Biden’s Support of Alaska Oil Drilling Project Receives Strong Criticism from Environmentalists

Biden administration’s support of the Alaska ConocoPhillips’ oil drilling project Wednesday attracted bitter criticism and condemning from environmental groups previously encouraged by Biden’s signing of the order to rejoin the Paris Accord and revoking federal permits for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Reuters reports.

“It is a serious misstep to pass on administrative authority to constrain an out-of-control oil industry while simultaneously punting to a deadlocked Congress for climate action,” John Noel, a senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA, told Reuters.

The appeals court blocked construction of ConocoPhillips’ $ Willow crude oil project in Alaska, that has been pushed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, in February, but Biden administration backed the project in a court filing on Wednesday.

“They are opening up a lane for the oil and gas industry to cause irreparable harm to Arctic communities’ public health and wildlife habitats”, Gregory Stewart, legal chair of the executive committee of the Alaska chapter of the Sierra Club, told Reuters in an email.

According to the environment group Earthjustice, the oil drilling project is at odds with Biden’s historic climate leadership with the Alaska Wilderness League claiming the decision ignored the concerns of indigenous communities.

The Willow project consists of five wells that could produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil a day and would be one of the first major new oil projects in Alaska in years. The development will consist of new gravel mine, airstrip, more than 570 miles of ice roads and nearly 320 miles of pipeline.

Interior Department defended the Trump administration’s October 2020 decision to allow the Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska despite Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s opposition last year when she was a member of Congress and against environmental advocacy groups’ allegations that the project’s environmental impacts haven’t been adequately assessed by the  Interior.

Biden administration argued those challenging in a court filing late Wednesday.

“In fact, the agencies took a hard look at the Willow Project’s impacts, including impacts from the alternative proposed water crossings and impacts from building gravel roads and other infrastructure,” the government lawyers wrote in the filing. “The analysis did not suffer for lack of specific project information.”

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