Biden administration recommends oil drilling in Alaska

The North Slope wilderness, Alaska by Paxson Woelber is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – The Biden administration on Wednesday released a long-awaited study recommending allowing major oil development on Alaska’s north slope, and the move — while not final — drew immediate fury from environmentalists who see him as a betrayal of the president’s promises to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy sources.

ConocoPhillips Alaska had proposed five drill sites and the US Bureau of Land Management proposed alternative initially calls for up to three drill sites. Even as the land agency published its report, the US Department of the Interior said in a separate press release that it had “significant concerns” about the Willow project.

The Bureau of Land Management, which falls under Interior, also said in the report that identifying a preferred alternative “does not constitute an obligation or choice,” noting that it could select a different alternative in the final decision.

Opponents have raised concerns about the development’s impact on wildlife, such as birds and caribou, and efforts to combat climate change.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an Alaska-based company, and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope joined the North Slope Borough in praising the proposed alternative and urging the administration to move forward with the project. ConocoPhillips estimates the project would create up to 2,000 jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs and generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in federal, state and local government revenues in an area more than 600 miles from Anchorage .

The decision on the Willow project – which some environmentalists have dubbed a “carbon bomb” – is politically dangerous for President Joe Biden, who has been campaigning for pledges to end new drilling on public lands.

The project is located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a vast region roughly the size of Indiana on Alaska’s resource-rich North Slope. ConocoPhillips Alaska says the project could produce an estimated 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak.

Erec Isaacson, the president of ConocoPhillips Alaska, said in a statement the company believes the project will “benefit local communities and improve American energy security while producing oil in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.” He said the review process “should be completed without delay”.

The indigenous village of Nuiqsut and the city of Nuiqsut have raised concerns about the project, saying they don’t feel the Bureau of Land Management is listening. The community is near the proposed development which is located in far north Alaska near the Beaufort Sea.

The project would bring miles of roads and hundreds of miles of pipelines into the area, disrupting animal migration patterns and eroding habitat as it progresses, said Earthjustice, an environmental group.

Jeremy Lieb, an attorney for the group, said Willow is currently the largest proposed oil project in the United States. He said it was “dramatically inconsistent with the Biden administration’s goals to reduce climate pollution and transition to clean energy.”

The Home Office will make a final decision on whether to approve the development no earlier than early March.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

| |
Back to top button