The Willow Oil Project needs to be stopped (OPINION)


Environmental groups including Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have spent years trying to prevent Willow from happening.(Photo Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

On March 13, the Biden administration approved the controversial Willow Project in Alaska. The Willow Project, originally proposed and approved in 2020, is an oil project owned by ConocoPhillips, an American multinational corporation engaged in hydrocarbon exploration and production.

Within this project, ConocoPhillips will lead the drilling of 600 to 160,000 barrels of oil in the National Petroleum Reserve daily over the next thirty years. The project could produce a “carbon bomb” of 260 million tons of carbon dioxide, affecting the entire ecosystem. Major effects of Willow’s operation will include animals dying, communities breaking, and an increase in the rate of climate change.

Ray Rodriguez, teacher of sciences at Academy, comments, “Like everything else, there are pros and cons.  Me personally, I don’t want to see oil drilling expand since it will perpetuate the use of fossil fuels and potentially damage a relatively untouched area of the Earth.  But if I was a resident of Alaska that could benefit from employment generated by the drilling, I would be all for it.  But ultimately we need to consider as a people the long-term negative effects that could happen to everyone.”

During his 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden stated that he is an advocate for facing climate change, leading many to question why he approved this project. The project is being used to bring affordable energy across the country in the hope of lowering gas prices nationwide, according to Alaska’s congressional delegations. As a solution to the concerns of citizens, ConocoPhillips has plans to install chillers to keep the permafrost frozen under its heavy equipment, but will this be enough?

As of  March 14th, 2023 environmentalists filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in support of Native Alaskans. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, the mayor of Nuiqsuit, expresses concern for the impact of the project, as Nuiqsuit is the closest community to the Willow Project site,” As oil is exported and sent around the globe, our communities in the Arctic are left to contend with the health impacts of pollution as well as the devastation that comes from dramatic changes to the land like sea ice melt, permafrost thaw, and coastal erosion”(Native Movement)

Organizers of the Willow Project have also been accusing of doing minimal research on the impacts of this project on the Teshekpuk Lake caribou, which are a vital food source for the Nuiqsuit community. The community has spoken out on the direct impacts that the oil/gas extraction has caused to sicken fish, malnourish caribou, and worsen air quality. They also expressed concern over a lack of consultation beforehand, the health of community members, and the loss of access to food resources. “The detrimental amounts of pollutants and contaminants caused by drilling and extraction projects are happening, literally, in the backyards of Iñupiaq peoples and without their full and informed consent” (Meera Baswan; The Native Movement)

Many Indigenous groups and environmentalists are currently protesting and gathering to protest for President Biden to stop the Willow Project. Trending hashtags of StopWillow are being promoted on all platforms to get recognition from our executive branch, but currently, there are has been no official response.