White House says no decision has been made on Alaska drilling project
A decision on the fate of Willow by the Interior Department had been anticipated this week, with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski earlier on Friday calling it "imminent." The project has support from the oil and gas industry and state officials eager for jobs, but it is opposed by environmental groups who want to move rapidly away from fossil fuels to combat climate change.
(Recasts with White House statement) WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) -
President Joe Biden's administration has not yet made a final decision on whether to approve ConocoPhillips' massive Willow oil project in northwest Alaska, the White House said on Friday, pushing back on a media report saying the development would be authorized next week. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to a Bloomberg report earlier that cited two unnamed people familiar with the matter.
"No final decisions have been made -- anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong," Jean-Pierre said. According to the Bloomberg report, ConocoPhillips would be permitted to drill from three locations, and approval is set to be announced next week.
Three drill sites would align with a "preferred alternative" Interior's Bureau of Land Management proposed for the $7 billion project last month. ConocoPhillips had originally proposed a larger footprint with five drill sites and more surface infrastructure. A decision on the fate of Willow by the Interior Department had been anticipated this week, with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski earlier on Friday calling it "imminent."
The project has support from the oil and gas industry and state officials eager for jobs, but it is opposed by environmental groups who want to move rapidly away from fossil fuels to combat climate change. Biden has been trying to balance his goals of decarbonizing the U.S. economy with calls to increase domestic fuel supplies to keep prices low.
Willow would be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a 23 million-acre (93 million-hectare) area on the state's North Slope that is the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States. Environmental activists have lobbied the administration forcefully to reject the project, arguing it conflicts with Biden's promises to combat climate change. As of Friday evening, a petition on Change.org had more than 3.1 million signatures, while posts on Tiktok with the #StopWillow hashtag had more than 162 million views.
The Interior Department did not comment on the report. A ConocoPhillips spokesperson said the company would not comment until an official decision was published.
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