During his administration, President Trump approved a massive oil drilling project in Alaska. Now a federal judge has reversed his move. Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled that the Interior Department did not fully consider the project’s environmental impact.
President Biden had gone along with the ConocoPhillips’ Willow project, located in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. The federal government specifically set aside this area to produce oil and gas. The plan was to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day and provide thousands of jobs for Alaskans. About 600 million barrels of oil are contained in Willow.
But then it was discovered that Willow excluded greenhouse gas emission levels from its environmental impact report. Gleason called this omission “arbitrary and capricious.” And what about polar bears? They were left out of the environmental impact report, too. Instead, Gleason said that the Bureau of Land Management acted like “ConocoPhillips had the right to extract all possible oil and gas from its leases.”
Despite lots of noise from environmentalists, the Trump administration finalized its Willow plans last October. The deal was to allow ConocoPhillips to produce 590 million barrels over 30 years.
While people who had been counting on an influx of jobs and oil profits are bummed out today, environmentalists are cheering. Bridget Psarianos, a staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska, represented six plaintiffs who brought the case to court. Her clients were “just celebrating that there’s not going to be any Willow construction this winter,” Psarianos told the Washington Post.
“The project can’t move forward without a significant amount of redoing,” she said. She hopes that the Biden administration will look at Wednesday’s verdict as an “opportunity to actually engage in a process that complies with the law and honors the campaign promises of making science-based decisions and protecting biodiversity and taking the concerns of Indigenous populations seriously.”
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