Biden approves controversial oil extraction project in Alaska
Washington, Mar 13 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Monday approved the controversial “Willow Project” to extract oil in Alaska, a decision that has been strongly criticized by ecological groups.
The approval comes in a report made public on Monday on the US Department of the Interior’s Web site, which provides details about the project to be headed by oil giant ConocoPhillips.
The Willow Project is a huge oil drilling venture taking place within the federally-owned National Petroleum Reserve, located some 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and which holds up to 600 million barrels of oil.
The area is considered to be one of the most biodiverse, and one of the least explored, regions in the US.
It will take years for any oil to be extracted via the yet-to-be-launched project, and thus Willow oil will not reach the market for a long time.
For now, the Biden administration will only permit ConocoPhillips to begin pumping oil in three areas. The firm had asked to be allowed to drill in two other zones, but the government postponed making a decision on that, according to the report.
According to ConocoPhillips, the Willow Project could produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its maximum output, create 250,000 jobs during its construction phase and another 300 permanent jobs once it is up and running.
In addition, the project will create between $8 billion and $17 billion in income from taxes for the federal government, the state of Alaska and the local governments in the area, ConocoPhillips says on its Web page.
Dozens of environmental defense groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), on Monday criticized the Biden administration’s decision, saying that it fails to fulfill promises the president made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy sources.
Several groups have also warned that they will consider various options, including suing the Biden administration, to halt the project.
Ecological groups oppose the Willow Project saying that it will pollute Alaska’s water and air and will impact the migration patterns of animals in the region.
In addition, project activities will release some 239 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere during the 30 years of Willow’s useful life, according to what two dozen organizations such as the Alaska Wilderness League said in a statement.
Shortly after the announcement about the Willow Project, the White House approved imposing limits on oil extraction in the Arctic Ocean and in far northern Alaska in an apparent effort to satisfy ecological groups.
However, those restrictions will only affect future projects and not those that have already been approved, the White House said in a memorandum made public on Monday, and thus they will have no impact on the Willow Project.