Willow Project to deliver jobs, billions in government revenue

The Willow Project will generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in new tax revenue for federal, state and local governments, ConocoPhillips says

The Biden administration’s approval of the oil drilling operation known as the Willow Project over objections from environmental groups is expected to deliver substantial benefits to Alaska’s economy and billions in government revenue.

The Willow Project is located on Alaska’s North Slope in a small portion of what’s known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). It has a footprint of about 500 acres, while the NPR-A is a 23 million-acre area on the North Slope originally set aside 100 years ago by President Warren Harding as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy before it was transferred to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and opened for potential oil and gas leasing in 1976.

ConocoPhillips, which will develop the Willow Project, said it estimates the project will provide between $8 billion and $17 billion in new tax revenue to the federal government, the state of Alaska and North Slope Borough communities. 

The project has the potential to create over 2,500 construction jobs and approximately 300 long-term jobs.

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Oil pipeline runs through Alaska ground

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline moves crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to the ice-free port of Valdez, Alaska. The approval of the Willow Project on Alaska's North Slope will add up to 180,000 barrels of oil output per day to America's energy supplies. (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The company estimated the Willow Project will yield a peak of 180,000 barrels of oil per day or more than 65 million barrels per year, which will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil. It also noted that the Willow Project went through five years of regulatory review under the National Environmental Policy Act and is designed with mitigation measures intended to avoid interfering with the subsistence activities of Alaska Native communities.

"This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation," said ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance. "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.

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"We are truly grateful for the steadfast support from Alaska’s congressional delegation — senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Representative Mary Peltola — Alaska Native communities, the state legislature and organized labor groups."

President Biden speech

President Biden has faced criticism from environmental groups for his administration's approval of the Willow Project. (Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

While the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, it did narrow its scope when the Bureau of Land Management and Interior declined a request by ConocoPhillips to develop five drilling pads and instead granted approval for just three. 

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The administration said this would reduce the need for the construction of additional roads and pipelines and gravel associated with the two rejected sites, the elimination of which "reduces potential impacts to caribou migration and subsistence users."

Prior to the decision, ConocoPhillips said three drill sites were the minimum required to make the energy project economically viable.

Landscape mountain view with pipeline

The Biden administration approved just three of the potential five oil sites in the Willow Project, reducing the need for additional construction of roads and pipelines. (Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, supported the Willow Project and its approval but also criticized a separate move by the Biden administration to block future oil and gas development on nearly 16 million acres of Alaska. 

Dunleavy called the decision "disgraceful" and said that rather than reducing global oil consumption, it will "just shift the market and give leverage to producers in countries that don’t have our high standards for the environment and human rights." 

He added, "In the end, every American pays the price when President Biden restricts our ability to develop our own energy resources."

Environmental groups have continued to express opposition to the Willow Project despite the Biden administration’s approval.

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COP CONOCOPHILLIPS 131.20 -1.72 -1.29%

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The Climate Justice Alliance, a nationwide network of climate justice groups, condemned the Biden administration for greenlighting the Willow Project. The group’s co-executive directors Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins and Marion Gee said in a joint statement, "You can’t approve the largest oil extraction site on public U.S. lands in the midst of a climate emergency and expect Indigenous, Black, brown and other frontline communities to take you at your word.

"Real and safe community solutions, such as community-controlled solar and wind, are what we need investment in now," they added. "Unproven and risky, corporate technologies such as carbon capture and storage will further devastate our communities and prolong the harms of the fossil fuel industry. ConocoPhillips and other fossil fuel giants don’t need more profits or government favors."