Federal Appeals Court Denies Injunction Stopping Oil Development In Alaska

If you are an environmentalist looking for good news, this article isn’t it. Unfortunately, a federal appeals court rejected petitions for a temporary injunction for the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, rejecting environmental groups’ requests and an Alaska Native organization to halt construction work. The decision by the court of appeals backs up the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason on April 3, which denied requests for an injunction. 

The Ninth Circuit Court consolidated two lawsuits into one case in its ruling. The lawsuits were filed one day after the Biden administration approved the Willow Project. The Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic and five environmental groups filed one of the lawsuits, and six different environmental groups filed the other. 

President Biden’s Environmental Goals and the Willow Project

The Bureau of Land Management approved the Willow Project on March 13. ConocoPhillips is the oil company developing the Willow Project. ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer Ryan Lance released a statement claiming that the Willow Project and President Biden’s goals are compatible. “Willow fits within the Biden Administration’s priorities on environmental and social justice, facilitating the energy transition and enhancing our energy security, all while creating good union jobs and providing benefits to Alaska Native communities,” he said. 

The project’s approval directly contradicts the Biden administration’s goal of achieving a 50 to 52 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels in 2030. The project is one of the most significant oil development projects in the region for decades. The project’s greenlighting proves President Biden is not serious about climate change. The Willow Project will produce an estimated 180,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak. It will also produce 260 million metric tons of carbon emissions over 30 years. That amount is equivalent to almost 70 coal-fired plants operating for a year. 

Putting Profits Above People and the Environment

ConocoPhillips started its construction plan on the day the Biden administration approved the project by building ice roads. The company then began working on the gravel mine and road construction. “This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation,” Lance said. He overlooks the damage the project will do to an area where wildlife is already impacted by climate change. Polar bears reside in the area and are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Musk oxen, caribou, and hundreds of migratory birds call the area home. The Western Arctic and the Teshekpuk Lake caribou herds have long been essential resources for Alaska native communities. 

The Willow Project would impact native communities. They would suffer from increased air pollution, noise pollution from blasting for gravel mining, and industrialization that would affect their physical and mental health. Despite what Lance claimed, it is the antithesis of environmental and social justice. His remarks show that ConocoPhillips puts profits above people and the environment. The company claims that its core mission is “to invest in the development of the energy supply essential to human and economic progress while effectively managing social and environmental concerns, including climate change.” In reality, that statement amounts to what George Orwell called double-speak. ConocoPhillips only wants to make money. 

Image courtesy of ProPublica under Creative Commons license  

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheesemanhttp://www.justmeans.com/users/gina-marie-cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor about.me/gmcheeseman Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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