the basis that the EIS reasonably documented the environmental effects of Northstar In reviewing the EIS, the standard used by the Court was whether it contained a reasonably thorough discussion of the significant aspects of the environmental consequences that may be caused by the project, including the impact of the project on the Inupiats subsistence lifestyle. The Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint relating to the oil response plan because it did not have jurisdiction over this matter. Only the US District Court had jurisdiction under the federal Oil Pollution Act to review the spill response plan.
Sources and Materials

US Oil Pollution Act of 1990


9th Circuit Court of Appeals denies challenge to Northstar oil development, Maureen Clark, Associated Press, 27 Sep 2001

Greenpeace, Eskimos Sue to Stop BP Amoco Arctic Site, Reuters, 21 Oct 1999

Case summary: Edwardsen v. United States Department of the Interior, Lewis and Clark Law Schools Environmental Law Online

BP: Environmental and Social Report 1998 [scroll to page 11]

Greenpeace: Greenpeace, Inupiat Eskimos launch court challenge against BP Amocos Arctic oil drilling, 30 Mar 2000

Greenpeace: Inupiat Eskimos and Greenpeace go to Court to challenge BP Amoco Oil Drilling in the Arctic Ocean, 21 Oct 1999

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: [PDF] Edwardsen v. US Dept. of the Interior and BP Exploration, 26 Sep 2001


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ContributorIrene Pietropaoli
Last update08/04/2014