Despite an oil exploitation project in the Alaskan North Slope enjoying support from both a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as the indigenous population of Alaska, the Biden Administration has yet to grant its approval.
To convince the administration that the project was critical to Alaska’s economy and that it would be conducted in a “socially-just” manner, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, and Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat and Alaska’s sole representative in the House, met with President Biden on Monday.
In a statement following the meeting, the trio highlighted the wide support for the Conoco Phillips-proposed drilling plans, known as the Willow Project:
We were united in our advocacy for the Willow Project and made the strongest possible case for it. From state and national labor voices to Alaska Native leaders—Alaskans have repeatedly made clear their strong and united support for the project, and traveled thousands of miles to share their stories as to why the Willow Project will support their communities and families.
“The President has all the information he needs to make the right decision for Alaska,” they added while noting that the project was first conceived because the “Obama-Biden administration encouraged development in the [Alaskan] petroleum reserve.”
According to Conoco-Phillips, the project could produce over 150,000 barrels of oil per day — a number that would equate to around 1.5% of the total oil produced in the United States each day. Alaskan lawmakers, who almost universally support the project, point to the multiple environmental impact assessments that have been conducted over the past two years. Further, they argue, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management recently recommended that the project be re-approved.
Environmentalists contend that the project will threaten the vulnerable species who reside in Alaska’s North Slope. Environment America’s Ellen Montgomery, who heads the organization’s effort to protect public lands from resource extraction, claims that the Willow Project “would be a loss for the Teshekpuk caribou herd, polar bears, migratory birds and more.”
Alaska, which does not have a sales or income tax, generates much of the state’s revenue from leasing public lands to businesses interested in extracting their resources.
Conoco Phillips is Alaska’s largest oil producer, employing over 1,000 residents. The Biden Administration is expected to decide on the Willow Project next week.