President Joe Biden approved ConocoPhillips’ multi-billion dollar Willow oil drilling development project on Alaska’s North Slope, the largest tract of pristine land in the United States.
ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow Project is a massive and decadeslong oil drilling venture on Alaska’s North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve, which is owned by the federal government.
This extraction would create one of the largest “carbon bombs” on US soil, potentially producing more than twice as many emissions than all renewable energy projects on public lands by 2030 would cut combined.
Republicans were among those who have lauded Biden for the move but environmentalists and others say the approval is a reckless action that contradicts the administration’s rhetoric on climate change.
“We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who added that Alaska is “now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues” and “improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state.”
“We are too late in the climate crisis to approve massive oil and gas projects that directly undermine the new clean economy that the Biden Administration committed to advancing,” said Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen. “We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals.”
In the past two years, this administration has worked more closely with oil companies that have criminally conspired to destroy our planet’s ability to sustain life than it has with scientists, environmentalists and others who want to keep human beings alive,” said New Jersey activist Lisa McCormick, who has called for nationalization of polluters. “The Willow project is only the latest development in the Biden administration’s contradictory servitude to the fossil fuel industry.”
“The U.S. government should assert ownership and control over fossil fuel companies to safeguard long-term economic security for workers, avoid taxpayer-funded windfalls for big oil executives, restore communities exploited by criminal corporations, save taxpayer dollars, and ensure an eventual managed phase-out of coal, oil, and gas production,” said McCormick.
“Today, President Biden’s administration approved ConocoPhillips’ disastrous oil & gas project in Alaska,” said the Sierra Club, which is hosting a Town Hall forum on the scheme today. “The ‘Willow Project’ is one of the largest proposed new oil operations on public land in the U.S. and would emit 76 coal plants’ worth of carbon pollution into the atmosphere.”
The area where the project is planned holds up to 600 million barrels of oil. That oil would take years to reach the market since the project has yet to be constructed.
After Biden approved the oil drilling project, environmental lawyer Steven Doziger said, “This will create catastrophic pollution for decades just as the planet reaches the tipping point.”
Nuiqsut Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and two other city and tribal officials said that the village would bear the brunt of health and environmental impacts from Willow.
Other “villages get some financial benefits from oil and gas activity but experience far fewer impacts that Nuiqsut,” they said a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “We are at ground zero for the industrialization of the Arctic.”
“Approving the Willow Project is an unacceptable departure from President Biden’s promises to the American people on climate and environmental justice,” said Lena Moffitt, executive director of Evergreen Action. “After all that this administration has done to advance climate action and environmental justice, it is heartbreaking to see a decision that we know will poison Arctic communities and lock in decades of climate pollution we simply cannot afford.”
“Instead of sticking to his own climate goals and listening to the millions of young people who carried the party for the last three election cycles, President Biden is letting the fossil fuel industry have their way,” said the Sunrise Movement.
Just 20 companies have contributed 35 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane emissions worldwide, which adds up to 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent since 1965.
Continuing to bail out the oil, gas, and coal industries would risk our economy on the fossil fuel industry’s volatile, environmentally destructive business model as it worsens our economic and environmental crises.
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