Alaska’s Republican governor Mike Dunleavy is not expecting the Biden administration to approve the Willow project—an oil and gas plan proposed by crude oil producer ConocoPhillips.
“We’re preparing for them to deny this,” Gov. Dunleavy said on Fox News. “And it’s sad to say that, but their idea of a compromise, apparently, is to allow only two drilling pads for this oil play called Willow, about 180,000 barrels per day at peak, instead of the three or more that really the investors, ConocoPhillips, need to have to make this thing work for everybody.”
“It’s an unfortunate game that’s being played between the White House, the extremists, and environmentalists that got him there and, unfortunately, the people of Alaska in this country,” Dunleavy said.
“We’re preparing, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”
The $8 billion Willow oil field development project was initially proposed in 2018. It is set within the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), the largest expanse of federal public lands in the country, located on Alaska’s North Slope.
ConocoPhillips had initially proposed five pads as part of the project. In the oil industry, a pad refers to a temporary drilling site. Under the Trump administration, the Department of the Interior (DOI) had approved the proposal in October 2020.
But a lawsuit by multiple groups, including Earthjustice, forced the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to recommend scaling down the number of pads from five to three. The Biden administration is expected soon to announce its decision on the matter.
Opposition And Support
Environmental activists have vehemently opposed the project, citing pollution concerns. A petition at Change.org asking the Biden administration to not allow the Willow project has garnered more than three million signatures.
“If this project were to be approved, Willow would emit more climate pollution annually than more than 99.7 percent of all single-point sources in the country. The first oil to be used from this project wouldn’t be for years,” the petition insists.
However, lawmakers and trade unions from Alaska are pushing for the Biden administration to approve the project that is expected to hire 2,500 construction workers in the state. Willow is projected to output 180,000 barrels of oil per day, or around 1.5 percent of total American oil production.
Over its 30-year lifespan, Willow is expected to produce over 600 million barrels of oil while contributing up to $17 billion in revenues for state and federal governments as well as local communities.
The Alaska House and Senate have passed a unanimous resolution supporting the Willow project.
“The elected leaders who wrote and passed these resolutions recognize Willow’s economic significance, its national security benefits, its environmental advantages, and its ability to create needed opportunities all across the state,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, in a press release on Feb. 27.
“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.”
Future of American Energy
The Willow project forces the Biden administration to choose between two sides: environmental groups and supporting Democrats that make up a key portion of the president’s support base, and Democrat-leaning constituencies in Alaska that are looking forward to the project.
There is speculation that the Biden administration may decide to approve the project, but reduce the number of pads from three to two, something that Dunleavy pointed to during the Fox interview. However, doing so could make the project economically unviable, pushing ConocoPhillips away from it.
The Alaska governor predicted that President Joe Biden would seek out help from other nations to meet its oil demand while shutting down the Willow project.
“Alaska probably has more sanctions put against it by our own government than our government has against Venezuela,” Dunleavy said. “So, this is not the end of oil, it’s just the end of oil in America.”
Wed, 03/08/2023 – 20:20