The lawsuit involves BP Amoco’s Northstar project, the first offshore oil project proposed for the Arctic Ocean. The suit challenges the federal government for permitting the project on the grounds that it lacks an adequate oil spill plan and jeopardises the marine and coastal environment of the Arctic Ocean, and the Inupiat subsistence way of life.

If built, the Northstar project would drill for oil from an artificial island six miles off Alaska’s north coast. Oil would be transported ashore in a pipeline buried six feet beneath the seabed. Greenpeace says subsea pipelines are unproven in the hostile environment of the Arctic Ocean.

If the project is built, it opens the door for several other offshore drilling projects, and for leases and drilling throughout the entire Beaufort Sea.

The petition was filed against the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California. MMS is the division of the US Department of the Interior responsible for managing the mineral resources of the Outer Continental Shelf and for distributing mineral revenues from Federal and Native American lands.

“This lawsuit is about stopping global warming at its source and preventing irresponsible oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean,” said Melanie Duchin, Greenpeace spokesperson in Anchorage.

“This lawsuit is about protecting our subsistence resources and culture for our children,” said Charles Edwardsen, Jr., an Inupiat Eskimo who resides in Barrow, Alaska.

MMS’ approval of the Development and Production Plan (DPP) for the Northstar Project was given in September. MMS included 10 conditions in the DPP: these included testing of production facilities, compliance with the terms and conditions of the State of Alaska Coastal Consistency Determination, and coordination with the North Slope Borough, Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Native villages, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and other tribal governments.

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