Greens sue Biden over Willow oil project approval

BLM failed to follow requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider alternatives that would lessen the project’s impact on the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, or NPR-A, or to take a required “hard look” at the project’s cumulative impacts, including on climate change, the suit alleges.

The groups also charge BLM with failing to consider the project’s impacts on lands used for subsistence by Alaska Natives. And the suit argues the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly consider Willow’s potential impacts on endangered species such as polar bears.

“Interior attempted to put a shiny gloss over a structurally unsound decision that will, without question, result in a massive fossil fuel project that will reduce access to food and cultural practices for local communities,” Bridget Psarianos, lead attorney for Trustees for Alaska, which represents the environmental groups, said in a statement. “This new decision allows ConocoPhillips to pump out massive amounts of greenhouse gases that drive continued climate devastation in the Arctic and world. The laws broken on the way to these permits demonstrate the government’s disregard for those who would be most directly harmed by industrial pollution and ignores Alaska’s and the world’s climate reality.”

Willow is estimated to produce about 600 million barrels of oil, with production projected to be over 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak.

The project is also expected to generate around 280 million tons a year of greenhouse gases over its expected 30-year lifetime — the equivalent of two coal-burning power plants every year, according to government estimates.

The Alaskan court in 2021 overturned a Trump-era approval of the project after determining its underlying environmental analysis was flawed.

The suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska by the Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, Environment America, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society.

The groups said a second suit spearheaded by Earthjustice, which had previously said it was reviewing the administration’s analysis of the project’s environmental impact as a basis for a possible lawsuit, will be filed soon as well.

The Interior Department declined to comment. The White House could not be immediately reached for comment.