State appeals federal court ruling that allows ConocoPhillips to keep Willow drilling data secret

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is appealing the decision of a federal judge who ruled in March that ConocoPhillips, a major North Slope oil producer, may keep some drilling data secret.

By James Brooks, Alaska Beacon - July 28, 2023
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An exploration site at ConocoPhillips’ Willow prospect is seen from the air in the 2019 winter season. (Photo by Judy Patrick/provided by ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc.)

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is appealing the decision of a federal judge who ruled in March that ConocoPhillips, a major North Slope oil producer, may keep some drilling data secret.

According to a filing dated Wednesday, the commission is appealing the decision by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In March, Gleason determined that a federal law preempts a state law that requires North Slope companies to make data publicly available.

The state’s goal was to encourage drilling on the North Slope, but Gleason determined that the state law should be overridden by federal rules because the relevant data comes from five oil wells in the federally owned National Petroleum Reserve.

ConocoPhillips Alaska is developing part of the reserve under its Willow Project, which is also the subject of separate litigation.

Gleason determined that the Willow data should be released only after ConocoPhillips’ leases with the federal government expire.

ConocoPhillips filed a lawsuit against the commission last year after unsuccessfully asking the state to extend the privacy period.

As of Thursday morning, the state’s appeal had not been processed by the 9th Circuit, and no additional documents had been posted online.


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