Biden's decision on massive Alaska oil project looms

ConocoPhillips estimates Willow Project would deliver up to 180K barrels a day plus $17B in federal tax revenue

President Joe Biden is weighing whether to approve a massive oil and gas drilling project in Alaska that has the bipartisan backing of the state’s congressional delegation but is drawing fierce opposition from environmental groups. A decision is expected to come sometime this week.

The uproar concerns what’s known as the Willow Project – the largest pending oil and gas project in the U.S. – which is a proposal by ConocoPhillips to develop energy resources in a small portion of what’s known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on Alaska’s North Slope.

Alaska’s bipartisan delegation to Congress – Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan plus Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola – met with the president last week and emphasized their support for the project.

ENTIRE ALASKA DELEGATION MEETS WITH BIDEN AT WHITE HOUSE, IMPLORING APPROVAL OF MASSIVE OIL PROJECT

biden

President Joe Biden is considering whether to approve or disapprove ConocoPhillips' Willow Project that would develop energy on Alaska's North Slope. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci / File / AP Newsroom)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently issued a decision narrowing the scope of the Willow Project from the five drilling pads requested by ConocoPhillips to three. The company said that three is the minimum required to make the project economically viable and would be prepared to start drilling "immediately" if the three were approved.

Environmental groups oppose even a scaled-down version of the project. The Sierra Club said in a press release last month, "The Willow project would have a devastating effect on public lands and our climate, and approving it after passing the largest climate bill in history would be a giant step in reverse."

Fox News’ Peter Doocy pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the Willow Project during a briefing Monday, asking whether energy security or reducing fossil fuels is more important to President Biden. 

BIDEN ADMIN MAKES STUNNING ADMISSION ON CLIMATE AGENDA IN LEAKED INTERNAL MEMO

Conoco Phillips Alaska

ConocoPhillips sought permission for five drilling pads, but the Biden administration recommended only three – the minimum amount needed to make the project viable – ahead of final approval or disapproval. (Conocophillips.com)

Jean-Pierre responded, "It doesn’t have to be one or the other, we can try to do both."

Doocy noted Biden’s 2019 pledge – "I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuel" – and asked whether that means the project will be dead.

Jean-Pierre explained that the president appreciated hearing from the Alaska delegation to "understand what their concerns are" but that she’s not going to get ahead of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s pending decision on the project.

Scrutiny of Biden’s decision on the Willow Project comes after a recent controversy involving another energy project in Alaska.

ALASKA REPUBLICANS DEMAND BIDEN ‘BETTER NOT KILL’ LATEST WILLOW PROJECT OIL DRILLING PROPOSAL

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Oil pipelines stretch across the landscape outside Nuiqsut, Alaska, where ConocoPhillips operates the Alpine Field, on May 28, 2019. The company is hoping the Biden administration approves the Willow Project on Alaska's North Slope. (Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Last week, the Biden administration’s Interior Department mistakenly released an internal memo regarding a different energy project in Alaska – Cook Inlet Lease Sale 258 – that was mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act. The memo revealed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was emphasizing the climate change impact of the project despite the energy security and tax revenue it would deliver.

"If a Cook Inlet prospect would be developed, there would be additional government revenues and greater energy security for the State of Alaska, especially if development of natural gas resources in the Cook Inlet ameliorated the long-term supply challenges facing the Anchorage area," the memo said.

"Nevertheless, because of serious challenges facing the Nation from climate change and the impact of [greenhouse gases] from fossil fuels, BOEM is not recommending this option since it would not include an appropriate surcharge to account for those impacts," BOEM continued. The agency recommended increasing royalty rates from 16 and two-thirds percent to 18 and three-quarters percent – the maximum amount allowed under the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
COP CONOCOPHILLIPS 115.17 +3.83 +3.44%

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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., slammed the BOEM for the memo, saying in a press release, "I am appalled by its contents, which make crystal clear that this administration is literally putting their radical climate agenda ahead of the needs of the people of Alaska and the United States."

Fox Business’ Thomas Catenacci and Reuters contributed to this report.