Environmental Organizations File a Lawsuit Against the Biden Administration to Halt the Willow Oil Project in Alaska's Critical Western Arctic

Environmental Organizations File a Lawsuit Against the Biden Administration to Halt the Willow Oil Project in Alaska’s Critical Western Arctic.

The groups claim that the administration’s environmental study did not fully take into account the project’s impact on the climate.

The approval of a significant new carbon source runs counter to President Joe Biden’s pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 as part of the United States’ transition to clean energy.

According to Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, it is astounding that Biden approved the Willow project while knowing how much harm it will do to Arctic communities and animals.

We must now take action to defend these rare wilderness areas, as well as the people and animals that rely on them. It is obvious that we cannot rely on Biden to uphold his promises to combat climate change and stop drilling on public lands.

Trustees for Alaska, on behalf of the Sovereign Iupiat for a Living Arctic and environmental organizations, have filed a separate court complaint.

Millions of individuals, including former vice president Al Gore and indigenous groups, have spoken out against the project. According to Natalie Mebane, director of Greenpeace USA’s climate campaign, the Department of the Interior has serious reservations about the Willow project and the potential harm it could do to the environment, wildlife, and people.

The president’s legacy on the subject of climate change is at stake at this point. When he claims that we have a responsibility to address the climate catastrophe, he ought to listen to the public, his own departments, and himself. He must first cease approving oil and gas projects and start acting in accordance with science.

In 2020, under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initially gave the Willow project its approval. In response to a lawsuit filed by Alaska Native and environmental organizations, the court invalidated the project’s permission in 2021.

The court ordered BLM to do a new study of the project’s complete climatic consequences and to look at options that might lessen those impacts overall.

According to a press release from Earthjustice, the Biden administration disregarded the court’s directives and submitted an equally inadequate environmental review when Willow was once more permitted on March 13, 2023.

Environmental Organizations File a Lawsuit Against the Biden Administration to Halt the Willow Oil Project in Alaska's Critical Western Arctic

The approved Willow project consists of three drilling sites, an operations center, a central processing facility, an airstrip, gravel roads, hundreds of miles of ice roads, and more. ConocoPhillips’ operations would allow for roads and drilling in one of the Arctic’s most important and sensitive protected areas, Teshekpuk Lake.

Hallie Templeton, legal director at Friends of the Earth, said in the press release, “We are outraged that the administration has once again approved Willow despite the obvious hazards presented to the Western Arctic’s sensitive environment and communities.

More needs to be done to save our last remaining wild places from Big Oil’s exploitation, as evidenced by our previous success that forced BLM to revise its environmental study. We can only hope that the court will recognize this as yet another wrong, terrible, and illegal decision that has to be overturned.

The licensing of Willow will put ecologically significant places that preserve imperiled polar bears and other wildlife that are already having difficulty adapting to climate change in danger.

This important reserve is also home to musk oxen, hundreds of thousands of migrating birds, and the Teshekpuk Lake and Western Arcticcaribouherds, which travel through the area and are used as food by Alaska Native communities in the northern and western sections of the state.

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ConocoPhillips Willow project clearance by the Biden administration in western Arctic Alaska is a disheartening step backward, according to Nicole Whittington-Evans, head of Defenders of Wildlife’s Alaska program, in a press release. This would prolong oil and gas extraction and significant greenhouse gas emissions for decades, endanger imperiled polar bears and other climate-sensitive wildlife, and undermine the administration’s aim to slow global warming.

The lawsuit also makes the point that the Biden administration disregarded potential climate pollution from future growth, which will only be feasible once the Willow infrastructure has been constructed.

ConocoPhillips has described Willow to its investors as the following major Alaska hub, according to the press release.

Science supports this. If we want to prevent a global warming catastrophe, we cannot fund any new oil or gas projects. Mebane stated in the news release that it is very hypocritical for President Biden to approve what would be the largest oil extraction project on public lands after calling the climate problem an existential threat in his State of the Union address.

The BLM’s approval of Willow rejects requests to halt the project made by the local town of Nuiqsut and around 5.6 million other people who are opposed to it.

By rejecting Willow, the Biden administration has disregarded science, the opinions of regional Native leaders, and the cries of millions of Americans for the preservation of clean air, sustaining ecosystems, and the environment as a whole, according to Karlin Itchoak, senior regional director of The Wilderness Society for the Alaska Region, as quoted by Reuters.

Environmental Organizations File a Lawsuit Against the Biden Administration to Halt the Willow Oil Project in Alaska's Critical Western Arctic

During the next 30 years, the Willow project will emit 286.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of adding two million more automobiles to the road each year.

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Erik Grafe, deputy managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Alaska regional office, stated in the news release that there is no doubt the administration had the legal ability to halt Willow but chose not to. The government approved this carbon bomb without properly analyzing its effects on the climate or balancing its alternatives to lessen the harm and say no.

One of the biggest difficulties we are facing is the climate crisis, and President Biden has pledged to do all in his power to address it. We filed the case today to make sure the administration abides by the law and ultimately fulfills this commitment to future generations.

Vishal Rana

Vishal is working as a Content Editor at Enviro360. He covers a wide range of topics, including media, energy, weather, industry news, daily news, climate, etc. Apart from this, Vishal is a sports enthusiast and loves to play cricket. Also, he is an avid moviegoer and spends his free time watching Web series and Hollywood Movies.

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