Project Willow, Explained: What to Know About the Alaska Oil Drilling Enterprise


March 13, Biden administration approves this Alaska’s Controversial Willow Project.

ConocoPhillips’ massive Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope passes government approval approval process of several monthsgalvanized The sudden uprising of online activism against it, including more than a million letters to the White House protesting the project, and petition Over 3 million signatures.

Below is information about the Willow project.

ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project is a major, decades-long oil drilling program on the North Slope of the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve that is owned by the federal government.

The area planned for the project holds as much as 600 million barrels of oil. Because the project has yet to be built, it will take years for this oil to reach the market.

ConocoPhillips, a Houston-based energy company, has been exploring and drilling for oil in Alaska for several years. The company is currently the only company drilling for oil in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, although two of its operations are smaller than Willow’s.

Willow, proposed by ConocoPhillips, was initially approved by the Trump administration in 2020. ConocoPhillips was initially allowed to build five rigs, which the Biden administration eventually reduced to three. Three platforms will allow companies to drill about 90 percent of the oil they pursue.

Two administration sources told CNN that the Biden administration believes it has nothing to do with the project because ConocoPhillips has an existing and active lease in the area. The sources said they were certain legally the court would not allow them to reject the project entirely or significantly reduce it. Had they chosen those options, they could have faced hefty fines in addition to legal action from ConocoPhillips.

Now that the Biden administration has given the green light to the Willow project, construction can begin. However, it’s unclear exactly when that will happen, due in large part to looming legal challenges.

Environmental law group Earthjustice is expected to lodge a complaint against the project soon and may seek an injunction preventing it from proceeding.

Environmental groups and ConocoPhillips are racing against time. Construction at Willow can only take place in winter because it needs ice roads to build the rest of the oil project’s infrastructure — including hundreds of miles of roads and pipelines and a processing facility. Depending on the weather, winter in Alaska can end sometime in April.

If the environmental group gets an injunction to halt or delay the project before then, it could delay construction by at least a year. Because the project needs to be fully constructed before oil can be produced, oil pumped from Willow could take years to reach the market.

Project Willow will almost certainly face legal challenges. Earthjustice told CNN it is preparing a complaint and has begun laying out their legal basis, arguing that the Biden administration’s authority to protect surface resources on Alaska’s public lands includes taking steps to reduce carbon pollution that contributes to global warming — Willow would eventually add.

“We and our clients have not seen any acceptable version of this project and we think [environmental impact] The analysis is illegal,” Jeremy Lieb, a senior attorney for Earthjustice Alaska, previously told CNN.

Lawmakers in the state said the project would create jobs, boost domestic energy production and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil. All three lawmakers from Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation met with President Joe Biden and his top advisers on March 3 to urge the president and his administration to approve the project.

A coalition of Alaska Native groups on the North Slope also backed the project, saying it could become a much-needed new revenue stream for the region and fund services including education and health care.

“Willow presents an opportunity to continue investing in the community,” Nagruk Harcharek, president of the Arctic Inupiat Voices advocacy group, told CNN. “Without funding and a source of revenue, we’re just dependent on state and federal governments.”

Other Alaska Natives living near the planned project, including city officials and tribal members in the Nuiqsut Native village, are deeply concerned about the health and environmental impacts of major oil developments.

In a recent private letter to Interior Minister Deb Harland, Nuiksut Mayor Rosemary Atuangaruk and two other Nuiksut city and tribal officials said the village will bear the brunt of willow’s health and environmental impacts. Other “villages have benefited some economically from oil and gas activities but have been far less affected than Nuiqsut,” the letter reads. “We’re at ground zero in industrializing the Arctic.”

Additionally, last week saw a wave of online activism against Willow on TikTok — resulting in more than 1 million letters to the Biden administration opposing the project and more than 2.8 million signature requests on a petition Stop Willow.

According to the government’s own estimates, the project will generate enough oil to release 9.2 million tons of global-warming carbon pollution a year — the equivalent of adding 2 million gasoline-powered cars to the road.

“This is a massive climate threat that is at odds with this administration’s commitment to address the climate crisis,” Jeremy Lieb, a senior attorney with Earthjustice, an Alaska environmental law group, told CNN. In addition to concerns about the rapid warming of the Arctic, some groups worry that the project could destroy the habitat of native species and change the migration patterns of animals, including caribou.

Willow advocates, including Alaska lawmakers, have vowed the project will produce fossil fuels in a cleaner way than getting them from other countries like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

“Why don’t we visit [oil] From the resource we know our environmental record is second to none? ” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said at a recent news conference.

Yes. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to halt new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters — something he initially did as part of an earlier executive order.

However, the drilling moratorium was overturned by a federal judge in 2021, and the Biden administration has since opened up several areas for new drilling. Several of these new oil and gas drilling areas have been challenged by environmental groups.

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