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Biden Administration Says Yes to the Willow Project. We’ll See Them in Court.

The Biden administration has approved a gargantuan Alaskan oil project that threatens to unleash a global carbon bomb.

The administration signed off on the Willow Project — a plan by ConocoPhillips to drill for oil and gas across a vast expanse of Arctic tundra — despite a groundswell of public opposition, including more than 5.6 million letters sent to the White House and the Department of the Interior.

We’ve been fighting Willow since it was first proposed, and this isn’t the end. Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of conservation groups to keep this destructive project from moving forward.

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 stands to accelerate the climate crisis by emitting more than 260 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over the next 30 years.
  • Bureau of Land Management approved the construction of three oil drilling pads, which will produce 92% of the oil ConocoPhillips initially sought to develop.
  • ConocoPhillips is poised to build hundreds of miles of pipelines and roads, an airstrip, and a gravel mine on public lands. Drilling and roads will be allowed near Teshekpuk Lake, an important habitat for migratory birds and one of the most sensitive areas in the Arctic.
  • The project’s construction and daily operation would devastate imperiled wildlife like polar bears and caribou. It also would jeopardize the health and traditional practices of nearby Alaska Native communities.

The Biden administration had 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 the Biden administration to review.
  • The Biden administration had the authority to deny or substantially reduce the footprint of the project. Instead, it refused to consider any alternatives that would meaningfully reduce downstream emissions or eliminate infrastructure in the most sensitive areas.
  • By continuing to advance the Willow Project, the administration is severely undercutting its own stated climate goals.

We are taking this fight to court.

  • On March 15, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit to stop the Willow Project on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA, with the Natural Resources Defense Council as co-plaintiff.
  • The lawsuit asks the court to halt the project because the Biden administration neglected to consider alternatives that could have produced significantly less greenhouse gas emissions. It also takes the administration to task for failing to assess Willow’s full climate impact.
  • 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)