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Why is the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project Controversial in the US?

What is the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, and why has it sparked controversy across the U.S. as the country has implemented new ambitious environmental targets?
Green News
2023-03-20T00:00:00.000Z
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Alaska

From the Tongass National Forest to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the U.S. has been subject to several controversial bills, legislation, and projects – with the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project serving as the next one on the list.

What is the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, and why is it controversial in the U.S. in the midst of climate change?

What is the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project?

ConocoPhillips is a company that has been dedicated to utilizing Alaska’s North Slope oil resources for almost sixty years. Subsequently, the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project has been primarily executed in the northeast region of Alaska: where the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, otherwise known as the NPR-A, remains as ConocoPhillips’ newest project.

The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, first proposed in 2017, would allow for oil drilling on federal land in the North Slope region of Alaska near the Arctic. The project would serve as Alaska’s largest oil development project in over two decades if approved, and would help to stimulate the state's economy – much to the dismay of several environmentalists arguing for the program to be revised in order to protect the planet.

Despite the controversy against the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project with environmentalists, this newest and potentially largest project in oil development is supposed to help the state of Alaska in several ways.

What are the main goals of the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project?

The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project was first initiated back in 2017 – where the company discovered a region that could result in over 100,000 barrels of oil daily, and in turn create a plethora of new jobs in construction to fuel the U.S. economy. In addition, the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project would help create revenue to be provided to state, local, and even the federal government.

Similar to the Tongass National Forest, the Alaskan government is in support of the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project – as the primary concern of the Alaskan government remains the urgency to improve the state’s economy and provide new jobs to residents of Alaska. Ultimately, the government believes that the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project could help provide Alaska with the economic benefits and boost the state’s economy. 

However, not everyone agrees that the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project would be beneficial to society or the planet – as the newest project by the ConocoPhillips company has sparked intense controversy.

Why has the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project sparked controversy?

The ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project has sparked immense controversy amongst environmental activists, due to the fact that the potential project would require oiling drilling sites, compromise road access, disrupt pipelines, and a processing plant in order to aid in the production of various oils, gasses, and petroleum. The ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project originally asked for around 250 wells and five oil drilling sites, and while it has been recommended that the project reduces its drilling sites from five to three and wells from around 250 to around 220 – which would reduce the amount of oil to be extracted from the The ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project itself. 

Several other recommendations on how the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project can reduce its environmental impact are currently being made in a document entitled, “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement”. The Bureau of Land Management, also known as the BLM agency – is parented by the Department of Interior, who still has the power to prevent the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project from occurring. 

There are several reasons why the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project remains controversial, but the overarching reason for many wanting to put a stop to the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project is that it will deter the Biden Administration from achieving their environmental targets.

⚠️ In other words, it would be next to impossible for the United States to achieve 50% of emission reductions by 2030 if the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project is to be approved.

Given the Arctic area is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world, the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project calls for concern for those determined to contribute to the fight against climate change.

a glacier in Alaska

For starters, many view the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project as a catalyst for future negative environmental repercussions – given the estimated amount of carbon emissions to be produced as a result from the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, a whopping 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over the course of 30 years, would cause insurmountable damage.

This is the antithesis of what the United States needs in order to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels and transition to the use of renewable energy. The ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project would create up to a third of the emissions created from all of the coal plants across the country. The ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project wouldn’t only produce emissions on its own, but the project could also provoke treacherous gas leaks which could spur further environmental issues. 

Some believe that ConocoPhillips themselves influenced the Willow Project’s review, as they have already accumulated over $10 billion in profits – raising eyebrows on how those profits have allowed for extensive involvement in environmental analyses for the Willow Project. This has sparked further controversy on honesty from behalf of the ConocoPhillips company themselves. 

Is the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project the first environmental controversy in the state of Alaska?

Is the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project the first controversial project in Alaska?

The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project isn’t the first environmental debate to be had in the state of Alaska. One of the most recent controversies in Alaska was the Roadless Rule being appealed in the Tongass National Forest – which now prevents new resorts, roads, or other developments from occurring in the largest national forest in the United States.

