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Federal Judge Allows ConocoPhillips to Move Forward with $8 Billion Willow Oil Project in Alaska Despite Environmentalist Objections

A federal judge in Alaska has denied a bid by environmentalists and an indigenous group to block ConocoPhillips from opening a gravel mine and conducting other work at its $8 billion Willow oil project in the state.[0] The ruling is being hailed as a victory for Alaska's prosperity and future, as the project is expected to create numerous jobs and generate billions in state and local taxes and grants to North Slope communities. The company has so far invested $758 million in the project and says it needs to spend an additional $1.5 billion in 2023 and 2024 to keep to that schedule.[1]

In the order, the court acknowledged the years that the Willow Project has already spent under extensive litigation and environmental review, the approval of multiple levels of government, and the strong support for the project from the majority of affected Alaska Native groups.[2] The court also considered the fact that the Alaska House and Senate unanimously adopted a resolution stating that “a further delay in approval or construction of the Willow project . . . is not in the public interest.”[3]

The ruling has been welcomed by Alaskan lawmakers and officials, who have been advocating for the project to proceed. “It is heartening to hear that the Willow project can move forward, while we have to continue fighting this lawsuit. This will mean progress and jobs for Alaskans,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor.[2] Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy also praised the decision, stating that it “validates Alaska's high standards for the environment when it comes to oil production.”[3]

However, environmental groups and Alaska Natives who live near the site have expressed concerns that the activity would irreparably harm wildlife and their communities.[1] They have vowed to continue challenging the project in court, despite this recent setback. “Today's ruling will likely face further frivolous legal challenges by these same Lower 48 radical groups who want to impoverish our state and our citizens. But we are prepared to defend the court's most recent decision, including before the Ninth Circuit, and the future prosperity of Alaska for as long as it takes,” said Senator Dan Sullivan.[2]

The court's decision to allow the construction of the project to continue as the court process plays out is a significant development for Alaska's oil industry, which has been facing increasing scrutiny from environmental groups and the Biden administration. While the ruling is being hailed as a victory for Alaska's economy, the ongoing legal battle highlights the complex and contentious issues surrounding oil production in the state.

0. “Federal judge says construction can begin for Willow oil project on Alaska's North Slope” Alaska Beacon, 4 Apr. 2023, https://alaskabeacon.com/2023/04/03/federal-judge-says-construction-can-begin-for-willow-oil-project-on-alaskas-north-slope

1. “ConocoPhillips Wins Ruling to Continue $8 Billion Alaska Oil Project Work” Yahoo Finance, 3 Apr. 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/conocophillips-wins-ruling-continue-8-221643672.html

2. “Alaska Delegation Welcomes Ruling Upholding Willow Record of Decision” Senator Dan Sullivan, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.sullivan.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/alaska-delegation-welcomes-ruling-upholding-willow-record-of-decision

3. “Breaking: Willow lawsuit tossed, construction can begin” Must Read Alaska, 4 Apr. 2023, https://mustreadalaska.com/breaking-willow-lawsuit-tossed-construction-can-begin/

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