As the climate change crisis worsens, issues such as oil and petroleum drilling are receiving increased media attention. Symptoms of the rising crisis become more evident by the day, whether it be through changing weather cycles or policy changes.
On March 13, The Biden administration approved a massive oil project in Alaska’s oil-rich area. The Willow Project is essentially a National Petroleum Reserve oil drilling project that was established to produce more oil for the US government while simultaneously supporting and coexisting with subsistence activities through the use of numerous mitigation mechanisms built into the project design. The area contains up to 600 million barrels of oil, which would take years to reach the market and be sold.
The project would generate up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day, or about 1.5% of total US oil production. It is currently the largest proposed oil project in the United States of America.
Despite the fact that this project will create new job opportunities in Alaska, it is a major setback for climate activists and indigenous Alaskans. Many have argued that it would undermine the president’s ambitious climate goals and pose health and environmental risks.
The project has sparked a wave of online activism, with over a million letters written to the White House in opposition. In addition, a Change.org petition against it currently has millions of signatures.
One of them, including Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that has been preparing a case against the project, is one of the many environmentalists who plan to sue to stop The Willow Project. Earthjustice claims that the Biden administration’s authority to protect resources on Alaska’s public lands includes taking steps to reduce carbon pollution. Which in turn the Willow Project would only add on to.
According to CNN, Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen how this project will only worsen the issues that are still here.
“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, […] We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals,” Dillen said.
Biden’s decision has forced many Alaskan lawmakers against environmental groups with the opposing of the Willow Project. Many Democrats in Congress also argue against Willow, claiming the project contradicts his goals of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 and transitioning to clean energy.
Even with continued protests and future detrimental effects on the Alaskan environment, many Alaskan federal lawmakers cheer for The Willow Project. Democratic Representative Mary Peltol stated that many Alaskans have been determined to set this project in motion and even thanked President Biden and the administration for listening to Alaska.
“I would like to thank the President and his administration for listening to the voices of Alaskans when it mattered most,” Peltol said.
Lawmakers were not the only ones happy with this decision; many Alaskan native groups are glad for the jobs and revenue it would bring to this region and many even said that it would ensure a stable and prosperous future for Alaska and its people.
In response to the Willow project, the Biden administration plans to consider protection for more than 13 million acres within the petroleum reserve for wildlife and nature.