The Roadless Rule is designed to protect some of the oldest trees in the Tongass National Forest, as they can help to absorb excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, the newly reinstated Roadless Rule was implemented to protect the wildlife through the Tongass National Forest, such as eagles and bears, as new construction in the forest could harm the surrounding area’s biodiversity.

However, the Alaskan government wasn’t too content with this decision by the federal government – as Republicans in the state of Alaska, including Dan Sullivanhe, believe that deterring industrialization in the Tongass National Forest harms the state’s economy. Building up the Tongass National Forest would create new jobs in the tourism sector, such as jobs in hospitality or becoming a local tour guide, as well as boost Alaska’s economy with an increased amount of visitors in the state. 

The predicament with the repeal of the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest is similar to the controversies associated with the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project – both could boost the state’s economy at the expense of the environment.

Is it possible to move forward with the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project without harming the environment, or is it an impossible task to accomplish without continued controversy?

a forest in Alaska

Will there be a way to execute the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project without controversy?

While some may view the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project as nothing more than bad news, the company has explained the ways that the project could be beneficial to society and shared their efforts to mitigate these continued controversial conversations.

The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project has previously released plans to develop the project responsibly. In 2019, the company released a statement expressing their determination to responsibly develop their projects with the environment in mind – more specifically, the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project. Connor Dunn, the asset manager for the ​​ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, conveyed that the company has carefully planned projects in the past and will continue to do so with the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project.

In fact, documents were sent for an Environmental Impact Study, also known as EIS, back in May 2018 – in order to ensure a safe execution of the project and to avoid environmental repercussions. Not only did ConocoPhillips file for this project to undergo an environmental review, but they also planned to share these environmental reports with the public – delineating their efforts for transparency and corporate sustainability.

👉 Therefore, while the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project remains controversial, there is evidence of the company complying with all the current necessary requirements to proceed. 

There are a few other ways that the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project plans to move forward with vital components such as the community and the environment. For instance, ConocoPhillips has expressed their dedication to planning their projects, such as the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, with scientific findings, company policies, and various standards in mind. Also, the company has demonstrated how they craft their projects to pertain to existing wildlife and environmental circumstances: such as developing infrastructure that will withstand climate change and not disrupt life in the project’s natural surroundings.

ConocoPhillips also works to ensure that stakeholders remain engaged every step of the way, revealing another effort of transparency and responsibility on behalf of the company. Not only does ConocoPhillips seek to keep their stakeholders informed, but they also remain open to making adjustments based on their stakeholder’s input. 

🧐 According to the ConcoPhillip’s website, the proposed ConocoPhillips' Willow Project has been peer-reviewed and released in several scientific journals. The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project has researched the potential effects of watersheds, marine life, wildlife, and vegetation from the proposed project. 

Lastly, the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project has expressed the desire to reduce their carbon footprint. In fact, the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project is set to be the first of these projects to be designed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements in mind. Ultimately, adhering to the EPA’s requirements will help the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project to be more energy efficient, reduce carbon emissions, and mitigate various air pollutants. The ConocoPhillips' Willow Project also designed its roads in order to avoid stream crossings, reduce the length of the roads, and prevent lake and nest buffers – which will all mitigate further environmental harm. 

However, even if ConocoPhillips has shown their interest in adhering to environmental precautions, it doesn't completely eschew the current concerns circling amongst environmental activists. Proceeding with the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project is unlikely to occur without controversy. There may be no happy medium for either party, but the closest to satisfaction both sides may get is ConocoPhillips agrees to reduce the amount of drill sites.

Either way, there is substantial evidence and arguments to be made for each viewpoint concerning the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project – but only time will tell if its environmental impact will be as catastrophic as many are predicting it will be.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article on the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project in Alaska and its controversy has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

If you’re looking for carbon offsetting projects that can help areas from environmental damage due to controversial oil drilling projects such as the ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, Greenly has an entire marketplace to help you find the perfect carbon offsetting project – to both offset your own residual emissions and protect forestland. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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