ICYMI: Alaska Native and Union Leaders Join Delegation to Urge Re-Approval of Willow Project

Yesterday, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Representative Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) participated in an event outside the U.S. Capitol calling on the Biden administration to re-approve the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope.

The delegation was joined by Alaska State Representative Josiah Patkotak (I-Utqia?vik); Nagruk Harcharek, President of Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat; Joelle Hall, President of AFL-CIO Alaska; Doreen Leavitt, Director of Natural Resources for the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope; representatives of additional Alaska Native groups; state and national union leaders; and many fellow Alaskans showing their unequivocal support for the meticulously-planned, socially-just, and environmentally-sound Willow Project.


Willow Presser

Click here to watch the full press conference.

Key Quotes and Excerpts

Senator Murkowski:

“We have whaling captains, we have young people, we have elders, and we have unions behind us, standing with us, in agreement. Why are we all here in support of the Willow Development Project? What is it all about? It can be summed up in one word: security. It is energy security—yes. Because we are developing a resource that not only this country needs, but certainly the world still needs it.

“It is also economic security, as you’ve just heard Representative Patkotak say what it means to them to have an economy in their region, resources that can come to them so that they can take care of themselves. This is about empowerment for Alaska Native people.

“And it's about national security, as well as anything. So, we are here today, literally days ahead of a decision by this administration. They seem to be agonizing over whether or not they should allow for a re-approval of the Willow Project. This is a re-approval. There is nothing to agonize here. This is about security for America, security for Alaskans. Get off the dime, administration—approve the Willow Project.”

Senator Sullivan:

“I am so honored that we got this joint bipartisan resolution from the Alaska Legislature. Every elected leader in our state has signed on: Democrat, Republican, Independent, many of them are here. This is why it’s so important [for them] to hear our voices. Hear our voices, Mr. President. Hear our voices, Secretary Haaland…”

“We have challenges all over the world. One of the strongest instruments of American power is American energy. And, yet, this administration has gone out of their way to shut down American energy, making it harder to produce, harder to move, harder to finance. And when the resulting implication of those policies is higher energy prices on working families, they go to Saudi Arabia on bended knee to beg them for oil. They go to Venezuela and say we’re going to lift sanctions on Maduro so he can produce more oil. Mr. President, don’t beg Saudi Arabia. Don’t beg Venezuela. Get it from Alaska!...”

“The White House is now looking to reduce [the Willow project] to two drill pads. We have all said, if you do that, you’re going to kill it and that would just be an exercise of raw political power. They’re not scientists. John Podesta is not a scientist. The BLM are career officials who did the science and the data work. They said we can do it with three pads. That’s all we’re asking—to approve what they’ve already said they can.”

Representative Peltola:

“We have a lot of people here who are Inupiaq, from the North Slope region. This is their region. This is their land. This is about their sovereignty and their autonomy to go forward with their economic development, which will help the state of Alaska…”

“I’m Yupik. We have Athabascans in this audience, we have Tlingits, we have Eyaks. Across the board, Alaska Natives are standing in support with Inupiaqs…across America there is no issue that has 100% unanimous support but clearly there is the preponderance of Inupiaqs who are in support of this. The majority of Alaska Natives, and the majority of Alaskans are in support of this…”

“While many other states have enjoyed development and economic growth, Alaska has gone backwards by 8% over the last 15 years. We can’t afford this. We need to make sure that our future generations have the schools that they need, have the public safety that they need, have the roads that they need, and Alaska can’t shoulder the issues of global warming alone.”

Alaska State Representative Patkotak:

“[The Willow Project] represents an opportunity, really of a lifetime, for the citizens of the state of Alaska, and more directly the citizens of the North Slope. Center those numbers over the course of the project. Thirty-year life of the project represents about $3.7 billion in impact grant mitigation funds. And those directly affect the communities within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, along with a few of the villages above the North Slope. And those grants are used for anywhere from school playgrounds, to salaries for city managers in villages that don’t have an economic base, to water and sewer infrastructure, power generation and roads, building them up and maintaining them.”

“We would not, as the subsistence hunters of the North Slope, support a project that threatened our subsistence livelihood in that negative of a fashion…Our subsistence activities and our resource development are not mutually exclusive…”

Joelle Hall, Alaska AFL-CIO:

“100% of Alaska’s unions are in support of the Willow Project. Not just our building trades unions—also our private unions and our public sector unions, because development in Alaska, revenue to Alaska, employs Alaska’s workforce, but it also helps support the state workers and the public workers, which are vital to the monitoring of this work. And to make sure that the work is done justly…

“This is management and labor, Alaska Native corporations, all manner of Alaska organizations standing together asking the same question: put us to work. Put us to work, Mr. President, we want to build for jobs, we want to build for American security. We want to build American jobs.”

Nagruk Harcharek, Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat:

“We understand the complexities, and we know that the Willow Project will make it possible to continue our traditions while reinforcing the economic foundation of our region, of our state, of the nation, for decades to come.”

Sean McGarvey, President of the North America’s Building Trades Unions (submitted statement):

“North America’s Building Trades Unions are strongly committed to the Willow Project. As the press event held yesterday by the Alaska Congressional Delegation highlighted, this project has broad support from the Building Trades, the Alaska AFL-CIO, the whole of the Alaska Congressional Delegation, and the Native peoples of the North Slope. We applaud the Biden administration’s work to move this critical infrastructure forward and encourage all decision makers to recognize the benefits to our nation’s energy security and the over 1,600 middle-class, family-sustaining union jobs this project will provide.”