The Biden administration formally approved Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project located in Alaska, Monday morning over the objection of climate activists who lobbied heavily against it.
The massive project, operated by American energy firm ConocoPhillips, is projected to produce roughly 600 million barrels of oil over a 30-year lifespan, The New York Times reported. In a bid to placate environmentalists, the administration had considered limiting the project to just two drill sites, down from the five that ConocoPhillips initially proposed, but the company and Alaskan lawmakers warned that the project would need at least three to be economically viable, according to CNN. (RELATED: American Oil CEO Says Biden Climate Goals ‘Impossible’ Without Permitting Reform)
“The President and the Biden-Harris administration continue to deliver on the most aggressive climate agenda in American history, including the creation of clean energy manufacturing and jobs,” the Department of the Interior (DOI) said in a press release accompanying the decision. “He has secured record investments in climate resilience and environmental justice. And his economic agenda has put the United States back on track to reach its climate goals for 2030 and 2050 all while reducing America’s reliance on oil.”
.@Interior’s record of decision ignores the project’s dire climate and biodiversity impacts. It approves 3 drilling pads which will produce 92% of the oil ConocoPhillips initially sought to develop, amounting to more than 260 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. pic.twitter.com/sBQn7c7bkv
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) March 13, 2023
The administration also took steps to limit future oil and gas drilling in the Natural Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, where Willow is located, by designating more than 13 million of the 23 million acre reserve as “Special Areas,” the DOI said in its press release. With the administration having few options to limit Willow directly, these designations are intended to create a “firewall” to prevent future oil and gas drilling in the region, one administration official told Bloomberg.
“We can’t drill our way to a sustainable future,” Ben Jealous, executive director of the environmental group Sierra Club, said in a press release. “We must conserve public lands, not sell them off to corporate polluters. The harmful effects of President Biden’s decision cannot be overstated.”
Kristen Miller, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said she was “disappointed” in the decision in a press release issued by the organization.
“The Willow project is designed to open the door to the development of billions of barrels of oil over decades,” Miller said. “Let’s be clear: rampant oil and gas development on our nation’s public lands must stop now. We will keep fighting the Willow project.”
The project is expected to face legal challenges from environmental groups, according to CNN.
Alaskan lawmakers have come out universally in favor of the project, which the company forecasts will produce between $8 billion to $17 billion in revenue for the government and local communities. ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance praised the decision as the “right decision for Alaska and our nation,” and argued that the project fit within the administration’s environmental objectives, in a press release.
“We are truly grateful for the steadfast support from Alaska’s Congressional Delegation – Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Representative Mary Peltola – Alaska Native communities, the state legislature and organized labor groups,” said Lance in the same release. “We also thank our employees and the contractor community, who dedicated years to designing a project that will provide reliable energy while adhering to the highest environmental standards.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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