The Biden administration gave the green light to ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil drilling project on the North Slope of Alaska on Monday.
According to the Interior Department, the multibillion-dollar project will be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve, about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and could produce nearly 600 million barrels of crude oil over the next 30 years. The White House denied two of five proposed drill sites and called on Conoco Phillips — Alaska’s largest crude oil producer — to give up rights to 68,000 acres worth of leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that it acquired in the 1990s. The decision was heavily criticized by environmental and climate change activists.
The Department of the Interior noted in announcing the approval that it reduced the scope of the plan by denying two of the five drill sites proposed by ConocoPhillips. The department estimated that the project could produce nearly a quarter of a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The oil industry and Alaskan lawmakers had urged the president to approve the project for its energy production potential and its ability to create jobs. Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer, in a news release that “This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement that she could almost “feel Alaska’s future brightening” after the administration’s announcement. ConocoPhillips estimated that the project would create up to 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs.
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