Anchorage Press: 'The enormous benefits it will bring to not only the North Slope, but Alaska and the nation.': State leaders welcome approval of the Willow Project; Governor warns new oil, gas restrictions in NPRA will harm Alaska

On Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued a Record of Decision approving an alternative for ConocoPhillips' Willow Project on the North Slope that permits 3 drill pads.

 U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Representative Mary Peltola welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to reapprove ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project within the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NRPA).

 “We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” Senator Murkowski said. “This was Alaska at its very best, with ConocoPhillips, Alaska Native leaders, labor leaders, our unanimous State Legislature, and so many more joining with the delegation to do everything we could to make this happen.”

 “Today’s Record of Decision (ROD) on the Willow Project is critically important for Alaska’s economy, good-paying jobs for our families, and the future prosperity of our state,” said Senator Sullivan. “This decision is also crucial for our national security and environment. Producing much-needed American energy in Alaska with the world’s highest environmental standards and lowest emissions enhances the global environment.”

 “Today, the people of Alaska were heard,” said Representative Peltola. “After years of consistent, determined advocacy for this project, from people all across the state and from every walk of life, the Willow Project is finally moving forward. I would like to thank the President and his administration for listening to the voices of Alaskans when it mattered most.”

 A joint statement released from the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS), North Slope Borough, and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), praised the Biden administration for their support, saying:

 “The elected regional Iñupiat leadership of the North Slope would like to thank the Biden administration for its leadership on Alaska’s Willow Project, which is now cleared to move ahead based on today’s ROD released by the Bureau of Land Management. Willow has passed every level of environmental analysis, proving its viability as a responsible resource development project in this ongoing era of energy transition.”

 The statement went on to extend thanks to the State’s bipartisan group of leaders, Alaska state lawmakers, labor leaders, and Alaska Native leaders, all who came together to advocate for the project

 “The enormous benefits it will bring to not only the North Slope, but Alaska and the nation.”

 Willow is expected to create as many as 2,500 jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs. The project is expected to produce about 180,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak and generate at least $8 billion in revenue for federal, state and local governments.

 While Governor Mike Dunleavy also joined in welcoming the approval of the Willow project, he also expressed frustration after the Biden administration announced that it will lock up millions more acres in Alaska that were specifically set aside for oil production and development, with his administration announcing that he will prevent or limit oil drilling in 16 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.

 Areas to be protected include the Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay Special Areas, collectively known for their globally significant habitat for grizzly and polar bears, caribou and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.

 Plans announced Sunday will bar drilling in nearly 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea — closing it off from oil exploration — and limit drilling in more than 13 million acres in the NRP. The NRPA was set first aside in 1923 to provide an emergency supply of oil for the U.S. Navy, and in 1976, Congress directed the land to be available to lease for oil and gas production. The Biden administration's plans to prohibit oil and gas in a massive portion of the NRPA ignores Congress's original intent.

 "It's disgraceful that the Biden administration thinks that this is a compromise that will benefit America," said Governor Dunleavy in a press release. "Taking future oil production in Alaska off the map won't decrease global oil consumption. It will just shift the market and give leverage to producers in countries that don't have our high standards for the environment and human rights. In the end, every American pays the price when President Biden restricts our ability to develop our own energy resources."

 “Once again the Biden Administration is offering up Alaska as a sacrifice to appease the cult of climate extremism," said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner-Designee John Boyle.

 "Forestalling development across 16 million acres to atone for an energy project barely 500 acres is emblematic of an environmental fanaticism that should concern all rational people. We Alaskans are left hoping for a future day when federal policy isn't served with a pitcher of green Kool-Aid.”

 Biden’s decision on Willow will be one of his most consequential climate decisions and comes as he gears up for a likely reelection bid in 2024.


By:  Katie Stavick
Source: Anchorage Press