Sen. Cantwell blasts Biden's approval of Willow oil drilling project in Alaska

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell issued a response rebuking the Biden Administration's approval of a 30-year oil and gas development plan in Alaska, which legislators argue could cause nearly $20 billion in climate-related damage.

The ConocoPhillips Willow Master Development Plan (MDP) was approved by President Biden this month, allowing a sprawling 30-year development plan on public land in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Cantwell and other lawmakers wrote to Biden in early March, pushing him to reject the MDP over concerns of climate damages.

"Willow is not just about protecting the fragile Arctic and one of the world’s last great intact ecosystems, it’s about trying to stop runaway global warming from burdening future generations," Sen. Cantwell said. "We should be doubling down on energy solutions that can rapidly provide Americans with cleaner and more affordable alternatives."

In 2022, Congress passed and Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which among other things made the federal government's largest-ever investment in climate and clean energy.

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Cantwell asserts that, in spite of these record investments, the Biden Adminstration still went forward approving the Willow oil project. According to the American Petroleum Institute, factors for this likely include the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as sweeping sanctions against Putin have reportedly led to elevated global energy prices. The Center for American Progress says these claims are false, arguing that the U.S. currently produces more than twice as many barrels of oil per day as it produced in 2008 and is exporting record amounts of oil to other countries.

"Any plan to advance the Willow project would be inconsistent with the historic achievements on climate and environmental justice made to date," reads a statement from Cantwell's office.

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The Democrat lawmakers' letter to Biden warns the Willow oil project could cause $19.8 billion in climate damages compared to the "meager $3.9 billion in new federal revenue." The nearby community Nuiqsut, Alaska and its federally-recognized and elected tribal government signed the letter as well, citing concerns over protecting fragile Arctic ecosystems.