The Beaufort Sea

Biden Admin Approves Willow Oil Drilling Project In Alaska

The Beaufort Sea
The Beaufort Sea (Source: NOAA)

The Biden administration approved ConocoPhillips’ application to establish three drilling locations in Alaska, overruling environmentalists who had criticized the project, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The $8 billion project is projected to produce roughly 180,000 barrels of crude oil daily, roughly 1.6% of the nation’s current oil production.

Plans announced Sunday night will bar drilling in nearly 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea — closing it off from oil exploration — and limit drilling in more than 13 million acres in a vast swath of land known as the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska.

Approval to drill at three sites will match with the Bureau of Land Management’s “preferred alternative,” down from Conoco’s initial proposal of five, after the project’s initial approval in 2020 was overturned in federal court, and the government was ordered to perform a more thorough environmental review, Bloomberg reported.

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The project gives Conoco access to an estimated total of 600 million barrels of oil.

“This MUST not be the case [President Biden],” said the Sierra Club, a major climate advocacy organization, in a tweet. “The Willow project is a climate disaster waiting to happen that would devastate wildlife, lands, AK communities, and our climate. We need to speed our transition to clean energy, not double down on oil and gas.”

Early on Friday, former Vice President Al Gore criticized the project, speaking with the British newspaper The Guardian.

“The proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling in Alaska is recklessly irresponsible,” Gore told the Guardian. “The pollution it would generate will not only put Alaska native and other local communities at risk, it is incompatible with the ambition we need to achieve a net zero future.”

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that “no final decision” had been made and that “anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong,” according to CNN. Jean-Pierre defended the president for “delivering the most aggressive climate agenda of any U.S. president in history.”

The project received strong bipartisan support in Alaska, with the entire state legislature passing a resolution in February.

While some Native Alaskan tribes viewed the project as a key source of revenue and jobs, others criticized the project over climate and health risks, according to CNN.

A digital campaign using the hashtags “#stopwillow” and “#stopthewillowproject” accelerated in recent weeks on TikTok, prompting Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska to question whether the Chinese government was promoting the campaign.

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One key group behind the “#stopwillow” campaign is Stop Willow, an initiative of the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF), a Colorado-based environmental activist organization that often targets domestic oil and gas projects.

CLF was co-founded by Swiss-born left-wing billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.

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