The Biden administration is backing a proposed ConocoPhillips oil drilling project in Alaska that was initially approved late last year under former President Donald Trump.
The Justice Department filed a brief Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Alaska, defending the Trump-era decision to approve the proposal, according to Reuters. The multi-billion dollar project to drill in part of the National Petroleum Reserve, known as the Willow Master Development Plan, aims to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years.
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) May 27, 2021
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit last December alleging the project’s environmental impact statement did not meet the requirements under existing environmental regulations. The plaintiffs further argued the federal government’s approval of the project did not take into account its impact on wildlife populations and contribution to climate change. (RELATED: New Bill Could Block Trump’s Push To Open 19.6 Million-Acre Alaskan Wilderness Up For Oil, Gas Exploration)
Environmental groups were especially critical of ConocoPhillips’ proposal to install “chillers” into the permafrost — which has been melting in recent years — to keep it solid enough to support drilling equipment, according to The New York Times.
A federal appeals court judge granted a partial injunction in February blocking further construction. ConocoPhillips also faced headwinds after President Joe Biden issued a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas drilling permits on federal lands.
But the administration’s recent filing argued the Trump administration’s decision to approve the project last October complied with environmental regulations in place at the time, according to Reuters. An Interior Department spokesman added that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit did not challenge its approval “within the time limitations associated with environmental review projects.”
Thank you @POTUS & @SecDebHaaland for announcing that the Admin will support the Willow Project in Court! Alaskans know how to balance energy development & conservation. It is my great hope that with the Admin on our side in court, we will succeed. More: https://t.co/YTdiEXqI7A https://t.co/ehLOdY1SCd
— Rep. Don Young (@repdonyoung) May 27, 2021
Although the Biden administration has proposed an aggressive climate agenda to scale back fossil fuel development, the project is backed by Alaska’s state government along with some tribal nations and labor unions, according to The New York Times.
Republican Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have advocated for the project, and discussed the matter Monday during a meeting with the president, according to Politico.