The Biden administration this week formally abandoned a major oil and gas drilling project in northern Alaska that would have bolstered America’s energy independence and resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs.
The Department of the Interior declined on Monday to file an appeal of a federal district court decision that blocked the project, known as the Willow Master Development Plan, in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the Daily Caller reported.
The project, which was being developed by the Texas-based oil and gas firm ConocoPhillips, was slated to produce as much as 160,000 barrels of oil per day to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, according to Must Read Alaska. The increase would have provided a 32% boost to the throughput of the pipeline, which is currently averaging less than 500,000 barrels per day.
Project summary documents show the project would have “generate[d] hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of construction jobs, and produce[d] substantial revenue for the federal government, State of Alaska, North Slope Borough, and communities in the NPR-A.”
The multibillion-dollar project was greenlit by the Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration in 2020. But after President Joe Biden’s election victory, environmentalist groups sued to stop the project.
In August, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason voided the project’s approval, citing a failure by the bureau to adequately review the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, which she concluded would ultimately harm wildlife.
Interestingly, the Biden administration initially voiced support for the project and appeared ready to move forward with it despite the environmental concerns. But ultimately, the deadline for appealing Judge Gleason’s ruling came and went on Monday without an appeal, effectively killing the project.
Jeremy Lieb, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement that he is pleased with the Biden administration’s change of course.
“We are glad to see that President Biden is taking positive steps in his commitment toward a cleaner energy future. However we are facing a dire climate emergency, and we hope that he continues to align Western Arctic management with climate imperatives and protect it from all new oil and gas activity,” Lieb said.
“I think the administration is realizing that defending Willow is utterly at odds with the president’s promises of climate action. To protect our planet’s future, Biden needs to halt this huge oil project for good and move quickly to phase out drilling in our increasingly vulnerable Arctic,” added Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, another plaintiff in the suit.
The Willow project had been backed by the entire congressional delegation from Alaska — which includes Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Republican Rep. Don Young.