The Biden administration’s Monday decision to approve an $8 billion ConocoPhillips Alaska oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska swiftly drew both celebration and condemnation in Alaska and Outside.
The much-anticipated announcement allows ConocoPhillips to develop three drill sites, a smaller footprint than what the company had originally proposed, but an option it said is still economically viable. The Alaska congressional delegation, state officials, North Slope leaders, industry groups and unions lauded the decision. Environmental groups and other Willow detractors, however, are condemning the approval and suggested litigation is likely.
The decision comes a day after the Biden administration unveiled plans to restrict oil drilling on 16 million acres in the Beaufort Sea and NPR-A.
Here are some of the early reactions:
Alaska’s congressional delegation and other members of Congress
• “We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it. After years of relentless advocacy, we are now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues, improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state, and adding vital energy to TAPS to fuel the nation and the world,” Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “This was Alaska at its very best, with ConocoPhillips, Alaska Native leaders, labor leaders, our unanimous State Legislature, and so many more joining with the delegation to do everything we could to make this happen. I thank the administration for listening to Alaskans, rejecting false claims meant to sink this project, and having the courage to make the right decision on Willow.”
• “I campaigned on getting Willow done because I knew we needed it. We must reverse Alaska’s economic decline. Today, the Biden Administration made the right choice and put real energy progress over absolutism,” said Alaska Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. “I’m thankful to my Democratic colleagues who helped me advocate for a meeting with the White House. Without their support and an open mind from the President, we could have seen an uneconomic ROD today. Two pads were a real possibility.”
“I’m also thankful for the strong bipartisan effort from Alaskans, including organized labor and our entire state legislature. Willow is going forward. Now, it’s on us to make the most of this opportunity,” Peltola added. “We can’t let this approval be the end of this bipartisan moment. A united Alaska can accomplish big goals. We’ve just proven that. Now, we can show the world what an energy bridge to the future looks like. I’m ready to help make that happen, and I hope you all are, too!”
• “This decision is also crucial for our national security and environment,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. “Producing much-needed American energy in Alaska with the world’s highest environmental standards and lowest emissions enhances the global environment.”
“The fight to unleash American and Alaskan energy is far from over,” Sullivan added. “The fact that this Willow ROD comes with the announcement of future legally-dubious resource development restrictions on Alaska lands and waters is infuriating and demonstrates that the Biden Administration’s unprecedented lock-up of our state will continue.”
• “This is a long awaited and critical step towards shoring up American energy security,” said Democratic West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Responsible development of our abundant natural resources is essential if we are to maintain our status as the superpower of the world, capable of supporting our allies around the globe.”
“The Biden administration has committed to fighting climate change and advancing environmental justice — today’s decision to approve the Willow project fails to live up to those promises,” Democratic Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Jared Huffman of California and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said in a joint statement. “Their decision ignores the voices of the people of Nuiqsut, our frontline communities, and the irrefutable science that says we must stop building projects like this to slow the ever more devastating impacts of climate change.”
North Slope and Alaska Native groups
• “The Willow project bolsters U.S. energy security at an important time when we are trying to raise the urgency of investing in critical needs that are arising because of the aggression of Russia and its very real implications in the north,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, the state’s largest Alaska Native organization.
• “As the (record of decision) recognizes, for the North Slope, the Willow Project represents a new opportunity to ensure our Indigenous, Alaska Native communities’ ten thousand years of history has a viable future,” the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the North Slope Borough and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. said in a joint statement.
• “The Voice is grateful to President Biden and his senior leadership team for heeding the will of Alaska Native communities in support of the Willow Project,” said Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat President Nagruk Harcharek. “Ultimately, today is a recognition that Willow will provide overwhelming benefits to Alaska Native communities while coexisting with our subsistence lifestyle.”
• “The Biden administration’s approval makes it clear that its call for climate action and the protection of biodiversity is talk, not action,” said Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic social outreach coordinator Sonia Ahkivgak. “The only reasonable solution to the climate emergency is to deny new fossil fuel projects like Willow. Our fight has been long and also it has only begun. We will continue to call for a stop to Willow because the lives of local people and future generations depend on it.”
