Our view: Willow Project throws environmental concerns out the window

Will Groves, Opinion Editor

The United States is the second-largest producer of carbon emissions, and it will only get worse from here.

   The Willow Project, introduced by ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s largest crude oil producer, would be one of the most expansive oil drilling projects accepted in the past 20 years. It would take place in the North Slope Boroughs of Alaska, home of the native Alaskan Iñupiat people. 

   Supporters of the Willow Project praise it as an easy solution to Alaska’s growing unemployment problem. The project would drill around 180,000 barrels of crude oil per day and would create 2,500 jobs for Alaskan citizens if approved.

   Opponents of the Willow project worry about the environmental impacts of the project, particularly on local wildlife habitats. If the project is approved, conservationists predict 9.2 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions will be released every year from the oil drilling fields. Alaska’s glaciers are already melting at an alarming rate, so Alaskans should not have to worry about a new climate emergency.

   We at The News believe the economic benefits of the Willow Project do not outweigh the devastating effects the plan will have on climate change.

   Originally, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals placed an injunction against the Willow Project, and District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason rejected former President Donald Trump’s approval of the project. In Gleason’s opinion, she noted the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management conveniently did not estimate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the project would create.

   While ConocoPhillips’ original plan involved the installation of five new drilling sites in Alaska; the newest version of the project proposes three drilling sites. This could eventually be brought down to two, pending a decision made by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

   The new plan for three drilling sites has the support of Alaska’s three congressional members. However, members of local cities have voiced their concerns about the lasting effects the carbon emissions would have on their towns. Nuiqsut, Alaska Mayor Mamie Pardue sent the Biden administration a 10-page letter outlining the danger the project poses to local residents and wildlife surrounding the project site. The project has the potential to change the Alaskan caribou migration patterns and make hunting more difficult for the surrounding areas.

   Criticism of the Willow Project has run wild among Generation Z voters. #StopWillow has over 150 million views on TikTok, and a petition to deny the Willow Project on change.org has over 3 million signatures. Our generation will suffer the environmental effects of this project, so the Biden administration should listen to our voices and those of native Alaskans. 

   President Joe Biden has garnered major criticisms from environmental activist groups and supporters of his 2020 presidential election cycle. During his campaign for president, Biden promised he would not open any new oil or natural gas drilling sites on federal land. While he has already broken this promise multiple times, approving more new drilling permits than his predecessor, he can help right his wrongs by denying the Willow Project.

   We at The News believe Biden should make good on his campaign promises and reject the Willow Project for the people who elected him.

   If Biden and Haaland approve, the Willow Project will not take direct effect. Construction of the drill sites would not be completed until 2025 at the earliest, and the project will face a gauntlet of legal challenges. Multiple environmentalist groups like Earthjustice have already vowed to fight the project in court in hopes of an injunction similar to the one placed on the project in 2020.

   The approval of the Willow Project is a giant leap in the wrong direction for the future of clean and renewable energy. The Biden administration should deny the project before this ticking carbon bomb can explode.

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