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Biden blocks some Arctic oil drilling as Willow decision looms

The Biden administration on Sunday announced actions aimed at limiting oil and gas drilling in Alaska as it is also expected to soon approve a controversial 30-year oil project. 

The Biden administration is blocking 2.8 million acres in the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas drilling and will also propose additional protections for 13 million acres of federally owned land in Alaska that have significant natural and historic value, according to an Interior Department Press release. 

There has not been a federal lease sale in the Arctic Ocean since 2007, according to the department. 

Leasing is an early step in extracting oil and gas from federal lands and waters. The protections from oil that Biden will announce on Monday come as the administration has also indicated that it is likely to approve a controversial oil development project. 

That project, known as the Willow Project, would allow ConocoPhillips to extract as many as 629 million barrels of oil from an area known as the National Petroleum Reserve — Alaska over a 30-year period. 

The Willow Project is highly controversial among environmentalists, who point to the oil’s anticipated contribution to climate change, as it is estimated to contribute 278,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the project’s 30-year lifespan.

Although the administration proposed approving the project last month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that a final decision had not been made amid reports that the administration was moving ahead with the project. 

An administration official said Sunday that the administration will issue its decision on Willow “soon” and said that it has had limited options since ConocoPhillips has held some of its drilling leases for decades.

The Sierra Club in a new statement on Sunday praised the reported protections, but also said the administration should not approve the Willow Project. 

“These unparalleled protections for Alaskan landscapes and waters are the right decision at the right time, and we thank the Biden Administration for taking this significant step,” said a statement from Sierra Club Lands Protection Program Director Athan Manuel. 

“However, the benefits of these protections can be undone just as quickly by approval of oil and gas projects on public lands, and right now, no proposal poses a bigger threat to lands, wildlife, communities, and our climate than ConocoPhillips’ Willow project,” Manuel added. 

Supporters of the Willow Project have said that it will bring economic benefits to Alaska and contribute to the global oil supply. 

Updated at 7:12 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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