The $8 billion Alaska oil project approved Monday by the Biden Administration is already facing two separate legal challenges from environmental groups.
The drilling project, known as Willow, is operated by energy company ConocoPhillip and expected to produce 600 million barrels of oil in 30 years, according to The New York Times. Environmental group Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday morning to stop the project, arguing that the Biden administration failed to “assess any alternatives that meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the lawsuit.
Earthjustice’s challenge, which was joined by the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and other organizations, comes just a day after Trustees for Alaska filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic and other environmental groups, which alleges that the administration failed to consider the full impacts of the project on climate change, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. (RELATED: Biden Approves Massive Oil Project Over Green Group Objections)
The Trustees for Alaska lawsuit also argues the project would impact the caribou population, which Alaska Native communities depend on to live. Bridget Psarianos, staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska, said the project will “without question, result in a massive fossil fuel project that will reduce access to food and cultural practices for local communities,” according to Bloomberg.
“We’re bringing today’s lawsuit to ensure that the administration follows the law and ultimately makes good on this promise for future generations,” said Earthjustice’s Erik Grafe. #StopWillow https://t.co/tQk8oqGW40
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) March 15, 2023
Deputy managing attorney in Earthjustice’s Alaska regional office Erik Grafe said in a statement that the Biden administration “possessed the legal authority to stop Willow.”
“There is no question that the administration possessed the legal authority to stop Willow – yet it chose not to,” said Grafe. “It greenlit this carbon bomb without adequately assessing its climate impacts or weighing its options to limit the damage and say no. The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges we face, and President Biden has promised to do all he can to meet the moment. We’re bringing today’s lawsuit to ensure that the administration follows the law and ultimately makes good on this promise for future generations.”
ConocoPhillips Media Relations Director Dennis Nuss told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the project approval process has satisfied “all legal requirements.”
“The Willow project’s development began in 2017 and has followed a nearly 5-year-long regulatory process overseen by the Bureau of Land Management,” Nuss told the DCNF. “We believe the BLM and cooperating agencies have conducted a thorough process that satisfies all legal requirements. The final SEIS [supplemental environmental impact statement] addresses the deficiencies identified in the prior EIS that was the subject of the Federal District Court remand in 2021.”
Alaska lawmakers have supported the project. After its approval Monday, Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement that it would create “thousands of new jobs” and generate “billions of dollars in new revenues.”
“We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” Murkowski said.
Anticipating coming legal challenges, Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement Monday that they were prepared to defend the decision against “frivolous legal challenges from the same Lower 48 NGOs who’ve consistently tried to kill the Willow Project.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior declined the DCNF’s request for comment. The White House did not immediately respond.
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