First off, what is the Willow Project? The project is a 30 year plan where over 160,000 barrels of oil would be drilled in Alaska each day. It originally was created by the Texan energy company ConocoPhillips and was originally approved in 2020 by the Trump administration. The project will take place on the National Petroleum Reserve which is federally protected land. This project has caused many arguments opposing the plan and for it. Many Alaska lawmakers are commending Willow because of the jobs and revenue it will create in Alaska. However, many native Alaskans and climate activists are against the project because it will be destroying nationally protected land and also emitting carbon emissions equivalent to 2 million gas cars added to the roads.
President Biden approved the project on March 13, 2023. Originally the plan was to have five drilling pads in the oil reserve, after much protest to the project Biden lowered the number of pads down to 3. Despite the protests and the drastic climate change effects there wasn’t much the administration felt they could do to stop it, two government sources told CNN; since the company had valid leasing agreements of the land, legally there was no way of stopping or reducing the project to minimals effect. Had they tried to do this they would have faced legal action from ConocoPhillips. Approving this project has broken one of Biden’s campaign points of no new drilling on public lands and waters; however, the pause which he put on drilling projects at the beginning of his administration was taken down by a federal judge in 2021.
Now that the Willow Project has been approved it seems that construction will begin soon. However, there is no clear start date because of all of the legal action that may take place. EarthJustice, the environmental law group, is gearing up to set an injunction, an authoritative warning or order. If they were to do this the company would have to stop or delay construction for nearly a year because the building needs to be done in winter. Both groups are fighting the clock as it is predicted that April will be the end of the Alaskan winter. If EarthJustice were able to get the injunction then the project would have to be stopped for around a year, and no oil could be drilled. EarthJustice has told CNN that they are preparing their legal arguments under the rationale that the “Biden administration’s authority to protect surface resources on Alaska’s public lands includes taking steps to reduce planet-warming carbon pollution — which Willow would ultimately add to.”
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