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Biden Administration Prioritizes Oil Over Climate with Approval of Willow Project in Alaska

Biden Administration Prioritizes Oil Over Climate

Biden Administration Prioritizes Oil Over Climate

The Biden administration permitted the massive Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, infuriating environmentalists and paving the way for a legal challenge. The National Petroleum Reserve, held by the federal government, has been the site of the decades-long Willow Project oil drilling operation.

The area where the project is envisioned possesses up to 600 million barrels of oil, but since the project has not yet been built, it would take years for the oil to reach the market.

According to projections made by the administration, the project would produce enough oil to put 2 million more gas-powered cars on the road each year, or 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution that warms the world.

A coalition of Alaska Native tribes and organizations celebrated the drilling project as a much-needed new source of income and jobs for the isolated area. The approval represents a success for Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation and these groups.

We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a statement, adding that Alaska is “now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues” and “improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state.”

But it is a significant blow to climate groups and Alaska Natives who opposed Willow and argued the project would hurt the president’s ambitious climate goals and pose health and environmental risks.

The project has sparked a wave of internet activism in opposition to it, garnering more than a million emails to the White House and millions of signatures on a petition. Environmentalists are anticipated to sue to stop the project.

An environmental law firm, Earthjustice, has been preparing a case against the project and intends to make the case that the Biden administration has the right to protect the resources on Alaska’s public lands, including taking actions to lessen the amount of carbon pollution that would ultimately result from the Willow Project.

Abigail Dillen, the president of Earthjustice, criticized the administration’s choice on Monday.

“We are too late in the climate crisis to approve massive oil and gas projects that directly undermine the new clean economy that the Biden Administration committed to advancing,” Dillen said. “We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals.”

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Alaskan federal legislators, meanwhile, applauded the choice and hailed it as a victory for the state.

“After years of consistent, determined advocacy for this project from people all across the state and from every walk of life, the Willow Project is finally moving forward,” said Democratic Rep.

Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native in Congress. “I would like to thank the President and his administration for listening to the voices of Alaskans when it mattered most.”

The decision was praised by Alaska Native organizations that supported the project because of the jobs and income it would bring to the area.

Voice of the Arctic Iupiat president Nagruk Harcharek expressed his organization’s gratitude to President Joseph Biden and his top advisers for authorizing the project and  “heeding the will of Alaska Native communities in support of the Willow Project.”

“The Willow Project is a new opportunity to ensure a viable future for our communities, creating generational economic stability for our people and advancing our self-determination,” Harcharek said.

Recently, the Biden administration considered lowering the number of authorized drilling pads to two and stepping up nature preservation efforts to ease environmental and climate change advocacy groups’ worries about the project. If only two drill pads existed, the business could have drilled around 70% of the oil they initially sought.

But, for months, ConocoPhillips and Alaska’s bicameral congressional delegation actively campaigned the Biden White House and Interior Department to allow three drilling sites, arguing that the project would not be financially feasible with just two.

Three drilling pads were ultimately added to the project approval. The Trump administration initially gave the go-ahead for the project, which was perceived by the administration to be legally circumscribed and to have few alternatives for cancellation or significant reduction.

According to two government officials familiar with the permission, the administration concluded that they couldn’t entirely reject the project due to legal constraints.

The project’s final scope will cover 68,000 fewer acres than ConocoPhillips initially sought, the sources said. “This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation,” Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman, and chief executive officer said in a statement.

“Willow fits within the Biden Administration’s priorities on environmental and social justice, facilitating the energy transition and enhancing our energy security, all while creating good union jobs and providing benefits to Alaska Native communities.”

Together with the approval of Willow, Biden also unveiled extensive new protections for federal lands and seas in Alaska on Monday. On Monday, the White House prohibited all future oil and gas leasing in the US Arctic Ocean.

Later today, the government will also reveal new regulations to prevent drilling on more than 13 million acres of federal land in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. The administration will take action to prevent up to 16 million acres from being leased for fossil fuels in the future.

The Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and Peard Bay are significant habitats for grizzly bears, polar bears, caribou, and migratory birds—will also be covered by the regulations.

An administration official claimed on Sunday that the government sees the new measures as a “firewall” against the growth of current North Slope projects and the future leasing of fossil fuels.

On Sunday, an official said the administration views the new actions as a “firewall” against future fossil fuel leasing and expansion of existing projects on the North Slope.

“The fact that this Willow [approval] comes with the announcement of future legally-dubious resource development restrictions on Alaska lands and waters is infuriating and demonstrates that the Biden Administration’s unprecedented lock-up of our state will continue,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The Biden administration reassured Sullivan, who spoke to reporters on Monday, that the new regulations would not alter the current leasing rights in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.

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