Skip to main content

Tell Biden to oppose drilling in the Western Arctic

Supporters Spoke up in this Action
Delivery to President Biden

Action Ended On

October 19, 2021

What Happens Next

The deadline for the Department of the Interior to appeal the court's decision passed on October 19, 2021. Interior will now conduct a more thorough environmental assessment, at which point there will be further opportunity for public comment. We're counting on you to continue showing up to stop oil drilling in the Western Arctic.

What was at Stake

Climate change, in large part fueled driven by the fossil fuel industry, is causing the Arctic to warm faster than any other region on earth, leading to melting permafrost, eroding coastlines, coastal erosion, and a host of other impacts that are devastating to this fragile region. Despite this, oil giant ConocoPhillips wants to construct a massive oil new oil development on federal land in the Western Arctic. It even plans to bring in equipment to refreeze permafrost made unstable by accelerating warming so that it can pump out oil, the very substance that is causing melting to accelerate. We need you to tell the Biden administration to put this project on ice.

ConocoPhillips clearly wasn’t getting the hint that it should not drill for oil, so it was up to Earthjustice to remind it that profits will mean nothing if they come at the expense of a livable climate. With our partners and the law on our side, we intervened and successfully stopped the project for now.

The good news is that, in declaring the project’s environmental assessment inadequate, the court affirmed that the government has an obligation to restrict oil and gas extraction to protect wildlife and the climate. The bad news is that the Biden administration actively defended this project in court, even though it was first approved by the Trump administration.

The court ordered the Biden administration to conduct a new environmental assessment, but it has an opportunity to appeal the decision — and we must urge them not to do so. Join us in telling the Biden administration the Western Arctic needs protection, not extraction.

The stakes are high, but the Biden administration’s actions in the Western Arctic thus far have been a stunning abdication of its responsibility to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Opposing a project that will generate emissions equal to that of 66 coal-fired power plants in its lifetime is the absolute lowest bar to clear if you want to lead on climate — and our court victory gives the Biden administration an opportunity to get it right and reconsider the project in light of the administration’s climate and environmental justice commitments. yet the administration has failed to do that so far.

Beyond the damage to our climate, ConocoPhillips’ plan to produce oil in the Western Arctic would be a disaster for all living things in the 23- million-acre area. The plan calls for 37 miles of new gravel roads, seven bridges, an airstrip, and a gravel mine, which would devastate local wildlife like polar bears, migratory birds, and caribou.

Fortunately, the Biden administration has another chance, thanks to Earthjustice’s successful litigation, to make the right decision. But it won’t do that if the only input it’s receiving is from the oil industry. Join us in telling the Biden administration it’s time for it to stop defending this disastrous project.

Caribou in the Western Arctic
Kiliii Yüyan for Earthjustice

Caribou in the Western Arctic.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

Read More

You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.