Six conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the US federal government on Tuesday (American time) over the approval of the controversial Willow project oil well located in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.
The groups are arguing federal agencies have violated the National Environmental Policy Act due to the well’s potential impacts to sensitive arctic environment, subsistence users, and climate change.
Tim Woody, a spokesperson from the Wilderness Society which is one of the plaintiffs, says the approval of the project goes against previous commitments made by the Biden administration, to halve pollution by 2030.
“We need to transition away from fossil fuels, President Biden ran on a campaign of meeting climate goals, no more drilling of federal land was one of his keys polices.
So, when we look at starting a massive project that will lead to three decades of greenhouse gas emissions totaling to more than 280 million metric tons, we can’t just look at that and think that’s okay,” he said on Alaska Public Media.
Other plaintiffs include the Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic fronted by Inupiaq woman Siqiñiq Maupin.
In a statement the group said that the only solution to the ongoing climate crisis is the “divestment from all fossil fuels and a just transition into renewable energy.”
“Yes it will be expensive, but there is no greater price to pay than the loss of biodiversity, coastlines, and lives,” The group wrote.
Supporters of the project include Alaskan Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who said that America is more suitable for oil production due to having an “environmental track record that is second-to-none.”
Also among the supporters are local Indigenous groups who have praised the project for the boost it will give to the economy in the form of new jobs and dividends for locals on the North Slope.
Nagruk Harcharek is president of Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, said that he believes that the project won’t have a negative effect on subsistence hunting in the area.
“Subsistence Inupiaq lifestyle that we live is important, it’s the most important for us,”
“So if there was ever a project that we thought would negatively impact that, in ways that would be irreparable, we would not be in support of that project,” he said.
It’s expected that ConcoPhillips the company behind the project will begin readying pads for drilling within the next month.
Image Credit: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement