Biden had ‘strong inclination’ to reject Willow oil project

Biden said he feared a court case, if the project weren't approved, would open even more of Alaska's Arctic to oil drilling.

By Reuters - March 27, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden said he had “strong inclination” to disapprove the Willow oil project in Alaska during a news conference with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday.

“The advice I got from counsel was that if that were the case, I may very well lose in court and lose that case in court to the oil company and then not be able to do what I really want to do beyond that,” Biden added.

The Willow project is a roughly $7 billion proposal by ConocoPhillips and would be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, a 23 million-acre area on the state’s North Slope. The area holds an estimated 600 million barrels of oil.

Biden’s Interior Department approved a scaled down version of the project that would include three drill sites and less surface infrastructure than originally proposed, which — according to the Interior Department — would help to reduce its impact on the habitats of threatened species such as polar bears and yellow-billed loons.

The full project had been initially approved by the Trump administration years ago, but a federal judge in Alaska in 2021 reversed that decision, saying the environmental analysis was flawed and needed to be redone.

Despite the scale down, environmental groups remain unhappy arguing that the project, even in its smaller form, still poses a threat to the wilderness and that it conflicts with the Biden administration’s promises to fight climate change.

This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Today and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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