Biden Administration Approves Controversial Willow Project Despite Criticism from Environmental Groups

The Biden administration recently approved the controversial Willow Project in Alaska, a major oil drilling project that will release the same amount of greenhouse gases annually as half a million homes.[0] This decision has sparked criticism from environmental groups, who argue that this project goes against President Biden's promise to end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.[1]

The Willow Project, proposed by ConocoPhillips, is projected to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day, resulting in 239 million metric tons of climate pollution over 30 years.[2] This is equivalent to running two coal-fired power plants over that period.[3] The project would take place across 68,000 acres inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and advocates say it will be an economic game changer for the state and even the nation.

The Biden administration is also proposing a new rule that would consider additional protections for the more than 13 million acres designated as Special Areas, including Teshekpuk Lake, in recognition of their importance to wildlife and subsistence uses.[4] The Interior Department also announced it would protect about 2.8 million acres of the Arctic Ocean, banning oil and gas drilling indefinitely.[3]

Environmental groups argue that this decision to approve the Willow Project is a “complete betrayal” of President Biden’s promise to confront the climate crisis.[5] The Indigenous Environmental Network has called the project “the next U.S. climate bomb”, and Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic condemned the decision, calling it “the continued prioritization of profit over climate and people.”[2]

Despite the controversy, the Biden administration has sought to offset the criticism by declaring the Arctic Ocean off limits to U.S. oil and gas leasing, as well as imposing regulations to protect nearly 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.[6] The Interior Department has calculated that, in its 30-year lifespan, Willow would discharge approximately 284 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), which is equivalent to the yearly emissions of approximately 75 coal-fired power plants.[7]

The Biden administration is seeking to limit future development and has narrowed the scope of the Willow Project when the Bureau of Land Management and Interior declined a request by ConocoPhillips to develop five drilling pads and instead granted approval for just three.[8]

The approval of the Willow Project is a highly contested decision that has sparked criticism from environmental groups and lawmakers.

0. “The Willow oil project in Alaska won’t bridge the energy gap” The Atlantic, 13 Mar. 2023,

1. “The Willow project: Why Joe Biden just approved a climate bomb in Alaska” Grid, 13 Mar. 2023,

2. “Are Opponents of Alaska's Willow Drilling Project Guilty of “Eco-Colonialism”?” The New Republic, 14 Mar. 2023,

3. “Biden Approves ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project to Drill Oil in the Alaskan Arctic” InsideClimate News, 14 Mar. 2023,

4. “Biden to put Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling even as he readies approval for Willow oil project” The Washington Post, 13 Mar. 2023,

5. “Biden Is Betraying a Climate Promise and Democrats Won’t Let Him Forget It” Rolling Stone, 13 Mar. 2023,

6. “Biden’s approval of Willow project shows inconsistency of US’s first ‘climate president’” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2023,

7. “US lawsuit filed to stop Willow oil drilling project in Alaska | Climate Crisis News” Al Jazeera English, 15 Mar. 2023,

8. “Willow Project to deliver jobs, billions in government revenue” Fox Business, 15 Mar. 2023,

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