The Willow Project, made up of five wells that could collectively produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil per day, is said to be one of the first major new oil projects in Alaska in years. The development would include a new gravel mine, an airstrip, more than 570 miles of ice roads and nearly 320 miles of pipeline to the Alaskan landscape. The Justice Department, in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Alaska, defended the Trump-era decision to allow the project against claims by environmental groups that the Interior had not properly assessed the environmental impacts of the project.
Republican Alaska Senators Dan Sullivan and Murkowski discussed the project during an Oval Office meeting with Biden on Monday. Sullivan said he left information about the project and Biden promised to get back to him shortly.
“I have spoken a lot with the president of Project Willow,” Sullivan told POLITICO on Wednesday. “I said to him, ‘It wasn’t controversial until you put a break on it.’”
Murkowski told POLITICO of the engagement with officials in the Biden administration since that meeting was “Very productive” – a phrase she repeated three times for emphasis.
Biden was receptive to the project, Murkowski said, and she said she told him that Alaskan lawmakers had informed “just about everyone in your cabinet and any senior adviser who would listen.” “
In a court filing Wednesday night, the Biden administration argued that those challenging the approval were “picking the records” of federal agencies involved in the decision-making process and urged that their “claims be dismissed.”
“In fact, the agencies have taken a close look at the impacts of the Willow Project, including the impacts of the proposed alternative crossings and the impacts of the construction of gravel roads and other infrastructure,” government lawyers wrote in the filing. . “The analysis did not suffer from the lack of specific information on the project. “
The administration’s actions in court are also notable as Haaland joined four fellow House Democrats in a May 2020 letter urging the Trump administration to “suspend further action” on the project, warning against “the adverse effects that this development could have on the unique ecological environment. and subsistence values found in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (Reserve). “
The state of Alaska asked to intervene in the case in February after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ConocoPhillips must stop winter work on the site.