The Willow Project

Biden Administration Approved Drilling In Alaskan Petroleum Reserves


Belle Chelton

Earth’s nature is at risk.

On March 13, President Joe Biden approved exploratory oil drilling on Alaska’s North Slope, less than 30 miles away from the Arctic Ocean. Approving this project has gone against Biden’s promise to end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. Following the approval, many have been writing to the Biden administration to express their opinions on the topic. Native groups close to the drilling site are concerned about the long-term effects on their health, and the environment around them. The Willow project has since gone viral on many social media sites such as Tiktok and Instagram with extreme backlash towards President Biden from environmentalists and many U.S citizens. Almost 5 million have signed a petition with the goal of having 6 million signatures to help end the project.

ConocoPhillips, the largest oil producer in Alaska, proposed an oil drilling venture to the Trump administration in 2020. This proposition was approved, and ConocoPhillips was set to start constructing five drill pads in the National Petroleum Reserve. The land had been specifically designated for oil and gas in the Naval Petroleum Reserves Act of 1976. This law created rules for oil and gas extradition, setting aside some areas for maximum protection of the environment. After following recommendations from the government to review the project in order to protect wildlife, President Biden reduced the construction of drilling pads from five to three. Three pads will still allow the company to drill around 90 percent of the oil they were originally pursuing. The Bureau of Land Management, also known as BLM, estimates Willow to produce up to 576 barrels of oil throughout the 30 years of drilling. While this project will be a great source of revenue for the area, the project will produce enough oil to release up to 239 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year. Sara Lee, a Delaware County citizen stated “The amount of oil they want to access to burn is something like introducing 80 million new cars to the roads in terms of carbon dioxide released.”

While the Biden administration is working to reduce the amount of drilling, they may not be able to fully stop it. Taking ConocoPhillips to court would cost the government millions of dollars in expenses, and they may not be able to end the lease with ConocoPhillips to stop the drilling in Alaska. While there are many downsides to Willow, the way the oil is being drilled produces fossil fuels in a cleaner way compared to foreign countries we currently rely on for oil. The Willow Project will help to lower our reliance on foreign fossil fuels and will create more job opportunities for U.S. citizens. While there are many pros, Chloe Long states “I know renewable energy is hard and expensive right now, but the safety of our planet is more important.”

ConocoPhillips plans to build a large plant to help process crude oil deliveries, an airstrip, numerous roads, a gravel mine, and drilling pads which will take up 499 acres of land. Directly next to the land are communities, and wetlands that are important for many arctic birds, and wildlife. This project will disrupt local ecosystems causing animals to change their migration patterns. Not only will this project directly affect locals, but also contribute to global warming, and impact further communities in the world.

As students in Pennsylvania, we are powerless to prevent the drilling in Alaska. Students can help to protect the environment by reducing, reusing, and recycling, volunteering to help clean their community, or even planting a tree. We must continue to fight against climate change locally and protect our environment as much as we are able to.