Factbox – What is the Willow Project in Alaska and why are green activists opposing it?
US President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday it would approve a scaled-down version of ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil and gas drilling project in Alaska, sparking an angry backlash from climate activists.
Here are some details about the project:
What is the Willow Project?
The Willow Project is ConocoPhillips’ $6 billion project to drill for oil and gas in Alaska. It is located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area of 93 million acres on the North Slope, the largest tract of uninterrupted public land in the United States.
What is approved?
Biden’s Interior on Monday approved a version of the plan with three drilling sites and less surface infrastructure than originally proposed. ConocoPhillips initially wanted to build five drilling platforms, ten kilometers of roads, seven bridges and pipelines.
The limited scale of the project will help minimize impacts on the habitats of species such as polar bears and yellow storks, the home ministry said.
The entire plan was initially approved by the Trump administration several years ago, but a federal judge in Alaska reversed that decision in 2021, saying the environmental analysis was flawed and needed to be redone.
What are the environmental effects?
The Home Office has insisted it does not support the full proposal and has only approved a watered-down version to reduce environmental risks. The company also announced this weekend that it will not open the rest of the Arctic to future drilling.
But environmental groups are unhappy with the decision because the plan, even in small form, violates the Biden administration’s promises to fight climate change and threatens pristine wilderness.
ConocoPhillips said the slim-down project is “a viable step” for Willow and is ready to begin construction immediately upon approval.
Why are willows important to Alaska?
The Willow project area is estimated to contain 600 million barrels of oil, more than is currently in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s emergency stockpile.
The plan is important to Alaska’s elected officials, who hope it will help offset declining oil production in a state whose economy is heavily dependent on drilling.
ConocoPhillips says the project could generate up to $17 billion in revenue for Alaska’s federal and state governments and local communities.
The Biden administration has urged U.S. oil companies to invest in increased production to control consumer energy prices.
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