As of 03/13/2023 6:44 PM
ConocoPhillips is authorized to develop new oil fields in northern Alaska. Environmentalists accuse the Biden government of breaking its word, because the US president promised not to allow more drilling.
US President Joe Biden has approved a major oil production project in the US state of Alaska – although he announced that he would no longer allow any new oil drilling on public lands. As part of the so-called Willow project, three drilling fields are thus allowed, which the oil company ConocoPhillips wants to exploit. In total, there are about 600 million barrels of oil at stake.
According to the company, 219 wells will be drilled in the fields, which can produce 180,000 barrels per day. The construction of the stations will create 2,500 jobs, and the subsequent operation will require 300 workers. The public treasury can hope to get billions in revenue from taxes and fees. Politically, the project has wide support in the United States.
The original plans were clipped together
The oil fields are located in the North Slope, the northernmost part of Alaska, and are sparsely populated and largely untouched. ConocoPhillips’ plans were originally larger, including roads, many bridges, pipelines, and more oil fields. The previous US administration under Donald Trump had already approved the project, but the court criticized the base environmental impact analysis and halted the project in 2021.
In the new approval, the oil company’s plans have been cut back somewhat. The US Department of the Interior said it was designed to minimize disturbances, including to polar bear and waterfowl habitats. In addition, the Biden government announced only on Sunday that it would ban or restrict oil production in other areas of Alaska. Accordingly, oil production in the Beaufort Sea is excluded and restricted to large areas of the mainland.
Lawsuits expected from environmentalists
Environmentalists criticized the decision. They have previously launched a campaign to stop Project Willow. They said Biden’s approval violated his promise not to allow oil drilling on public lands. Environmental organizations are expected to appeal the decision.
Natural Resources Defense Council chairman Kristi Goldfuss, the environment organization, was “deeply disappointed” with Biden’s announcement. “This decision is bad for the climate, bad for the environment, and bad for the Alaskan Natives who oppose the project but are not being heard,” she said.