The US Department of the Interior released a draft environmental impact statement for the ConocoPhillips oil drilling project, known as Willow, on Friday evening. The statement does not represent a final decision and includes several potential scenarios for the project, including no drilling. But it was a critical step the Biden administration needed to take to move the process forward — setting off alarm bells among environmental groups.
ConocoPhillips is proposing five drill sites on federal lands in Alaska’s North Slope, and the project would include a processing facility, oil transport pipelines, gravel roads, at least one airstrip and a gravel mine site, says the draft EIS report.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska applauded the administration’s decision and said she would “continue to hold them accountable” in hopes the project would begin construction this winter.
“From day one, I have elevated Project Willow to a top priority for the administration,” Murkowski said in a statement.
“This project is a pending climate catastrophe,” Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president for energy and environmental policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement. “Once approved, it will define the country’s energy future for the next 30+ years without impacting the pain Americans are currently feeling at the pumps.”
The groups also said the project would harm native wildlife, including polar bears, migratory birds and caribou.
“We cannot allow ConocoPhillips to destroy this pristine region – which is already warming three times faster than the rest of the world due to climate change,” said Alex Taurel, conservation program director for the League of Conservation Voters. , in a press release.
Willow was initially approved by the Trump administration, but was then temporarily blocked by a judge who said the previous administration’s environmental analysis was insufficient and did not fully consider potential harm to wildlife. or additional impact on climate change.
The Biden administration’s new EIS project was necessary for the project to continue.
With the release of the draft, a 45-day public comment period takes effect before the administration makes a final decision.