Environmentalists are extremely disappointed in the Biden administration after its decision last week to approve the Willow Project. Willow is a drilling project set to take place in Northern Alaska and tap into promising amounts of oil, an estimated 180,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak to be exact. This project operates under Conocophillips, an American petroleum refineries company. The Biden Administration approved this despite Biden’s campaign promises to end new oil and gas leasing on federal land. Though this is not the first drilling site to break this promise under the Biden Administration, it is certainly the biggest and most environmentally detrimental.
On April 15, 2022, The U.S. Department of the Interior announced they would resume drilling on federal land with three main reformations: “ensuring tribal consultation and broad community input, reliance of the best available science… and increase in the royalty rate for new competitive leases… to ensure fair return for the American taxpayer.” Yet Willow will fail to comply with ⅔ of those reformations.
The department’s promises to ensure tribal consultation and broad community input are null as they ignored Willow’s opposition from the Native Village of Nuiqsut, or NVN, the city of Nuiqsut, and concerned citizens across the nation.
NVN is a Unipiaq community closest to the drilling site, and it is only one of many that will face front-line impact from the project. In January, NVN and the city of Nuiqsut sent a letter addressing these concerns to President Biden, the U.S. Dept. of Interior secretary, two U.S. senators and a house representative.
Among their concerns stated are: demands for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to address the impacts of uncontrolled gas release, financial impacts on tribal members, threats to health and Caribou migration/general harm to the species population.
The letter details all negative impacts the project will have not only on the people living there, but on the Alaskan environment. Because of specific impacts like this and overall global warming, people across the U.S. voiced their opposition to the project. Yet our concerns continue to be glazed over for the profit of big oil companies.
The department also promised reliance on the best available science yet they choose to ignore it. The science screams opposition, the government is just failing to care. Within the DOI’s announcement they also stated, “the BLM has prioritized avoiding important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and sensitive cultural areas.” Yet the drilling site sits right outside of Teshekpuk Lake, an area deemed worthy of maximum protection under the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act in 1976. The lake is protected for its importance in caribou migration, waterfowl species, polar bears and more. Science has protected this lake’s sanctity for over 40 years. Not to mention burning Willow’s oil will emit an estimated 239 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further melting valuable ice cores in Alaska. The project extends our reliance on fossil fuels, making it harder to phase out while promising to cause irreversible damage.
Private oil and gas companies like ConocoPhillips cannot continue to hold power over the government. As lawmakers suggest the company would have sued the Biden Administration, won, and been able to develop Willow anyway. These oil companies have a deep hold over the economy and government. How much more powerful can they continue to be?
Taylor Henninger is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Taylor by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.