Controversy arises after the signing of a new drilling project in Alaska by the Biden Administration. Against the advisory of environmental advocates, a scaled-down version of the Willow project was signed and given the greenlight. This means that the company ConocoPhillips can move ahead with their original plan of drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in the North Slope of Alaska. This signage came the day after the administration said they were blocking and limiting drilling in other parts of the state. The approval of this project also goes directly against and violates Biden’s stated climate goals.
"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," stated Earthjustice’s President, Abigail Dillen.
This project is projected to produce about 180,000 barrels of oil a day, and proponents have stated that this could lower the price of oil and strengthen national security. It will include more than 200 wells across three drilling pads and miles of pipeline. This project is looked at as a victory by many in Alaska, but a severe devastation to advocates. ConocoPhillips Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ryan Lance publicly applauded the Biden Admin on their contribution. The company states that the project has the potential of bringing in $17 billion in revenue, along with 2,500 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs. It has also gained support from federal and state lawmakers, labor unions, and Alaska Native leaders, arguing this has increased job availability and possible revenue tenfold.
"We did it, Alaska! What a huge and needed victory for all Alaska. This project will produce lasting economic and security benefits for our state and the nation," stated Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski.
The bill also states the restriction of drilling in 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea and another 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve. But unfortunately, these numbers are not enough to combat the potential consequences of this enacted project. According to environmental advocates and leaders, the Willow project can send the Reserve into a state of survival – worsening climate change, harming biodiversity, and slowing the transition into cleaner fuel alternatives. They have called this proposal a “carbon bomb,” as the acre tradeoff was not worth it.
“These unparalleled protections for Alaskan landscapes and waters are the right decision at the right time, and we thank the Biden Administration for taking this significant step,” stated Sierra Club’s land protection program Director, Athan Manuel. “However, the benefits of these protections can be undone just as quickly by approval of oil and gas projects on public lands, and right now, no proposal poses a bigger threat to lands, wildlife, communities, and our climate than the Willow project.”
Currently, millions have sent letters into the White House rejecting and arguing the approval decision, stating that it goes against the first-term Democratic climate pledges. Young environmental advocates are standing up and fighting back against this controversial and potential catastrophic environmental situation.