Alaska congressional delegation pushes for quick approval of big North Slope drilling project

The Alaska congressional delegation this week reiterated its support for ConocoPhillips’ big Willow drilling project, urging the Interior Department to approve it before the winter construction season.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland advocating for approval of the North Slope project in the coming weeks so work can begin this winter.

Willow is projected to yield over 180,000 barrels of oil per day and produce 278 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years. Supporters, including the Alaska Federation of Natives and North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower Jr., see the project as a boon for jobs and state revenue.

“The expeditious approval of this crucial project would greatly benefit Alaska, our nation, and the world while demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to addressing inflation, high energy costs, the need for greater energy security, and environmental justice initiatives,” the delegation’s letter said.

Members of the Alaska delegation, including the late Rep. Don Young, have long been cheerleaders for the project and praised Alaska’s environmental standards, and newly sworn-in Peltola has joined them. She recently cited securing Willow’s final approval as one of her top priorities, alongside reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act and introducing a veterans food security bill.

The Biden administration released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement in July after litigation stalled the Willow project.

A 45-day public comment period for the project ended Aug. 29 despite calls for extensions from conservation and tribal organizations that oppose the project. The Interior Department must sort through the comments before issuing a final decision on the project.

Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at