• “The proposed conservation measures for the Western Arctic announced yesterday by the Biden administration are welcome news. We regret that they were immediately followed by the profoundly disappointing decision to approve the Willow project, which will accelerate climate change and harm local Indigenous communities,” said Karlin Itchoak, Alaska senior regional director for The Wilderness Society. “We will continue to fight this project with all means at our disposal.”
• “We are deeply disappointed in the Biden administration’s approval of the Willow oil and gas extraction project in Alaska’s Arctic,” said Kristen Miller, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League. “This is the wrong decision for our climate future, for protecting biodiversity, and for honoring the frontline communities who have raised their voices against this project.”
• “We are too late in the climate crisis to approve massive oil and gas projects that directly undermine the new clean economy that the Biden administration committed to advancing,” said Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen. “We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals.”
Industry and Alaska unions
• “This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation,” said Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO. “Willow fits within the Biden administration’s priorities on environmental and social justice, facilitating the energy transition and enhancing our energy security, all while creating good union jobs and providing benefits to Alaska Native communities.”
• “With the trans-Alaska pipeline currently moving around a half-million barrels per day, adding 180,000 more barrels per day from the Willow project is significant not only for the economy but also national security and energy independence,” said Kara Moriarty, Alaska Oil and Gas Association president and CEO. “Producing needed oil resources here at home is better than relying on foreign oil all day every day. We will not tire of advocating for the long-term viability of our industry.”
• “This is incredible news for Alaskans and our energy industry here in the 49th state,” said Betsy Haines, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. interim president. “The Willow project will benefit our local and state communities, and contribute significantly to our nation’s energy security, and here at Alyeska we are prepared and excited to support this important work and are thrilled to see the project moving forward.”
• “Our members are pleased we can get to work on this important project,” said Rebecca Logan, Alaska Support Industry Alliance CEO. “Hundreds of Alaskans will be put to work soon and thousands over the course of the project. While today’s announcement was coupled with the potential to lock up millions of acres to future development, we are going to focus on the positive and thank President Biden for listening to Alaskan voices that support responsible development and understanding the role that oil and gas will play in a clean energy transition.”
• “We see today’s decision as a huge victory for all Alaskans,” said Joelle Hall, AFL-CIO president. “Thanks to President Biden and his team we are able to celebrate one of the most promising projects in America.”
• “Today’s Willow Project decision is positive news for Alaska,” said Leila Kimbrell, Resource Development Council for Alaska executive director. “Many years of careful analysis conducted over multiple administrations from both political parties ensures this project will be done safely under the strictest environmental controls in the world. We owe a debt of gratitude to all Alaskans for speaking up in support of Willow, but especially our Alaska congressional delegation, who fought like hell for Alaska’s role in America’s energy security.”
• “Today’s decision is welcome news,” said Kati Capozzi, Alaska Chamber president and CEO. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the many Alaskans from diverse backgrounds who came together to advocate for this project. Alaska can continue our proud tradition of being the safest, most environmentally friendly place in the world to produce the energy our country demands. On the other hand, the Chamber is gravely concerned over the President’s tandem announcement that will restrict our ability to develop our resources in the future. We will continue to ensure Alaskan voices are heard through this process.”
• “We have one focus: jobs,” said Joey Merrick of the Alaska Petroleum Joint Crafts Council. “Today’s announcement means more jobs becoming a reality for all the unions involved in keeping Alaska’s oil patch running. It’s a great day.”
• “The Willow project’s approval is great news for Alaska, but the Biden administration banning new oil and gas development across 16 million acres in Alaska is a bad deal,” said Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“It’s disgraceful that the Biden administration thinks that this is a compromise that will benefit America,” Dunleavy said of the new Arctic protections. “Taking future oil production in Alaska off the map won’t decrease global oil consumption. It will just shift the market and give leverage to producers in countries that don’t have our high standards for the environment and human rights. In the end, every American pays the price when President Biden restricts our ability to develop our own energy resources.”
• “Once again the Biden administration is offering up Alaska as a sacrifice to appease the cult of climate extremism,” said Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner-designee John Boyle. “Forestalling development across 16 million acres to atone for an energy project barely 500 acres is emblematic of an environmental fanaticism that should concern all rational people. We Alaskans are left hoping for a future day when federal policy isn’t served with a pitcher of green Kool-Aid.”