Alaska Senators Urge DOI to Recognize Immense Benefits, Promptly Approve the Willow Project

Following the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent publication of a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for ConocoPhillips’ Willow project, located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to reiterate their strong support of the project and to urge the Department to promptly approve it—with no extension of the current, 45-day public comment period.

In their letter, the Senators outlined how the Willow project has already gone through a rigorous and comprehensive review process, including multi-year environmental analyses led by BLM across multiple federal agencies, the State of Alaska, and affected communities on the North Slope. The results of those reviews and analyses have shown that Willow will meet and exceed the strictest environmental standards, furthering the administration’s stated goals for U.S. energy security, energy prices, and social justice.

“We therefore firmly believe that a 45-day comment period will allow all stakeholders and the general public more than enough time to review the SEIS and provide meaningful comment. Timely completion of this process is critical to the project’s ability to undertake any level of development activities during the rapidly-approaching 2022-2023 winter season – the shortest construction season in the world due to Alaska’s world class environmental standards, which incorporate standards, including ice roads and pads, which virtually eliminate any surface disturbance. It would also demonstrate the urgency required to address the seriousness of rising energy costs, the need for greater energy security, and the Administration’s stated goals for its environmental justice initiatives.”

The Senators highlighted the Willow project’s widespread support across Alaska, including from the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, ANCSA Regional Association, the Alaska District Council of Laborers and additional labor groups, and the communities of Utqiagvik, Wainwright, and Atqasuk located on the North Slope, among others—in addition to committed support from the President of the United States.

“The Alaska District Council of Laborers, for example, has pointed out, ‘not only will the Willow Project generate Alaska jobs, it will substantially increase revenue for state and local governments.’

“Alaska Natives are also especially supportive of this project, as it would contribute to their economic well-being and prosperity for years to come. For example, Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, wrote to you in a letter that Willow ‘could jumpstart our economy with thousands of jobs and be a model in community and environmental stewardship for years to come.’

“Hallie Bissett and Kim Reitmeier, Executive Directors, respectively, of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association and ANCSA Regional Association, have urged you not delay Willow ‘given the exhaustive and thorough review process it has already undergone, and the urgent need for vetted, economic opportunities for safe development in Alaska.’

“The cities of Utqiagvik, Wainwright, and Atqasuk, located on the North Slope, have even passed resolutions in support of oil and gas development projects, like Willow, within the NPR-A, and explicitly asked you “not to undercut us as a people and to honor the work” they have done with your agencies throughout the development of Willow.”

The Senators concluded by reiterating the importance of the Department’s timely approval of the Willow project:

“Again, given BLM’s previous evaluations of Willow, a 45-day public comment period is a sufficient time frame for any interested party to wholly evaluate the SEIS. Willow has already faced multiple delays, and now again awaits approval at a pivotal moment. Given the current pace of inflation, high gas prices, and international geopolitics, we urge you to recognize the immense benefits this project will bring and act promptly to approve it.”

Click here to read the Senators’ full letter.

Click here to see what Alaskans are saying about the Willow project.

Related Issues: Energy