HomeUS News updateBiden administration approves controversial Alaska oil drilling project

Biden administration approves controversial Alaska oil drilling project

The Biden administration on Monday greenlighted a massive oil drilling project in Alaska, opening the nation’s largest expanse of untouched land for energy production.

The multibillion project will be located about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, inside a national petroleum reserve, and could produce about 600 million barrels of crude over the next 30 years, according to the Interior Department.

The Interior Department, in announcing the approval, noted that it narrowed the scope of the plan, called the Willow Project, by rejecting two of the five drill sites proposed by ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s largest crude oil producer. The department estimated that the project could produce about a quarter of the roughly one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The project was met with strong pushback from environmentalists, who pointed to its potential climate and environmental impacts. Native American communities closest to the site have also opposed the project, but the oil industry and Alaskan lawmakers urged the president to approve the project for its energy production potential and potential to create thousands of new jobs.

A source familiar with the decision said that facing the prospect of legal action and costly fines, the Biden administration had little choice in the matter. Administration lawyers determined that courts would not allow Biden to outright reject the project, because ConocoPhillips has long-standing leases on land in the petroleum reserve, and the government could be fined, the source said.

The Interior Department announced Monday that ConocoPhillips will relinquish rights to nearly 68,000 acres of its existing leases in the petroleum reserve, most of which are close to the Tashchepook Lake Special Area, a key habitat for caribou and other wildlife that has Native communities rely on On Sunday, the Biden administration declared nearly 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean off-limits indefinitely to future oil and gas leasing.

On the campaign trail, Biden called for an end to drilling on federal land.

In a news release, ConocoPhillips applauded the administration’s decision. “This was the right decision for Alaska and for our country,” said ConocoPhillips President and CEO Ryan Lance.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement that she could almost “feel the future bright for Alaska” following the administration’s announcement. ConocoPhillips estimates the project will create 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs.

But Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a champion of efforts to fight climate change, said the decision left an “oil stain” on the administration’s climate record.

“The approval of the Willow Project is an environmental injustice,” Markey said in a statement. movement, and the young people who organized last year to bring historic clean energy and climate investments into law.”

The Bureau of Land Management was required to review the proposed Willow project after the US District Court for the District of Alaska found flaws with the Trump administration’s approval of a project with five drill pads.



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