Joe Biden’s administration will approve a scaled-down version of a controversial $7 billion oil and gas drilling project.
Despite criticism from environmentalists, the development of three drilling sites in northwest Alaska Mr. Biden’s Efforts to combat climate change are highly publicized.
The US president also pledged to switch to cleaner energy sources.
The government’s decision is unlikely to be final, and environmental groups are expected to sue.
However, the project is located in Alaska, the federally owned National Petroleum Reserve, and enjoys broad political support in the state.
Mr. Biden has been seeking to balance his goal of decarbonizing the U.S. economy with calls to increase domestic fuel supplies to keep prices low.
Houston-based crude producer ConocoPhillips had sought to build as many as five drilling sites, dozens of miles of roads, seven bridges and pipelines as part of the Willow oil project.
The project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day, create as many as 2,500 jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs, and generate billions of dollars in royalties and tax revenues for federal, state and local governments, the company said
Politics is at work, and Biden took a gamble
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval of a huge oil and gas project in pristine Alaska appears to be a complete departure from Joe Biden’s values as a leader focused on a domestic green energy revolution.
The White House says there are limited options to stop drilling from going ahead, but there are politics at play here too.
As the next election looms, the president must guard against any suggestion or actual belief that he has endangered energy security or endangered jobs in low-income states that desperately need them.
He will offset the onslaught of criticism he faces by announcing new protections for federal lands and waters in Alaska.
But he has made his bets, especially with the support of younger voters who support him in large part because of his vision to tackle climate change.
So far, one million letters of protest have been sent to the White House, and three million people have signed an online petition.
Meanwhile, the effects of climate change, from floods to wildfires to droughts, are becoming more apparent across North America.
There is a real risk that the Willow project will age poorly, and instead of being a potential political asset against Republican attacks on the green agenda, it will become a liability.
The U.S. Interior Department approved three, not five, rigs for the project after expressing concerns about Willow’s greenhouse gas impact last month.
Its Bureau of Land Management’s “preferred alternative” also includes less ground infrastructure than initially proposed.
Reducing ConocoPhillips’ proposal by two rigs would reduce the project’s freshwater use and prevent development of 11 miles of road, 20 miles of pipeline and 133 acres of gravel, the department said Monday.
ConocoPhillips and elected officials in Alaska have endorsed a version of the project that the agency says will reduce habitat impacts for species such as polar bears and yellow-billed loons.
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The decision comes after the Biden administration announced on Sunday new protections for Alaskan lands and waters.
It said it would “indefinitely bar” nearly 3 million acres of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea from oil and gas leases, building on an Obama-era moratorium and effectively banning oil exploration in U.S. Arctic waters, and issued 13 One million acres of “ecologically sensitive” special areas within the Alaska Petroleum Reserve.
Environmental groups have criticized the Biden administration, saying it is trying to “do both” on climate change.
“There’s no point in pushing for clean energy if we continue to allow corporations to loot and pollute as they please,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.