By Yereth Rosen ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – A weekend court ruling temporarily blocked winter construction on a huge ConocoPhillips (NYSE 🙂 oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. United States District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued an order Saturday prohibiting ConocoPhillips from beginning planned gravel mining and gravel road construction at its Willow project. With an estimated 590 million barrels of oil and the potential to produce 160,000 barrels per day, Willow would be the westernmost operating oilfield in Alaska’s Arctic. The first oil is scheduled for 2024, according to ConocoPhillips. Gleason’s court order came in response to an environmental lawsuit claiming that the Trump administration’s approval of Willow did not adequately consider the impacts of wildlife and climate change. Last week, the judge rejected the environmentalists’ request for a broader court order. His new order stops gravel-related work until at least February 20, giving the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals time to weigh in. ConocoPhillips intended to begin flying gravel on February 12, per Gleason’s order. The plaintiffs have shown that “there is a high probability of irreparable environmental consequences once blasting operations begin,” the order says. In addition, the plaintiffs’ arguments on climate change “could ultimately succeed” in appeals court, Gleason said. Gleason’s order doesn’t stop construction of seasonal ice roads, which melt in summer. Plaintiffs’ representatives noted that Biden is reviewing the Trump administration’s oil policies, including approval of Willow. “We are hopeful that this terrible project can be stopped, either by the courts or by review by the Biden administration,” Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Sunday. Representatives for ConocoPhillips were not immediately available for comment Sunday.
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