The Alaska Legislature unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Willow oil development as the Biden administration nears making a decision on the project.
The resolution passed the Alaska Senate 19-0 on Monday, and it passed the House 36-0 last week. It supports oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and urges the Biden administration to approve ConocoPhillips’ $8 billion prospect in the federal reserve.
The Biden administration is under intense pressure from conservation and some Indigenous groups to block the project. When the Department of Interior advanced the project earlier this month, it highlighted environmental and subsistence concerns about the oil development raised by many of those groups. The administration is expected to release a record of decision as early as next week.
Alaska’s congressional delegation had asked the Legislature to pass the measure in addresses to the body this month.
Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola said Monday that she was “very, very pleased” with the resolution’s passage.
“I think it sends a very clear message that we’re speaking with one voice, that this is something that Alaskans need in order to further our economy and our households and families,” Peltola said in an interview.
In contrast to how the issue is playing out in Washington, D.C., the resolution in the Legislature drew broad support from Alaska Republicans and Democrats alike.
Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower said “we are a resource state” and that projects like Willow are needed to create a strong state economy and create jobs for Alaskans.
Sen. Donny Olson, a Golovin Democrat, said the Iñupiaq people have depended on and protected their subsistence resources on Alaska’s lands and waters for thousands of years.
“It has been a longstanding responsibility of the people that live up there to continue to watch what’s going on with scrutiny as the development continues on,” he said.
The Bureau of Land Management advanced Willow earlier this month in a final environmental impact statement with a proposal for a three-pad preferred alternative. ConocoPhillips has indicated that if the project is cut down to two pads or fewer, Willow would no longer be economically viable.
The Legislature’s resolution implores the Biden administration to approve three of five planned drilling sites.
“The message from Alaska is crystal clear: we urge the Biden administration to listen to our voices, as well as BLM career scientists, and re-approve Willow to allow an economically viable project to advance,” Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement Monday.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan thanked the Legislature for passing the resolution and addressed President Joe Biden in a statement.
“Mr. President, for the good of our families, our workers, our economy, our environment, and our national security —approve Willow now!” he said.
Sean Maguire reported from Juneau; Riley Rogerson reported from Washington, D.C.