Willow project approved by Biden administration; Controversial decision causes environmental uproar


The Willow Project was approved by the Biden administration on March 13. Environmental activists continue to protest this decision. PHOTO CREDIT: Jemal Countess

Kensington Boyanich, Business Manager


     On March 13, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project in Alaska. The major oil project was proposed by ConocoPhillips Alaska, who talks about having five drilling sites located on Alaska’s North Slope. However, Biden approved a smaller scale version allocating only three drilling sites. 

     The project took months to move through the administration approval process, which caused a sudden uprise of online activists. CNN Politics states, “more than one million letters [were] written to the White House in protest of the project and a change.org petition [generated] more than three million signatures.”

     “ConocoPhillips is a Houston-based energy company that has been exploring and drilling for oil in Alaska for years. The company is the only one that currently has oil drilling operations in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, though its two operating projects are smaller than Willow will be,” states CNN.

     The initiative was originally approved by the Trump administration in 2020. “The 30-year scheme aims to produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day- about 1.5 percent of total US oil production,” states aljazeera.com.

      USA Today talks about why the choice was made. “The administration was convinced the courts would have blocked an outright rejection of the Willow project and potentially imposed fines on the government.”

      “Two lawsuits were immediately filed by environmentalists and one lawsuit was filed by an Alaska Native group following Biden’s approval of the massive oil project,” continues USA Today. The Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service cite the initiative will cause irreversible environmental impacts. 

     Senior Carmen Santoro has voiced her opinion on the matter. “It is a decades-long project revolving around making a profit while completely disregarding all of the environmental impacts.”

     “We recently have had some improvement on our environment and by accepting this project it is completely setting us backwards and will cause detrimental damage on habitats for native species in Alaska and reverse the hard work that has recently occurred all for us to get more oil,” continues Santoro.

     “The Willow project will add 239 million metric tons of carbon emissions to the atmosphere over the next 30 years-equivalent to the annual emissions of 64 coal-fired power plants,” states aljazeera.com.

     “The noise, traffic, and pollution the project brings will disrupt ecosystems that Indigenous Alaskans have relied on for millennia. The project threatens the already vulnerable caribou population- a vital resource many native communities rely on,” states actionnetwork.org.

     Santoro states, “What bothers me the most is that everyone involved knows the impacts it will have, and knows all the opposition citizens have shown and they are completely disregarding it in hope to make more money, and that just shows the messed up priorities that our country has.”