Biden administration to decide on fate of Willow Project

President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to make a final decision on the Willow Project, an oil drilling project in Alaska’s Natural Petroleum Reserve, in the coming days. The project has sparked backlash amongst environmental experts. 

The Biden administration first released a study on Feb. 1 in support of the project’s proposal. However, their choice should be obvious.

There are some benefits to drilling. According to ConocoPhillips Alaska, the state’s largest crude oil producer and company at the forefront of the project proposal, the project at its peak is estimated to produce approximately 180,000 barrels of oil.

Economics aside, this creates a problem for those native to the area, the majority of whom oppose the tolling project. Nuiqsut Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and other Nuiqsut city and tribal officials argued in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland that Nuiqsut would be forced to deal with the majority of effects, according to CNN.

“[Some] villages get some financial benefits from oil and gas activity but experience far fewer impacts [than] Nuiqsut,” the letter said. “We are at ground zero for the industrialization of the Arctic.”

The climate effects that Ahtuangaruak brings up are serious. According to the Sierra Club, the project could dump roughly 250 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere over 30 years. Environment America also points out that the infrastructure needed to maintain the project will shatter ecosystems that are already fragile.

“The Willow project would have a devastating effect on public lands and our climate, and approving it after passing the largest climate bill in history would be a giant step in reverse,” the Sierra Club said in a Feb. 1 press release in reference to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Activists are concerned about wildlife impacts in Alaska, as well as the health of the state’s population.

“Allowing Willow to move forward will pose a threat to some of Alaska’s last undisturbed wilderness, to the populations of wildlife that call it home, and to the public health of nearby communities and makes it harder to achieve our climate goals. We must end new leasing on public lands and conserving more nature to secure our climate future,” the release continued.

Biden’s choice is obvious. He said it himself in his campaign when he vowed to end drilling on public lands. To defend against climate change and to protect the lands of indigenous people, Biden must take action against the extractive Willow Project.