Alaskan politicians appeal to Biden administration to approve ConocoPhillips ‘Willow’ oil development

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg March 06, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Alaska’s congressional delegation personally appealed to President Joe Biden to approve a proposed ConocoPhillips oil development in the state, joining a last-minute lobbying frenzy around the project that’s being cast as a test of his commitment to combating climate change.

The lawmakers, including freshman Democratic Representative Mary Peltola, said they made their case for authorizing the plan to allow drilling from three locations at the Willow project during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday that lasted more than an hour.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers called the conversation with Biden and senior aides “honest and respectful,” saying they “appreciated the president’s recognition of how critical this moment is for Alaska’s future our nation’s energy transition.”

The $8 billion project is forecast eventually to yield 180,000 bpd of crude, or about 1.6% of current U.S. oil production, with a cumulative output of about 600 MMbbls. The Interior Department could issue a final decision as soon as Monday.

Willow presents Biden with his biggest climate and energy decision yet. Although the president campaigned on a pledge to block new oil drilling on public lands and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, he has also pressed oil companies to boost production to tame prices. The project also has drawn support from Alaska labor unions and some indigenous groups — important constituencies for the White House.

“The president has all the information he needs to make the right decision for Alaska and for the nation, and re-approve a three-pad, economically viable Willow project alternative without delay,” the Alaska lawmakers said.

Environmental advocates and lawmakers have been outlining clegal options for the Biden administration to bolster a possible denial. One memo given to administration officials makes the case that the government could reject ConocoPhillips’s project without breaching the terms of the company’s leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Separately, almost two dozen congressional Democrats told Biden in a letter on Friday there’s legal authority for Haaland to block proposed oil drilling if necessary to mitigate “significantly adverse effects” on its surface resources.

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