The Biden administration is reportedly poised to approve a massive northern Alaska oil drilling project that is forecast to create thousands of jobs and 600 million barrels of oil over its 30-year lifespan, sending eco-warriors into a frenzy about the “existential threat” the project poses to the climate.
Senior administration officials have signed off on three of the five drilling sites proposed by oil company ConocoPhillips as part of its Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve located in North Slope Borough, Alaska, Bloomberg first reported Friday evening. ConocoPhillips had previously stated that, for the project to retain economic viability, the federal government would need to approve at least three of the sites.
In a tweet calling for Biden to abandon support for the plan, the Sierra Club, which has a self-described mission to “educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment,” called the Willow Project a “climate disaster waiting to happen.”
“This MUST not be the case @POTUS. The Willow project is a climate disaster waiting to happen that would devastate wildlife, lands, AK communities, and our climate,” the environmental group wrote. “We need to speed our transition to clean energy, not double-down on oil and gas.”
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In another tweet, the Sierra Club called for its supporters to “tell [Biden] to stop” the project.
Greenpeace USA, an environmental group working to “expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future,” claimed in a series of social media posts that the project would serve as an “egregious expansion of fossil fuel extraction” and “be a betrayal to the millions of young people and local residents who have raised their voices against it.”
In agreement, People vs. Fossil Fuels, a coalition of over 1,200 activists “working together towards a common goal of ending the era of fossil fuels,” called for its supporters to “FLOOD” the social media accounts belonging to Biden in an effort to “make it clear he must listen to our voices and #StopWillow.”
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Democrat presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have also expressed their opposition to the project.
“So much for that ‘existential threat,’” Williamson, who announced this month that she was entering the 2024 race for the White House, wrote in a tweet.
Markey suggested the approval of the Willow Project would be a move in “the wrong direction.”
“We cannot allow the Willow Project to move forward. We must build a clean energy future—not return to a dark, fossil-fueled past,” Markey wrote in a tweet. “It doesn’t matter which way this oil flows, it’s the wrong direction.”
Oregon Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley also bashed the reported move by the Biden administration to give the go-ahead to the Willow Project, calling the move by Biden a “betrayal” of his promises.
“If this story is right, it’s a complete betrayal of Biden’s promise not to allow more drilling and a complete catastrophe to rein in climate chaos,” Merkley wrote in a tweet. “You can’t ask other countries to forego their fossil fuels if we keep greenlighting projects here in America.”
Merkley also suggested in a separate post that fifty years from now, the move to approve the drilling project “may well be viewed as the knife that killed any possibility of international agreement to control runaway temperature increases with devastating consequences.”
Dozens of other activists weighed in on the administration’s reported approval of the project, with several claiming that it would have an impact on Democratic support for Biden moving forward.
“The Willow Project, an $8bn oil project, is an existential threat to Alaskan Native communities. Biden is expected to approve it to fill the gap left by a US-led Western boycott of Russian oil and gas. US carbon imperialism starts at home,” Indigenous organizer and journalist Nick Estes wrote in a tweet.
“A ‘climate President’ wouldn’t approve the Willow Project,” Nina Turner, a senior fellow at the New School’s Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy, said of Biden in a tweet.
Bill McKibben – an author and environmentalist who founded 350, a self-described “international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all” – also took aim at the Biden administration’s likely approval of the Willow Project, claiming it is a “world-class carbon bomb.”
“Supposedly the White House is close to approving a vast new oil complex – the #WillowProject – in Alaska. One hopes that they’ll rethink: it’s a world-class carbon bomb, and base voters young and old just hate it. Jimmy Carter helped preserve Alaska – over to you, Joe Biden,” McKibben wrote in a tweet.
Aidan DiMarco, president of the New Jersey Young Progressive Democrats, said he will relinquish his support for Biden if the Willow Project reaches fruition, writing in a tweet that he “will not be supporting, voting, or volunteering for him if he’s the nominee” should the project receive the president’s approval.
“I’m a proud Democrat, but I refuse to vote for ANY Democrat that pushes us in the wrong direction when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. I want to live on a habitable planet, and I will vote for a candidate that is fighting for my right to live on a healthy planet,” DiMarco wrote in a separate tweet.
Environmentalist Dallas Goldtooth also weighed in on this issue through Twitter, concluding that “NO ONE can tell me @JoeBiden takes climate serious IF he approves the #WillowProject.”
“If he approves this massive climate bomb – he has utterly failed. This will be HIS legacy to a burning planet,” Goldtooth claimed.
Earlier this month, actor Mark Ruffalo called for the Biden administration to abandon the drilling initiative, referring to it as a “ticking carbon bomb” as he urged his followers to press Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to reject the project.
“This $8B oil drilling project is a ticking carbon bomb with damaging effects on Indigenous communities and wildlife,” Ruffalo wrote in a post shared to Twitter. “Please send your letters to @POTUS and @SecDebHaaland to stop The Willow Project before March 6.”
Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan said Monday that Alaskan natives feel that President Biden’s administration, along with environmental groups that are looking to stifle an arctic oil project, are bringing a “second wave of colonialism” to the Last Frontier.
Sullivan, along with Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Alaska Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola, has expressed support for the project. Sullivan also said that it has received “very strong support” from the region’s indigenous people, but that the Biden administration has ignored those comments.
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“What they’re starting to say is, these lower-48 environmental groups who are now doing this big campaign against Willow are undertaking, really, the second wave of colonialism,” he said. “This is from our native leaders. Eco-colonialism, where they’re coming up and telling Alaskan natives: ‘Here’s how you should live your life.’ It’s ridiculous.”
Following reports of the Willow Project’s expected approval, the White House said the decision has not been finalized.
“No final decisions have been made — anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Fox News’ Thomas Catenacci contributed to this article.