The Biden administration has abandoned the Willow Project, an oil and gas drilling project in Alaska that was approved by former President Donald Trump, and President Joe Biden had previously defended.

The Trump administration approved the project in October 2020 after an extensive review of its potential ecological impacts. “This Willow Project was part of Trump’s pledge to increase American energy independence,” former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.

But several environmental groups joined a lawsuit challenging the project shortly after the Interior Department signed off on it. 

But the Department of the Interior failed to file an appeal to a federal judge’s August decision blocking the multi-billion-dollar Willow Project that was being developed by ConocoPhillips, a Texas-based oil and gas firm. Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court of Alaska ruled that the federal government hadn’t adequately reviewed the emissions profile, which she said would ultimately harm the environment and wildlife.

The Biden administration had until Tuesday to appeal Gleason’s decision, but chose against appealing the rule, and all but killing the project. As stated, earlier Biden had previously vowed to defend the initiative. The Department of Justice said in May that the Willow Project was in full compliance with relevant laws regulating such leases.

The interior Department declined to comment on the administration’s decision not to appeal the ruling, while ConocoPhillips hasn’t given a response as of this writing. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Jeremy Lieb, an attorney for the group Earthjustice said, “Today’s affirmation of our legal victory against the Willow Project is a win for the climate and for an irreplaceable Alaska landscape. We are glad to see that President Biden is taking positive steps in his commitment toward a cleaner energy future.”

Greenpeace USA senior research specialist Tim Donaghy said in a statement, “We hope the Biden administration’s choice to accept the federal court’s decision of halting ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project is the beginning of the end of federal backing of fossil fuels.”

The entire congressional delegation from Alaska, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Dan Sullivan (R) and Representative Don Young (R),  have been vocal proponents of the project, arguing it would produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day, lead to $10 billion in government revenue and create 2,000 constructions jobs and 300 permanent jobs.  They had also applauded the Biden administration after its brief defending the Willow Project in May.

Junior Senator Sullivan said in a statement after the August ruling, “This decision won’t do one thing to help the environment. To the contrary, if further delays one of Alaska’s most strategic energy development projects, which will benefit our adversaries that produce oil, like Russia, Venezuela, and Iran, whose environmental standards are some of the worst in the world.”

The Biden Administration needs to keep its commitment to the Alaskan people by continuing to defend the Willow Project in court for the sake of American energy,” he continued.

Earlier this year, President Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from Alberta, Canada into and through parts of the United States. Since this cancelation of Keystone, and Biden’s determination to lower the U.S. production of fossil fuels, the U.S. is continually showing signs of returning to dependence on the Middle East and Russia for much of its oil and natural gas supply.
Prior to Biden becoming president, then-president Donald Trump had gotten the U.S.  totally independent from any foreign oil dependency.

Since, July, oil and natural gas have hit multi-year highs across the world. The federal government recently projected that heating costs could increase 54% or more for Americans this winter and gasoline prices continue to rise. On Wednesday, the national average of gas increased to $3.36 per gallon, according to a AAA database.

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