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Arctic Oil Project Advances as Biden Administration Says Yes to Carbon Bomb

The Biden administration is one step closer to approving a gargantuan Alaskan oil project that would unleash a global carbon bomb.

The administration has released a final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Willow Project, a proposal by ConocoPhillips to drill for oil and gas across a vast expanse of Arctic tundra. Now, the administration could approve the project as soon as 30 days.

Just two years ago, a federal court rejected the project’s permits on the grounds that the government had not considered Willow’s threats to the climate and polar bears. Earthjustice urges the Biden administration to fully consider these grave threats and to deny this unacceptable project.

The Willow Project poses threats to the Western Arctic — and far beyond.

  • This is the largest proposed oil and gas undertaking on U.S. public lands. Over its lifetime, Willow will accelerate the climate crisis by emitting more than 280 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over the next 30 years.
  • ConocoPhillips would build 386 miles of new pipelines, 37 miles of new gravel roads, seven bridges, an airstrip, and a gravel mine on public lands.
  • If approved, the project’s construction and daily operation would devastate local, imperiled wildlife like polar bears, migratory birds, and caribou. It also would jeopardize the health and traditional practices of nearby Alaska Native communities.

The Biden administration has full legal authority to reject it. 

  • In 2021, we represented environmental groups who sued the Biden administration to halt the project, which originated during the Trump administration.
  • A federal court sided with us, finding that the permits glossed over Willow’s global climate impact and threatened imperiled polar bears. The court kicked the project back to Biden to review.
  • The Biden administration has the authority to deny or substantially reduce the footprint of the project.
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has so far refused to consider any alternatives that would meaningfully reduce downstream emissions or eliminate infrastructure in the most sensitive areas.

We’re watching the administration closely. Here’s what happens next.

  • We’re calling on the administration to follow the science and reject the Willow Project.
  • By continuing to advance the Willow Project, the administration would severely undercut its own stated climate goals.
  • Now that the SEIS has been released, the Biden administration will have to wait at least 30 days before issuing a final decision. 
  • Earthjustice is dedicated to using the power of the law to stop the extraction and burning of harmful fossil fuels. We must keep all Arctic oil and gas in the ground if we want to avert a climate catastrophe.
Fossil fuel pipelines crossing the Western Arctic in Alaska.

Fossil fuel pipelines crossing the Western Arctic in Alaska.

KILIII YUYAN FOR EARTHJUSTICE