Federal Judge Rejects Lower 48 Legal Challenge to Alaska’s Willow Project
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska), and Representative Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), hailed a federal judge’s ruling today dismissing a legal challenge filed by Lower 48 environmental groups against ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project within the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska (NPR-A). In September, Sen. Sullivan led an amicus brief with his Alaska congressional delegation colleagues to the court in support of Willow. The federal judge referenced arguments presented in the amicus in her decision today.
In her ruling, the judge stresses that “the NPR-A was set aside by Congress to be a petroleum reserve to help meet the Nation’s need for oil and gas,” and “[leaving] considerable quantities of economically recoverable oil in the ground is quite simply inconsistent with the Congressional policy objective of resource extraction in the NPR-A.”
“The judge’s ruling today is another victory for the critically-important Willow Project, and excellent news for Alaska’s economy, good-paying jobs for our families, and the future prosperity of our state,” said Sen. Sullivan. “When we secured the reapproval of Willow in March, Alaskans demonstrated that, when we come together, we can overcome powerful Outside groups and eco-colonialists who want to shut down our economy, kill our jobs, and cancel the voices of Alaska Native people. But we knew then as we know now—this fight is not over. These Outside groups will continue their battle to shut down Alaska’s future and undermine America’s energy security. We will continue to fight them with everything we have.”
“This ruling is a victory for Alaskans’ right to responsibly produce our energy resources in the National Petroleum Reserve and to contribute to American energy security,” said Sen. Murkowski. “The claims against Willow were not just dismissed, but dismissed with prejudice. This should mark the end of litigation against this important project, because as Alaskans know and Judge Gleason affirmed today, Willow clearly meets the high standard for development in our state.”
"This decision is a major win for Alaska and all of us who worked so hard to bring Willow across the finish line," said Representative Peltola. "Thanks to a historic coalition of Alaska Natives, laborers, our business community, the state legislature, and everyday Alaskans, our voices were loud and persistent enough to carry through the noise of Lower 48 activists. Alaskans have worked for years on this--weighing in on comment period after comment period and attending public meeting after public meeting. Now, we are seeing that hard work pay off as the courts recognize what we have said all along: this well-planned, locally-supported project will create thousands of jobs, reinvigorate our Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, and boost our economy for years to come. I am so proud of the way Alaskans, our Congressional delegation, the Governor, and our state lawmakers came together to make Willow happen and I hope to continue this momentum to bring home more projects that will benefit our state."
- On April 20, 2023, the Alaska delegation welcomed a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision to deny an injunction requested by environmental groups against Alaska’s Willow Project in the NPR-A.
- On April 3, 2023, the Alaska delegation welcomed a federal judge’s decision denying a preliminary injunction requested by Lower 48 environmental groups against Alaska’s Willow Project in the NPR-A. The judge cited the delegation’s amicus, as well as the Alaska Legislature’s unanimous resolution in support of Willow, in the ruling against the injunction.
- On March 24, 2023, the Alaska delegation filed an amicus brief against Lower 48 environmental groups’ request for a preliminary injunction of the Willow Project.
- On March 13, 2023, after litigation, a court remand, years of supplemental environmental analysis, and a united statewide push in strong support, the Biden administration issued a final Record of Decisionthat reapproves an economically viable three-pad project.
- On March 1, 2023, the Alaska delegation held a press conference, joined by leaders from labor unions, Alaska Native organizations, and the state Legislature outside of the United States Capitol. They spoke to the importance of reapproving the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope and selecting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Preferred Alternative E.
- On February 27, 2023, the Alaska Legislature passed a unanimous resolution supporting the pending Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope.
- On February 6, 2023, the BLM’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project was published in the Federal Register. The Biden administration committed to the Alaska congressional delegation that the ROD would be issued 30 days after publication of the SEIS.
- On February 1, 2023, DOI released a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope.
- On December 21, 2022 the Alaska congressional delegation received a commitment from the Biden administration that the FSEIS would be released by the end of January 2023 and the Record of Decision completed by the end of February 2023.
- On September 20, 2022 the Alaska delegation sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete the permitting process for the Willow Project in the NPR-A by the end of the year, in time for the winter construction season.
- In July 2022, BLM Alaska issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Willow Project.
- On July 15, 2022, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote a letter to Secretary Haaland reiterating their strong support of the Willow Project and urging the Department of the Interior to promptly approve it.
- On March 8, 2022, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and the late Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) wrote a letter to Secretary Haaland urging the Department of the Interior to expeditiously complete an SEIS and re-approve the Willow Project.
- On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief with the U.S. District Court for Alaska defending the Willow Project. After reviewing the final ROD for the Willow Master Development Plan (MDP), approved in October 2020 by the Trump administration, for consistency with the Biden administration’s initial executive orders on addressing climate change, the administration found the ROD legally sufficient. The filing followed weeks of advocacy and outreach by the Alaska delegation to President Biden and his administration.
- On April 26, 2021, the municipal mayors of Utqiagvik, Wainwright, and Atqasuk—three communities located within the boundaries of NPR-A—wrote to Secretary Haaland asking her to allow the Willow MDP to move forward.
- On April 21, 2021, George Edwardson, president of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, wrote to Secretary Haaland in support of the Willow MDP.
- On April 15, 2021, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower, Jr. and Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige wrote to Secretary Haaland urging her to allow responsible oil and gas development on federal lands in Alaska to proceed.
- On February 13, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended a District Court injunction of the Willow MDP, pending appeal.
- On February 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for Alaska issued an injunction on the Willow MDP.
- On October 27, 2020, BLM under the Trump administration issued the ROD for the Willow MDP.
- On August 14, 2020, BLM under the Trump administration published the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Willow MDP.
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