Environmentalists Shocked over Biden’s Plan to OK Oil Drilling in Alaska’s Wilderness

May 31st, 2021 - by Michael Brune / Sierra Club & Oliver Milman / The Guardian

Biden Greenlights Oil Drilling in Alaska

Michael Brune / Sierra Club

OAKLAND, Calif. (May 28, 2021) — We urgently need your voice. The Biden administration just backed the Trump administration’s approval of a disastrous drilling project in Alaska. We need to start permanently protecting lands, not continuing the Trump administration’s destructive legacy. Rush your monthly membership to help us fight back against land exploitation and the climate crisis today

We’ve always said elections matter — especially when it comes to protecting the planet we love— but accountability matters even more.

In what seems like a bad dream, the Biden administration just backed the Trump administration’s approval of a disastrous drilling project that would extract 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Alaska’s north shore.

While the Oval Office’s occupant may have changed, the risks to the Arctic, which is already heating up at three times the rate of the rest of the planet, have not. The looming climate crisis, which Joe Biden promised to confront, has not.

We must hold the Biden administration to its promise to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We must push Congress to enact permanent protections for lands in the Arctic and across the country. We must fight for an end to the climate crisis. Can we count on your help at this crucial moment for the Arctic’s wildlife and indigenous communities?

Climate experts, Indigenous nations and others in our coalition opposed ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project for important reasons.

Over its lifetime, the project would create nearly 260 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — just about equivalent to what 66 coal-fired power plants would produce! (1) Environmental advocates also fear the project would divert the migration of caribou, impacting local communities’ ability to provide food for their families.

Moreover, the project — which would include 250 wells, a processing facility, hundreds of miles of pipelines and roads, even an airstrip — could negatively impact polar bears, fish and other vulnerable species, and change Alaska’s pristine northern reaches forever. (2)

Public lands across the country were carved up and divvied out to the highest bidder by the Trump administration. This is a time to protect and heal these lands, not open them wide for more drilling and spilling.

Please, help us protect vulnerable ecosystems and vulnerable communities. Thanks for your attention and commitment at this critical moment. President Biden promised to do better by the planet — and with your support, we’re going to hold him to it.

Michael Brune is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club


Biden Officials Condemned for Backing Trump-era Alaska Drilling Project

Oliver Milman / The Guardian

(May 27, 2021) — Joe Biden’s administration is facing an onslaught of criticism from environmentalists after opting to defend the approval of a massive oil and gas drilling project in the frigid northern reaches of Alaska.

In a briefing filed in federal court on Wednesday, the US Department of Justice said the Trump-era decision to allow the project in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska’s north slope was “reasonable and consistent” with the law and should be allowed to go ahead.

This stance means the Biden administration is contesting a lawsuit brought by environmental groups aimed at halting the drilling due to concerns over the impact upon wildlife and planet-heating emissions. The US president has paused all new drilling leases on public land but is allowing this Alaska lease, approved under Trump, to go ahead.

The project, known as Willow, is being overseen by the oil company ConocoPhillips and is designed to extract more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years. Environmentalists say allowing the project is at odds with Biden’s vow to combat the climate crisis and drastically reduce US emissions.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the Biden administration defending this environmentally disastrous project,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that have sued to stop the drilling. “President Biden promised climate action and our climate can’t afford more huge new oil-drilling projects.”

The Arctic is heating up at three times the rate of the rest of the planet and ConocoPhillips will have to resort to Kafkaesque interventions to be able to drill for oil in an environment being destroyed by the burning of that fuel. The company plans to install “chillers’ into the Alaskan permafrost, which is rapidly melting due to global heating, to ensure it is stable enough to host drilling equipment.

Monsell said the attempts to refreeze the thawing permafrost in order to extract more fossil fuel “highlights the ridiculousness of drilling in the Arctic”. Kirsten Miller, acting executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said Willow “is the poster child for the type of massive fossil fuel development that must be avoided today if we’re to avoid the worst climate impacts down the road”.

The Willow project will involve drilling up to 250 wells and associated infrastructure, such as a processing facility, hundreds of miles of new pipelines and roads and an airstrip, in the north-eastern corner of the petroleum reserve, which is a federally owned tract of land roughly the size of Indiana.

Trump’s administration approved the drilling late in the former president’s term and activists hoped Biden would reverse this decision to meet his climate goals. A recent landmark report by the International Energy Agency found that there can be no new fossil fuel projects anywhere if the world is to avoid dangerous global heating.

Native Alaskan groups have also opposed the project over fears it will adversely impact the abundant local wildlife, such as polar bears, fish and migrating caribou.

“This project is in the important fall migration for Nuiqsut,” said Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a resident of Nuiqsut, a community in the north slope. “It should not happen. The village spoke in opposition and the greed for profit should not be allowed over our village.”

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