Biden Approves Willow Project in Alaska


Bryan Olin Dozier

Many protest against destructive oil drilling process set to begin in Alaska.

Tatum Louthan, Social Media Manager

Earlier this March, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project to start in Alaska. This project is an oil drilling project by ConocoPhillips. The area where the project begins contains up to 600 million barrels of oil. State lawmakers say this will create jobs, boost energy production, and lessen dependence on foreign oil. 

A coalition of Alaska Native groups has shown support for the project. ConocoPhillips is the energy company that has been drilling in Alaska for years; they are the only company with oil drilling operations in Alaska. ConocoPhillips proposed Willow, initially approved by the Trump administration in 2020 and approved to construct five drill pads. The Biden administration, who now has supported the project, has reduced it to three. Reducing the drill pads to three will allow the company to extract 90% of the oil they are pursuing. Since the project has the green light to start, construction can begin. However, it is still being determined when it will move forward due to immense impending legal challenges, environmental law groups, and others actively trying to block the project. The drilling company needs more time to complete the drilling process. Initial gravel mining and road construction has already begun. The drilling process can only be done within the winter months because they need ice roads to build the rest of the infrastructure, and Alaska’s winter season could only last until late April. 

This project will undoubtedly face legal challenges. A nonprofit public-interest environmental group called Earthjustice has already prepared a complaint. Earthjustice has started to lay out a legal complaint for the Biden administration, saying that their responsibility is to protect surface resources on the public lands of Alaska. Their job includes preventing and reducing global warming instead of adding to it. Alaska natives living close to the area where Willow will be taking place are very concerned about the integrity of this project and how it will affect the environment’s health.

In addition to the natives being concerned, a surge of online activism against Willow has overwhelmed TikTok.  Due to many views on social media, the public sent over a million letters to the Biden administration, and over 2 million signatures have been added to a petition on

The project estimates they would generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming pollution annually. That is equivalent to adding 2 million gas cars to the roads. Environmental groups like Earthjustice are also worried about this project destroying the habitats of native species and migration patterns in species such as caribou. Alaska lawmakers and Willow advocates say the project will be producing fossil fuels in a cleaner way than getting it from foreign countries. The Willow project is only the beginning of ConocoPhillips’s plans for the Arctic.

Many people criticized President Biden because he promised to protect the environment by fighting climate change and ending drilling on public lands, which he made when he was elected. However, because of the law governing NPR-A and the leases that ConocoPhillips held before Biden was in office, if rejected, Conoco could have sued and potentially won billions of dollars at taxpayers’ expense and would have moved along with the project.

Even with the protest on social media and criticism from many, the Willow project will develop.