Today, the Biden administration cemented a climate victory by not appealing a federal district court decision halting ConocoPhillips’ Willow Master Development Plan. Willow would be the largest oil-and-gas drilling project in the Alaskan Arctic and would be located in a vast and biodiverse landscape in the Western Arctic. The Biden administration previously defended the plan in court but did not file an appeal by yesterday’s deadline.
“Today’s affirmation of our legal victory against the Willow project is a win for the climate and for an irreplaceable Alaska landscape,” said Jeremy Lieb, Earthjustice attorney. “We are glad to see that President Biden is taking positive steps in his commitment toward a cleaner energy future. However we are facing a dire climate emergency, and we hope that he continues to align Western Arctic management with climate imperatives and protect it from all new oil and gas activity.”
In August, a federal judge rejected permits for the Willow project, concluding that the government’s environmental analysis failed to adequately consider the project’s climate impacts. The court ordered the administration to conduct a new environmental review, so it must now start over with a reassessment that devotes careful attention to climate and environmental concerns.
“We hope this decision is a signal that Biden officials are rethinking their position on this dangerous project and the larger issue of Arctic drilling,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I think the administration is realizing that defending Willow is utterly at odds with the president’s promises of climate action. To protect our planet’s future, Biden needs to halt this huge oil project for good and move quickly to phase out drilling in our increasingly vulnerable Arctic.”
“The administration’s move not to appeal the lower court’s decision to stop Willow is a victory for protecting the Arctic and combating the climate crisis,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “We urge federal officials to go further and stop new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, in the Arctic and beyond.”
“The science is clear. If we are going to avoid climate catastrophe we must say no to all new fossil fuel projects. We hope the Biden administration’s choice to accept the federal court’s decision of halting ConocoPhillips’ Willow project is the beginning of the end of federal backing of fossil fuels,” said Tim Donaghy, Greenpeace USA senior research specialist. “While this moment is significant, there is more work to be done if humanity is to stand a chance at limiting the impacts of the climate crisis. This is an important step in President Biden fulfilling his campaign promises to be a climate leader, but it’s critical that his next step ends all oil and gas leasing on public lands and eliminates all government funding for fossil fuels.”
If it moved forward as planned, ConocoPhillips’ Willow project would have helped accelerate climate change by releasing enough greenhouse-gas emissions to equal that of 66 coal-fired power plants operating for a year. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging the massive oil-drilling operation on behalf of Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace.