The Biden Administration recently approved the Willow Project to take place in Alaska. But what is the Willow Project? The Willow Project is a plan that was in place for years to drill oil from Alaska, and only now is that plan being put into action. The area where the drilling would occur contains up to 600 million barrels of oil. Although, the oil would only hit the market decades from now, considering the project hasn’t been constructed yet.
Alaska’s bipartisanship congressional delegation views the approval as a win and a step in the right direction. The project could provide hundreds of jobs and act as a source of revenue for the area, which happens to be very remote, and in need of it. The money gained from this project would help improve the quality of life and economic stability across the North Slope of Alaska. There are undoubtedly many financial benefits, but the adverse environmental effects are many. The Biden administration estimates that the project will produce enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually, which will devastate the already warming planet.
This approval from the Biden administration directly goes against the promises of policies preventing damaging projects like these. Environmental activists have been enraged, taking to social media to spread the news. There has been much involvement caused by online activism, such as over one million letters in protest of the project being sent to the White House. Environmental advocates are also preparing to challenge the project in court to argue that protecting Alaska’s natural resources means not starting a project that will release millions of tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Earthjustice, an environmental law group, is looking to block or delay the start of construction.
If Biden were to lobby against the project in court, it would provide quite a challenge. Hefty fees from legal fights could have a significant effect on the government. The 122 billion dollar project put in place by the oil company ConocoPhillips has been a plan in the works for years; in fact, it was initially approved by former President Trump. The Trump administration originally planned to construct five drill pads which the Biden Administration eventually reduced to three. These three drill pads will extract 90% of the oil in the area.
The Biden administration has been looking into different options to make the project more environmentally friendly. Biden limited the area of the project by 68,000 fewer acres than ConocoPhillips was looking for. The Biden administration also announced a slew of new protections for federal land. The U.S. Arctic Ocean is now off-limits to oil and gas leaks. Soon, new rules will protect more than 13 million acres in the federal National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from drilling. The administration aims to protect up to 16 million acres of land from fossil fuel drilling.