Judge Blocks Permits for Oil Drilling Project

Judge Blocks Permits for Oil Drilling Project

(RepublicanPress.org) – On June 1, oil producer ConocoPhillips published an enthusiastic press release discussing the completion of the Department of the Interior’s final review process of the Willow Master Development Plan (the Willow Project).

ConocoPhillips Alaska President Erec Isaacson expressed gratitude to the state’s Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for their efforts to help the company achieve a “favorable outcome on the review.” However, a federal judge may have derailed the $6 billion oil development project on a technicality.

Project Derailed

On Wednesday, August 18, Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued a 110-page ruling on a couple of related lawsuits stating that the Trump administration’s approval of the Willow Project violated the National Environmental Policy Act. According to the Obama appointee, the government failed to thoroughly analyze the project’s environmental impact or consider possible legal protections for Teshekpuk Lake.

Gleason’s ruling overturned the US Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the Willow project and set aside the US Fish and Wildlife Service determination that the project wasn’t likely to jeopardize the polar bears’ survival or habitat.

Several environmental groups, alongside Alaskan natives, filed a lawsuit to stop the project. In February, they appealed to obtain a preliminary injunction in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Pushback Against the Decision Is Swift

The decision from Gleason, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, sparked immediate concern from politicians and oil industry officials. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) issued a press release criticizing the cancellation of the Willow Project’s authorization.

“Make no mistake, today’s ruling… outsources [oil] production to dictatorships and terrorist organizations,” Dunleavy stated. He pointed out that the project would provide 160,000 barrels of high-quality crude oil a day to power American cities and provide thousands of jobs to the benefit of the Alaskan people.

Retired Alaska oil and gas industry attorney and former state budget watchdog Brad Keithley also weighed in on Gleason’s decision. According to him, the project has the potential to generate as much as $13 billion in royalties and tax revenue for the state. He told reporters that revoking the project’s approval was a big deal not only to ConocoPhillips and the oil industry, but also for the state’s future “fiscal situation.”

President Joe Biden rarely appears to agree with Trump’s energy policies. However, administration lawyers defended the decision by the Trump administration to approve the project, enraging environmental groups who claimed it ran counter to his proposed green policies.

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