A federal judge in Alaska has upheld the decision of the Biden administration to greenlight the Willow oil project, led by ConocoPhillips.
In her decision, Judge Sharon Gleason noted that the plaintiffs—a group of environmentalist organizations—had failed to prove that the project was as multifaceted a threat to the wildlife in the National Petroleum Reserve as they claimed.
The environmentalists had alleged that the authorities that had approved the project had failed to consider all the ways, in which it could affect the environment. The groups also said the federal government had not considered putting a cap on the production of oil at Willow as a way of mitigating its effect on the environment and carbon dioxide emissions.
“Willow underwent nearly five years of rigorous regulatory review and environmental analysis, including extensive public involvement from the communities closest to the project site,” ConocoPhillips Alaska president Erec Isaacson said, as quoted by Bloomberg.
“We now want to make this project a reality and help Alaskan communities realize the extensive benefits of responsible energy development.”
Earthjustice, which represented the plaintiffs dubbed the judge’s decision disappointing.
“Beyond the illegality of Willow’s approval, Interior’s decision to greenlight the project in the first place moved us in the opposite direction of our national climate goals in the face of the worsening climate crisis,” Erik Graffe, an Alaska deputy managing attorney for the organization, said.
Willow covers three drill sites in the National Petroleum Reserve in an area that is estimated to hold up to 600 million barrels of oil.
The project has incited much controversy from climate activists and some of Biden’s supporters from the left, many of whom argue that the project is a major setback in fighting climate change, with the Interior Department’s estimate that the project could see 278 million metric tons of CO2 emitted over its 30-year lifespan.
The Willow project will cost an estimated $8 billion to develop, resulting in production of between 160,000 and 180,000 barrels of oil daily. Revenues from the development are estimated at some $17 billion.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com