Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski reacts to the Biden administration’s Willow Project decision

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Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:33 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - After approximately two years of review, the Willow Project’s aim to extract oil and natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska is one step closer to moving forward.

The Biden Administration has given approval for three out of the proposed five drilling sites in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (NPR - A), denying two others.

ConocoPhillips, the company developing the project, has previously said this amount was the minimum required for the project to be economically viable.

The Associated Press reports the three drill sites could allow for up to 180 thousand barrels of oil a day to be produced.

While environmental activists derided the movement as a betrayal of Biden’s campaign promises on the climate, Alaska’s congressional delegation reacted positively to the news.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “Think about what it means filling up our Transalaska Pipeline, which at this point is less than half capacity. It’s jobs, it’s revenues, and it comes about because of an extraordinary coalition of Alaskans, Alaska Natives, unions, the university, unanimous legislative bodies on both sides of the house, a unanimous delegation. This came about because it is important for the state, and it’s important for the country from a national security perspective.”

Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan, as well as Representative Mary Peltola, have long indicated their support for the project.

They have been joined by various workers’ unions across the state, the Alaska legislature, Governor Mike Dunleavy, and the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, a tribal government representing many Alaska Native residents of the region.

While Governor Dunleavy welcomed the decision, he expressed disapproval for the president’s decision on Sunday, March 12, to bar drilling at 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea and limit drilling across 13 million acres in the NPR - A.

Murkowski shared a similar reaction, saying, “It is unfortunate that the administration felt that they could not defend the decision on Willow without taking yet another extraordinary tranche of land off limits. 13 million acres within the NPR-A. Keep in mind, already more than half of the NPR-A has effectively been taken off the table with prior limitations and withdrawals and restrictions.”

Litigation from environmental groups in response to the partial approval is expected going forward.