Cantwell Statement on Biden Administration Decision to Approve Massive Arctic Drilling Project

ConocoPhillips’ Willow Proposal could cause nearly $20 billion in climate-related damage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell released a statement in response to President Biden’s decision to approve the ConocoPhillips Willow Master Development Plan (MDP), a massive 30-year oil and gas development proposal on public land in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The Bureau of Land Management released the 2023 Record of Decision for the Willow MDP Project today, March 13, 2023.

“Willow is not just about protecting the fragile Arctic and one of the world’s last great intact ecosystems, it’s about trying to stop runaway global warming from burdening future generations,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We should be doubling down on energy solutions that can rapidly provide Americans with cleaner and more affordable alternatives.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Cantwell joined House and Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the White House, calling on the Biden Administration to reject the ConocoPhillips Willow Master Development Plan. In their letter, the legislators raised concerns that approving any plan to advance the Willow project would be inconsistent with the historic achievements on climate and environmental justice made to date. Last year, congressional Democrats and President Biden passed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, delivering the federal government’s largest-ever investment in climate and clean energy to the American people.

The Willow MDP could result in nearly $20 billion in climate-related damages while also threatening the well-being of nearby Nuiqsut, Alaska. Nuiqsut’s federally recognized and elected tribal government, in partnership with the city’s Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and city council, made their concerns on the Willow project clear to President Biden.

Senator Cantwell has been the leading congressional champion of protecting fragile Arctic ecosystems, including preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She repeatedly fought back against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll-back protections for the pristine wilderness and cosponsored multiple bills to designate its coastal plain as a wilderness area. In December of 2005, Cantwell led a historic filibuster that reversed a backdoor maneuver in the Senate that would have allowed drilling in the Refuge. 

The full Congressional letter sent to President Biden on March 3, 2023 is available HERE