The Biden administration will soon approve ConocoPhillips’ Willow project, a significant oil drilling operation on Alaska’s north slope, according to a congressional source knowledgeable with the specifics. The source said that the choice will be made public next week.
The drilling project was praised as a much-needed new source of money and jobs for the isolated region by Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation and a coalition of Alaska Native tribes and NGOs, which celebrated the probable approval. It’s a huge setback for environmental organizations and Alaska Natives who are opposed to Willow and claim the project will jeopardize the president’s ambitious climate goals and present threats to human health and the environment.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary for the White House, disagreed on Friday, claiming that no decision had been taken about the project.“No final decisions have been made – anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong,” said Jean-Pierre. “President Biden is implementing the most aggressive climate agenda of any U.S. president in history and spurring an unprecedented clean energy expansion.”
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment. Dennis Nuss, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips, told CNN that no record of a decision on the Willow project was shared with the company and he could not comment on it.It was unclear right away if the project had been approved as a three pad version or a lesser two pad version by administration. White House representatives discussed the possibility of a smaller, two-rig project earlier this month in an effort to soothe environmental organizations’ worries. Also, according to the source, numerous finished copies of a decision protocol were distributed to White House and Interior Department officials in the last days and weeks before the project’s approval.
John Podesta, the White House’s senior adviser for implementing policies related to climate change and clean energy, told CNN on Thursday that the White House climate office has “remained in touch” with the Home Office regarding the project but insisted that the interior will make the final decision.Last Friday, Alaska’s congressional delegation met with Biden and senior White House and Interior Department officials. During the meeting, Alaska lawmakers argued that the oil drilling project represented a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, and said it would benefit Alaska’s Native American communities on the remote North Slope — where food and fuel are incredibly expensive.