Statement: Biden administration moves Western Arctic Willow project forward

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior released on Wednesday a final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow project in the Western arctic. The area includes Teshekpuk Lake, which is the calving ground for the Teshekpuk caribou herd and teems with other wildlife including polar bears and many migratory birds.

Amid a fragile ecosystem, the Willow project would require building a large amount of industrial infrastructure, which could include drill sites, bridges, an airstrip, hundreds of miles of roads and a gravel mine. Even before oil drilling begins, the construction and transportation involved in the creation of infrastructure would fragment animal habitats and put wildlife at risk. If the project gets a green light, it is expected to continue for 30 years, which would impede President Joe Biden’s commitment to “achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.”

The Interior Department must wait at least 30 days before issuing a final decision on Willow. Environmental advocates plan to continue their calls for a full cancellation of the project.

In response, Environment America Research & Policy Center Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:

“The Willow project presents us with a lose-lose-lose-lose situation: The proposed project is a loss for people, the climate and majestic animals such as caribou and polar bears. This year alone, the Biden administration has made great progress toward protecting nature and the climate. It would be a shame to undo some of that progress by allowing ConocoPhillips to break ground on this truly terrible project. Without projects such as this one, 30 years from now, thanks in part to the Biden administration and the Inflation Reduction Act, we will be much closer to transitioning off fossil fuels entirely. We won’t want to look back and realize that we destroyed an incredible ecosystem and undermined threatened species for no reason. We urge Secretary Haaland to look to the future and use her power to make a final decision to prevent construction of the Willow project.”

Alaska Environment Research and Policy Center State Director Dyani Chapman issued the following statement: 

“The Willow project is bad for Alaskans. ConocoPhillips’ activities, which bring gas leaks and harmful development into the region, have already done a lot of damage to local communities. The community of Nuiqsut is already surrounded by planned and active oil wells and people there have seen a rise in respiratory illnesses. They do not need more oil wells and drilling. It’s absurd that as our tundra is melting because of climate change, ConocoPhillips plans to use ‘chillers’ to re-freeze tundra so it can drill for oil that will, in turn, make climate change even worse.”