Federal Court Blocks Massive Arctic Oil & Gas Project In Alaska After Officials Failed To Properly Examine Risks To Climate & Polar Bears

Last week, a federal court in Alaska revoked the approval of a large oil and gas project known as the Willow Master Development Plan in Alaska’s Western Arctic. The project was approved by the Trump administration, but was being defended in court by the current administration, despite its climate action pledges and temporary suspension of fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

“This is a huge victory for our climate and polar bears,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “It is a message to the Biden administration that Arctic drilling threatens our climate and vulnerable species. This project never should have been approved, and it can’t be defended. If President Biden is serious about addressing the climate crisis, he has to reject any further attempts to move this project forward and prohibit all new oil and gas activity in the Arctic.”

In a 110-page decision, the court held that the Bureau of Land Management has failed to properly consider the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the project, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. It also did not properly consider the impacts of the project on polar bears, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The Trump administration approved the project in October of 2020. The Biden administration pledged to review that approval upon taking office. It then reversed course and defended the approval of the project in court. The Biden administration seemingly did this to garner favor with Senator Lisa Murkowski, a key project supporter.

“We don’t have time to be playing politics with our climate,” stated Monsell. “Any reasonable, comprehensive review would show that this project would be a disaster for our climate, local communities, and wildlife. Arctic oil needs to stay in the ground, and the Western Arctic needs to be protected, not turned into an oilfield.”

As previously reported by WAN, the plan by ConocoPhillips involved using giant chillers to refreeze thawing permafrost to ensure a solid drilling surface. The project would have also involved drilling up to 250 wells and building and operating a processing facility, as well as constructing hundreds of miles of ice roads, pipelines, an airstrip, and a gravel mine in the northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

590 million barrels of oil would have been extracted during the life of the project resulting in nearly 280 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of nearly 65 coal plants operating for a year.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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