Judge Halts Controversial Alaska Drilling project

The 'Willow' project would pump 600 million gallons of oil and emit 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the next 30 years.

2 minute read

August 22, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

An oil line extends into Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska.

dani3315 / Shutterstock

"A federal judge’s decision on Wednesday to block a massive oil drilling project in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve handed a major victory to Indigenous and environmental advocates," reports Georgina Gustin.

"The so-called 'Willow' project envisioned by ConocoPhillips would extract nearly 600 million barrels of oil over the next three decades," explains Gustin of the project approved by the Trump administration and supported by the Biden administration. Environmentalists sued to stop the project shortly after it was approved last fall.

Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the United States District Court for Alaska agreed with opponents of the project, "writing that the administration’s approval of the project was arbitrary and capricious because it failed to account for the full scope of greenhouse gas emissions or for dangers to wildlife, including polar bears," reports Gustin.

Jeremey Lieb, a lawyer with Earthjustice, which represented several groups in the case, is cited in the article saying the project would add 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide if allowed to proceed.

While the Biden administration has taken some steps to reverse some of the environmental decisions of the Trump administration affecting the state of Alaska, including a July decision to end the sale of large-scale, old-growth timber in the state's Tongass National Forest, approved by the Trump administration in October 2020.

The Biden administration supported the Willow project, however, "even as it attempts to advance an ambitious agenda that tackles climate change and shifts the country toward a fossil fuel-free future."

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