Democrats Criticize Biden’s Failed Climate Promises in Approving Alaska Willow Oil Project

The Biden administration’s decision to approve a 30-year oil-drilling project has sparked criticism from Democrats—and particularly progressives—from both chambers of Congress.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) approved the Willow Project on Monday, allowing oil giant ConocoPhillips to move forward with a drilling plan within a northeastern section of the 23 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The company has forecast that the project will produce as much as 180,000 barrels of oil a day at peak, and more than 600 million barrels of oil equivalent over its 30-year lifespan.

Four progressive lawmakers—Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—criticized the decision in a joint statement on March 13.

“The Biden administration has committed to fighting climate change and advancing environmental justice—today’s decision to approve the Willow project fails to live up to those promises,” the group wrote.

“Their decision ignores the voices of the people of Nuiqsut, our frontline communities, and the irrefutable science that says we must stop building projects like this to slow the ever more devastating impacts of climate change.”

ed markey
ed markey
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Dec. 7, 2021. (Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images)

While the four lawmakers said they approved of the administration’s proposed plans to conserve nearly 16 million acres of lands and waters in Alaska, they claimed that “split decisions in the face of the climate crisis are not good enough.

“This administration clearly knows what the path to a cleaner and more just future looks like—we wish they hadn’t chosen to stray so far from that path with today’s Willow decision,” the group added. “The only acceptable Willow project is no Willow project.”

While giving the green light to the Willow Project, the Biden administration also said it will take action to indefinitely bar future drilling on about 2.8 million acres in the Arctic Ocean nearshore the NPR-A, and 13 million acres of the NPR-A.

The group of Democrats pointed to the environmental impact caused by the project’s carbon dioxide emissions, and argued that it also “poses a significant health and safety threat to Alaska Natives and local communities,” according to the statement.

On March 3, Grijalva, who is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, led a group of lawmakers in sending a letter (pdf) to President Joe Biden urging him to reject the Willow project.

Some Democratic Approval

Not all Democrats are against the Willow Project, however.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement applauding the administration’s decision.

“This is a long awaited and critical step towards shoring up American energy security,” Manchin wrote. “Responsible development of our abundant natural resources is essential if we are to maintain our status as the superpower of the world, capable of supporting our allies around the globe.”

Manchin wrote that the “torturous, nearly five-year” permitting process for the Willow project indicated that permitting reform is essential.

“This is a levelheaded decision that will strengthen Alaska and our entire nation. I will continue to work with the Administration to support common sense, energy security projects like these that create good paying jobs and maintain America’s standing on the global stage,” he wrote.

Joe Manchin
Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, presides over a hearing in Washington on Feb. 16, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) took to Twitter to say that the Biden administration “made the right choice and put real energy progress over absolutism.”

“I’m thankful to my Democratic colleagues who helped me advocate for a meeting with the White House,” Peltola continued. “Without their support and an open mind from the President, we could have seen an uneconomic [Record of Decision] today.”

Peltola added, “I’m also thankful for the strong bipartisan effort from Alaskans, including organized labor and our entire state legislature. Willow is going forward. Now, it’s on us to make the most of this opportunity.”

A project description (pdf) from ConocoPhillips states that the project should lead to the creation of up to 2,000 jobs during construction and around 300 permanent jobs in the operation phase, while generating revenues of up to $17 billion for federal, state, and local governments.

Republicans Criticize Drilling Ban

The approval of the Willow Project has drawn mixed reactions from Republicans, with some criticizing the administration for wanting to put new bans on future oil and gas development across nearly 16 million acres in Alaska.

“It’s disgraceful that the Biden administration thinks that this is a compromise that will benefit America,” said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, according to a statement.

“Taking future oil production in Alaska off the map won’t decrease global oil consumption. It will just shift the market and give leverage to producers in countries that don’t have our high standards for the environment and human rights,” Dunleavy added. “In the end, every American pays the price when President Biden restricts our ability to develop our own energy resources.”

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Governor of Alaska Michael Dunleavy is pictured in Washington on Oct. 29, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement criticizing the Biden administration for “attempting to have their cake and eat it too” by approving the Willow Project while aiming for new drilling restrictions in Alaska.

“Lessening our dependence on foreign oil and lowering energy costs for American families should be a top priority,” Westerman said. “Global fossil fuel consumption continues to grow from sources that are much dirtier than American-made energy.

“These jobs and profits could be going to hardworking Americans and their communities while also making the environment cleaner.” 

Original News Source Link

Running For Office? Conservative Campaign Consulting – Monthly Rates!