Alaska Delegation Deeply Troubled by 9th Circuit Decision to Halt Willow Project

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, expressed frustration and disappointment at a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision to extend a District Court’s injunction, pending appeal, halting all work on the Willow project on Alaska’s North Slope. The Willow project is a multi-billion dollar development proposed by ConocoPhillips in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). It is located to the west of the Greater Mooses Tooth-1 and Greater Mooses Tooth-2 developments. 

 “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling over the weekend is a kick in the gut to Alaska. Giving up the winter season of work means forfeiting access to the ice roads that will melt by springtime, setting the project back until next winter. This decision could lead to a possible delay in the production of hundreds of billions of barrels of oil and desperately needed revenue for the State of Alaska and the federal government,” said Senator Murkowski. “Further, the decision is unnecessary because the Bureau of Land Management, under the Obama administration’s IAP, completed a thorough and comprehensive review to ensure it would not move forward at any cost to Alaska’s environment. ConocoPhillips also took community concerns into account in their design of the Willow project, such as making the roads completely open to subsistence use. This new North Slope development project gives Alaska a real chance to rebuild and bolster our economy - it is pivotal that the project be allowed to move forward.”

“I am deeply troubled by the 9th Circuit’s decision to halt work on the Willow project, which received extensive and completed environmental review from the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies prior to approval,” said Senator Sullivan. “This decision completely upends the legal development of a project that was already providing good-paying jobs to hard-working Alaskans, and would generate hundreds of millions of barrels of oil, and billions in revenue for our state. The Willow project will significantly help Alaska Native communities in the North Slope Borough with job opportunities and funding for schools, health clinics, and social services. Because of the already short construction season on the North Slope, this injunction will cause a domino effect of delay and uncertainty that will impact all operations on the project moving forward. The plaintiffs in this case—Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace—don’t care about these lost jobs, our workers, the forfeited opportunities for Alaska Natives, or the future of Alaska. They are some of the most extreme special interest groups in the country, carrying out the will of their activist Lower 48 donors to shutdown Alaska, harm our Alaska Native communities, and eliminate thousands of good-paying jobs during a recession and pandemic—none of which will do anything to protect Alaska’s environment.”

"By halting the Willow Project, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a devastating blow to Alaska's energy workers, their families, and all who would benefit from responsible resource development in the NPR-A. The Willow Project represents immense potential for our state, and this is not the time to roll back progress on initiatives that could bring back jobs and help our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic. The Willow Project is years in the making, and countless individuals at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) worked hard to ensure a thorough environmental review. Late last year, when the Record of Decision was issued, BLM made clear that Willow could proceed all while protecting our environment. Environmental extremists in the Lower 48 have been working hard to shut Alaska down, and sadly, they have found allies within the Ninth Circuit. This is unacceptable, and I will continue doing all that I can to protect this project, so that it can continue to deliver the good-paying jobs and affordable energy that Alaskans deserve,” said Congressman Young.

The NPR-A is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and covers more than 23 million acres on the western North Slope of Alaska, an area roughly the size of Indiana. In 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the NPR-A contains an estimated 8.7 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically-recoverable oil. 

Read the Alaska delegation’s prior letters to the Department of the Interior about the importance of the project here and here.