Washington, D.C. — Today, the Biden administration officially approved the master drilling plan for the ConocoPhillips Willow project in the Western Arctic. The approval allows drilling for oil in a remote and rapidly warming part of the Arctic and threatens to continue emitting carbon pollution for the next 30 years—well beyond the time that the United States is on track to move away from fossil fuels. At the same time, the administration announced moves to withdraw the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean from future oil and gas leasing and kicked off a process to increase protections in the Western Arctic’s Special Areas. In response, Jenny Rowland-Shea, director of Public Lands at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
President Joe Biden’s approval of the Willow oil drilling project is a mistake. The project is a climate disaster that benefits the oil industry at the cost of everyday Americans. It puts the local community and the Native village of Nuiqsut at risk while threatening the sensitive Arctic environment. There are plenty of challenges on the route to a clean energy future, and the president should not be undermining his own goals along the way.
Arctic lands and waters deserve to be protected against oil and gas development and these announcements are positive steps forward for conservation and the climate. But while strengthened protections are necessary, they do not justify Willow or make up for the harm an approval will cause. Climate and conservation are not a compromise or a trade-off, they are crises that need to be tackled using every lever available. President Biden must swiftly bring the federal oil and gas program and the management of the Western Arctic in line with his administration’s ambitious climate goals.
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