Biden Administration Poised to Approve Controversial Northern Alaska Oil Drilling Project

The Biden administration is poised to approve a massive northern Alaska oil drilling project that could create thousands of jobs and 600 million barrels of oil over its 30-year lifespan, a move that has sent eco-warriors into a frenzy about the “existential threat” the project poses to the climate.[0]

The decision to authorize the ConocoPhillips oil project in northwest Alaska is expected to be announced next week, according to multiple reports. The move has been met with both criticism and support, with climate activists protesting the project for its potential environmental impacts and Alaskan politicians, trade unions, and some indigenous communities urging for it to be approved due to its potential economic benefits.[1]

This project consists of a maximum of 199 oil and gas wells across three different locations, two wastewater injection wells, pipelines, a new gravel mine, roads, and any other necessary infrastructure constructed in the Alaskan wilderness.[2] It is expected to produce up to 180,000 barrels a day of oil and around 280 million tons a year of greenhouse gases over its expected 30-year lifetime — the equivalent of 2 coal-burning power plants ever year, according to government estimates.[2]

In response, President Biden has imposed limits on oil and gas drilling in 16 million acres of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.[3] He has initiated a rulemaking process to “establish maximum protection” for 13 million acres of land across the National Petroleum Reserve and ordered an additional 2.8 million of acres to be withdrawn from oil and gas leasing in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Alaska.

The move has been met with opposition from some Alaska Natives living closer to the planned project, including city officials and tribal members in Nuiqsut, who are concerned about the health and environmental impacts of a major oil development so close to their village.[4] Climate activists have warned that the project will be a betrayal of Biden's campaign pledges.[5]

Meanwhile, proponents of the project have said it will help bring much-needed jobs and revenue to the remote region, as well as help bring astronomical costs for fuel down.

“The Willow Project has been one of my top priorities because it is deeply important to our future as a state,” said Alaska State Representative Grier Peltola.[6] “In the short term, this project will provide thousands of good-paying union jobs and help jump-start Alaska’s economy.

0. “Reports: Biden administration will approve limited Willow oil development” Anchorage Daily News, 11 Mar. 2023, https://www.adn.com/business-economy/energy/2023/03/10/report-biden-administration-to-approve-willow-oil-project/

1. “Willow project: Biden curbs drilling ahead of decision on Alaska oil project” BBC, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64939021

2. “Biden administration to approve controversial Alaskan oil project” POLITICO, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/13/biden-administration-approved-willow-alaska-oil-00086746

3. “Biden to protect 16 million acres in Alaska as oil project decision nears” Axios, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/03/13/biden-alaska-oil-drilling-arctic-protection-willow-project

4. “Biden to approve major Alaska oil drilling project Willow” WGAL Susquehanna Valley Pa., 11 Mar. 2023, https://www.wgal.com/article/biden-administration-to-approve-major-alaska-oil-drilling-project-willow/43277490

5. “House Coalition Encouraged by News of Impending Willow Announcement” Alaska Native News, 11 Mar. 2023, https://alaska-native-news.com/house-coalition-encouraged-by-news-of-impending-willow-announcement/66741/

6. “Biden expected to approve enormous oil drilling project in blow to climate activists: ‘Complete betrayal'” Fox News, 11 Mar. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-expected-approve-enormous-oil-drilling-project-blow-climate-activists-complete-betrayal

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