Today’s Key Takeaways: Willow work to begin immediately after judge’s ruling. $110 per barrel this summer? Court vacates Mountain Valley Pipeline water permit. Woodchopper Gold Claim in Circle, AK is for sale – $23.5 million. Shout out to the Alaska house representatives who voted for Alaskans permitting Alaskan projects.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
Bid to pause ConocoPhillips’ Alaska Willow project fails
Clark Mindock, Reuters, April 4, 2023
A federal judge on Monday rejected a bid by environmentalists to temporarily suspend the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ (COP.N) multibillion-dollar oil drilling project in Alaska’s Arctic.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage had been asked by environmental groups and a Native American community in two lawsuits filed last month for an order blocking construction on the $7 billion Willow project over concerns it would exacerbate climate change and damage pristine wildlife habitat.
Gleason said an injunction was inappropriate because the groups wouldn’t be irreparably harmed by the construction that ConocoPhillips has scheduled for this month, which includes building roads and a gravel mine.
The judge didn’t address whether the lawsuits appeared likely to succeed at later stages in the proceedings.
A ConocoPhillips spokesperson said the decision will allow the company to begin construction activities “immediately,” and said the project will provide “meaningful opportunities” for the state, its Native American communities and for domestic U.S. energy production.
New OPEC+ Cuts Will Push Oil to $110 This Summer
Andreas Exarheas, Rigzone, April 4, 2023
f fully delivered, the newly announced OPEC+ cuts would further tighten an already fundamentally tight oil market, drive Brent towards $100 per barrel sooner than previously expected and push the price to around $110 per barrel this summer.
That’s according to Rystad Energy Senior Vice President Jorge Leon, who highlighted in an extraordinary market update sent to Rigzone that the voluntary cut of 1.15 million barrels per day surprised markets, caused oil prices to rise and fed inflationary fears.
“The voluntary cuts, which the group had has a good track record of implementing, will put upside pressure on prices from a fundamentals perspective, offering support of around $10 per barrel,” Leon said in the update.
“Still, given the current macro environment, the market may interpret the cuts as a vote of no confidence in the recovery of oil demand and could even carry a downside price risk – but that will only be for the very short term,” he added.
“Rystad Energy believes that these voluntary cuts will further tighten the oil market for the rest of the year and could push prices above $100 per barrel and keep them above that level for most of the rest of the year,” Leon continued.
COURT VACATES MVP’S WEST VIRGINIA WATER PERMIT: The 4th Circuit vacated a key state water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline yesterday in a decision expected to set the project further off course from its planned year-end service date.
A three-judge panel unanimously vacated and remanded the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection water quality certification for the pipeline, without which the Army Corps of Engineers cannot continue with its permitting work for the project.
The court outlined a number of deficiencies with the WVDEP’s certification, one of which was that it failed to give an adequate explanation for declining to perform a location-specific antidegradation review in the permitting process. The Clean Water Act requires states’ water quality standards to adopt an antidegradation policy to weigh the pros and cons of a proposed activity that could degrade water quality.
The judges also ruled that West Virginia failed to adequately consider the pipeline developer’s past water quality violations in its certification process.
“Although the Department acknowledged MVP’s violation history, it failed to dispel the tension between MVP’s checkered past and its confidence in MVP’s future compliance,” the court said.
The ruling is expected to delay completion further and to delay the operation of the pipeline, which is nearly 94% complete, according to its developer.
Sen. Joe Manchin, who sought with his permitting legislation last Congress to unilaterally approve MVP and to remove litigation against the project from the 4th Circuit to the D.C. Circuit, complained about the setback in a statement circulated this morning that said the court sided with activists “who seem hell-bent on killing any fossil energy that will make our country energy independent and secure.”
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy
Good as gold: Alaska property atop mine for sale
Staff, The Real Deal, April 1, 2023
Thar be gold underneath these hills!
That’s what the buyer of Woodchopper Gold Claim could say in Circle, Alaska. The massive property is hitting the market for $23.5 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The property is in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. It’s being sold by geologist Lynn Vogler. His uncle purchased the land to mine gold in 1971 for an unknown price, then passed it to Lynn in the 1990s.
Woodchopper’s biggest pull is its claim to gold. The property is on Woodchopper Creek, which flows into the Yukon River. Vogler claims more than 117,000 troy ounces of gold have been extracted along the creek; one troy ounce of gold is currently worth nearly $2,000.
The property spans roughly 1,400 acres, though it is largely unoccupied, outside of an old gold dredge and former mining cabins. It includes 230 deeded acres with patented mining claims, meaning the land and the minerals found upon it belong to the owner. The government owns the rest of the property, but the owner still owns the minerals found on it.
That being said, the property hasn’t been used for mining since the 1980s, when part of it was leased out to gold digging miners. Perhaps some of the miners saw the wildlife that wander across the property, including moose, caribou, wolverines and grizzly bears.
The property is not zoned and a buyer could build an off-grid residential home on the property, which Vogler said is common in the area. There is also a 2,500-foot-long airstrip on the property, which is accessible by plane around the year, though the strip is in need of repair. Trail hikers can get there in the winter, while a boat can only get there during the summer.
A big thumbs up to the following Alaska House Representatives who voted late last night to reinstate funding for the state’s efforts to pursue 404 primacy – Alaskans permitting Alaskan projects:
Rep Jamie Allard
Rep Ben Carpenter
Rep Julie Coulombe
Rep Mike Cronk
Rep David Eastman
Rep Neal Foster
Rep Craig Johnson
Rep DeLena Johnson
Rep Kevin McCabe
Rep Tom McKay
Rep Josiah Patkotak
Rep Mike Prax
Rep George Rauscher
Rep Justin Ruffridge
Rep Dan Saddler
Rep Laddie Shaw
Rep Will Stapp
Rep Jesse Sumner
Rep Cathy Tilton
Rep Frank Tomaszewski
Rep Sarah Vance
Rep Stanley Wright