According to a congressional source who is aware with the details, the Willow Project, which is a significant oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, is about to be given the go-ahead for approval by the administration of Vice President Joe Biden. The decision is going to be announced the following week, according to the source.s
The anticipated approval is a victory for Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation as well as a coalition of Alaska Native tribes and groups. These individuals and organizations hailed the drilling venture as a much-needed new source of revenue and jobs for the remote region. The approval is expected to come in the next few weeks.
That is a huge setback for climate groups and Alaska Natives who oppose the Willow project on the grounds that it will have a negative impact on the president’s ambitious climate goals and pose hazards to human health and the environment.
On Friday, the press secretary for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, responded to the criticism by stating that no final decision had been made about the project and that the United States Department of the Interior will make a “independent decision on the Willow Project.”
“No final decisions have been made – anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong,” “President Biden is delivering on the most aggressive climate agenda of any US president in history and spurring an unprecedented expansion of clean energy.”
A spokesman for the Interior Department declined to comment on the matter. CNN was told by Dennis Nuss, a representative for ConocoPhillips, that the firm had not been provided with any record of a decision regarding the Willow project and that the company was therefore unable to comment.
It was not immediately clear if the administration had accepted the larger version of the project that included three drilling pads or the more compact version that only included two drilling pads. In an effort to allay the concerns expressed by several environmental organizations earlier this month, officials from the White House had suggested the possibility of scaling the project down to include only two drill sites.
According to the source, many completed versions of a record of decision were circulating through staff members at the White House and the Department of the Interior in the weeks and days preceding up to the decision to approve the project.
John Podesta, a senior adviser to the White House on climate and clean energy implementation, told CNN on Thursday that the White House climate office has “stayed in touch” with the Interior Department about the project. However, Podesta insisted that the Interior Department would be the one to make the final decision.
On Friday of last week, members of Alaska’s congressional delegation met with Vice President Biden and top staff members from the White House and the Department of the Interior. During the meeting, Alaska lawmakers argued that the oil drilling project represented a just transition away from fossil fuels toward clean energy and said that it would benefit Alaska Native communities on the remote North Slope. These communities are located in an area where food and fuel are extremely expensive.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, A Republican, told CNN
“We made our case”
“They were in listening mode, for the most part.”
It is estimated that the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which is located in the state of Alaska and is held by the federal government, contains up to 600 million barrels of oil. According to the administration’s own projections, the Willow project would produce enough oil to cause an annual increase in carbon pollution equal to 9.2 million metric tons, which is the same as putting an additional 2 million vehicles that run on gasoline on the road.
Native Alaskans who are in favor of the project have stated that it will assist in bringing much-needed jobs and cash to the isolated region, in addition to assisting in bringing exorbitant gasoline costs down.
At a recent news conference, the president of an advocacy group called Voice of the Arctic Iupiat stated that the project has “majority consensus” among Alaska Natives living on the North Slope. According to Harcharek, “we utilize the job opportunities that initiatives like these give.” They are a source of income for the local families living on the North Slope.
Other Alaska Natives who live closer to the planned project, such as city officials and tribal members in Nuiqsut, have expressed their extreme concern regarding the potential negative effects of a major oil development on both their health and the environment, given the proximity of the development to their community.
It is anticipated that environmental advocates would fight the proposal in a legal setting. Earthjustice, an environmental law group, has been preparing a case against the project.
Their legal rationale includes saying that the Biden administration has the authority to protect surface resources on Alaska’s public lands, and that this authority includes taking steps to reduce planet-warming carbon pollution. They argue that Willow’s carbon pollution would ultimately add to the total amount of carbon pollution already present.
“If true, the Biden administration is betraying its core commitment to stop runaway climate change,” Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen said in a statement. “We hope the Biden administration will make the right decision to reject Willow, and if it makes the wrong decision, we are committed to challenging it.”