The Willow Project: What You Need to Know

The controversial oil drilling project in Alaska

The Willow Project has been a topic of recent controversy in the US. Let’s take a deeper look into this current event. 


What is the Willow Project?

The Willow Project is an extensive oil-drilling project in Alaska’s North Slope. While state lawmakers claim it would bring in a source of revenue for the region, many people and environmental groups have been strictly opposed to it. The venture would involve millions of oil, releasing “9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year”. Climate groups have estimated that it would release 278 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the course of 30 years. 



The Willow Project, led by ConocoPhillips, received permits during the last year of the Trump Administration. Environmentalists then sued and a federal judge blocked the project in 2021 because of the government’s neglect of the project’s impact on climate change. The Biden Administration has supported the project with a smaller carbon footprint. 

The politics

 Biden has received criticism for claiming to end new oil drilling on federal land, yet approved this project. Biden has tried to ameliorate this by approving two drilling pads instead of one. The White House has proposed to remove the most ecologically sensitive drilling pad of the three, and to plant trees to make up for the carbon impact of the drilling. However, many environmental groups are not happy with these concessions, and an environmental legal group, EarthJustice, has prepared to file a lawsuit against the Biden administration if it is approved. The version of the project does not matter as much as the actual approval of the project. 

Last month, the League of Conservation Voters launched a TV and digital ad campaign in efforts to push Biden to reject the project. They hold the common thought that they will not be negotiating for the lesser number of drill pads, needing the project to be canceled altogether. LCV’s Senior Vice President of government affairs speaks on how this looks on Biden’s part, stating that “It clearly flies in the face of both his incredible climate accomplishments to date and his goal of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030,”

Young voters have expressed opposition to the Willow Project by spreading the hashtag #StopWillow and spreading a petition and letter to stop the Biden administration from initiating the project. 



Not only affecting the environment, the project also directly impacts the local Alaska Natives. The project is widely opposed by the local Native group Nuiqsut, after villagers had to be evacuated during a gas leak from the ConocoPhillips project last year. However, other Alaskan tribes and officials have supported the initiative because of the possible new jobs and revenue that could be created from the project. Supporters believe that they could use the income to fund more infrastructure and public services in the area.  With Alaska’s economy not performing well from 2015 to 2021, some claim that oil production could help economic growth. Overall, the topic is a very nuanced one, holding firm supporters and opposers. 


Personally, I am passionate about both environmentalism and social justice, so reading more into the topic has made me unsure about my stance on the issue. Wherever you stand though, it’s important to be aware of current news topics like this one, especially when they can have substantial impacts.