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The Willow Project

Posted 03/23/2023 by Jesse Smith

Many upset protesters stood outside of the Department of the Interior before the Willow Project was passed by Biden on March 13. photo by Jemal Countess 

Environmentalists are fighting against the new Willow Project, a “carbon-bomb” for the climate. 

The Willow Project is arguably one of the most controversial topics in America right now. It’s an $8 billion proposal recently approved for drilling in oil fields along the North Slope of Alaska. Environmentalists are urgently fighting against this project which will lead to further disaster for our climate. The new oil fields would generate 1.5% of U.S. oil production, or 180,000 barrels every day. While this would no doubt support the economy, it would also release over 278 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere over the next 30 years. This would make it nearly impossible to reverse climate change. 

The Willow Project will take place in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It’s a 23 million-acre undisturbed landmass, the largest in America. A small piece of the land was set aside in 1923 to provide oil for the U.S. Navy. Now, of these 23 million acres, only two million are available for lease. The company that proposed the Willow Project, ConocoPhillips, owns half of the two million acres and will have three drilling sites that run for thirty years. 

In May 2018, the project was proposed as five drilling sites to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2021, the Trump Administration approved the project, but the decision was overturned by a federal judge in Alaska due to the faulty environmental analysis presented by ConocoPhillips. However, last month the project was reintroduced with “acceptable” environmental assessments and was reduced to only three drilling sites. The Alaska state legislature passed the first measure on February 27 and pushed the Biden administration to do the same. 

Following this news, climate change activists all over the country quickly found ways to fight back. We have seen an uprising of online activism on apps like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter. The new “Stop The Willow Project” petition on has spread, gaining over three million signatures. One million letters have been sent to the White House criticizing the project and President Biden. Not only are citizens enraged by the overwhelming damage this project will do to the environment, but also by the dishonesty of the President. During Biden’s presidential campaign, he promised to end gas and oil drilling on public lands and waters. The Biden Administration also set a goal of hitting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This project contradicts these very goals and promises that he made to Americans. 

Although ConocoPhillips revised its environmental analysis, the effects of the project would still be detrimental. The three drilling sites would still produce 92% of the oil the company desired. The sites will have hundreds of miles of pipeline and roads, as well as an airstrip built on public land. These will be built near Teshekpuk Lake, the largest lake in Arctic Alaska and an extremely sensitive habitat reserve for polar bears – an endangered species – musk oxen, millions of birds, and two herbs of caribou that migrate through these lands. The sites will be placed in the middle of these habitats, forcing them to relocate. Indigenous food sources will also be impacted as the sites will redirect the migrating animals away from villages. 

Despite these facts, Biden approved the Willow Project on Monday, March 13. This decision is an incredibly disappointing approval from our President and is disrespectful to the environment and the American citizens who will be impacted. However, there is still hope as numerous groups have already filed lawsuits against the project. Sovereign Iñupiat for Living Arctic (SILA), the Alaskan Wilderness League, Environment America, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society have each filed lawsuits. They argue that the project will violate federal laws, like the National Environmental Policy Act.  

Hopefully, these lawsuits will be successful so we can save not only the Alaskan environment, but the entire world, too. To help stop the Willow Project, sign this petition for free or donate to