As of: 03/13/2023 6:44 PM
Oil giant ConocoPhillips is allowed to develop new oil fields in northern Alaska. Environmentalists accuse the Biden administration of breaking its word, as the US president promised not to allow more drilling.
US President Joe Biden has approved a major oil production project in the US state of Alaska – although he has announced he will no longer allow new oil drilling on public land. Three drilling fields have been approved as part of the Willow project, which oil giant ConocoPhillips wants to exploit. In total, about 600 million barrels of oil are at risk.
According to the company, 219 wells are to be drilled in the fields, which can produce 180,000 barrels per day. The construction of the plants will create 2500 jobs and will require 300 workers to operate. Public coffers can expect billions in revenue from taxes and levies. Politically, the plan has broad support in the US state.
The original plans have been merged together
The oil fields are located on the North Slope, the northernmost part of Alaska, which is sparsely populated and largely untouched. ConocoPhillips’ plans were large at first, including roads, many bridges and pipelines, and many oil fields. The previous US administration of Donald Trump had already approved the project, but a court criticized the underlying environmental impact analysis and halted the project in 2021.
In the new approval, the oil company’s plans were scaled back somewhat. It is designed to minimize disturbance, including to polar bear and waterfowl habitat, according to the US Department of the Interior. In addition, the Biden administration only announced on Sunday that it would ban or restrict oil production in other parts of Alaska. Accordingly, oil production in the Beaufort Sea is excluded and restricted to large areas of land.
Expected lawsuits from environmentalists
The decision has been criticized by environmentalists. Willow previously campaigned to stop the project. They said Biden’s approval violates his promise not to allow new oil drilling on public land. Environmental organizations are expected to appeal the decision.
Kristy Goldfuss, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s environmental group, was “deeply disappointed” by Biden’s announcement. “This decision is bad for the climate, bad for the environment and bad for Alaska Natives who oppose the plan but are not heard,” he said.
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