Sullivan Makes Final Case: Willow Is Exactly the Kind of Energy Project Joe Biden Should Want to Support
Senator Criticizes Lower 48 “Eco-Colonialists” Subverting the Voice, Interests of Alaska Native People
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) yesterday gave his final arguments on the Senate floor in support of the Willow Project, a major pending oil development on the North Slope of Alaska awaiting a final decision by the Biden administration. On February 1, the Department of the Interior issued a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Willow and the administration is expected to release a final Record of Decision (ROD) for the project any day now. On March 2, Sullivan, along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), met with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office for over an hour to urge the President to approve the economically-viable, three-drilling-pad “Alternative E” scope of the Willow Project recommended by career Bureau of Land Management (BLM) scientists and staff in the administration’s final SEIS.
In his remarks, Sullivan argued that the Willow Project is “exactly the kind of project President Biden and his team should support” because it aligns so strongly with many of the stated priorities of the Biden administration. The benefits offered by Willow include the highest environmental standards and the lowest emissions of any major project in the world, the unanimous, bipartisan support of the Alaska Legislature, the overwhelming support of Alaska Native communities and labor unions, and the opportunity to enhance America’s national security. Sullivan also criticized the Lower 48 environmental groups, acting as “eco-colonialists,” who are working to kill the Willow Project and subvert the voices and interests of Alaska Native people who strongly support the project.
Below is a full transcript of Sen. Sullivan’s remarks.
Mr. President, I am coming to the floor for the final time to give remarks about the Willow Project. I will explain it a little bit in my remarks.
The President is getting ready to make a decision--a huge decision--on a big project in Alaska--really, an inflection point for our State's future. He is likely to make that decision any day. So I am just going to come down and kind of wrap up the arguments that we have been making.
I really want to thank a number of folks: Senator Murkowski, of course, who, with me--we have been focused on this issue for 2 years, the entire time of the Biden administration--2 years, arguments every day, including a meeting with the President last week, last Thursday; Congresswoman Peltola, who has done a really strong job in this regard, particularly in the meeting last week with the President. Some of my Democratic colleagues have been weighing in on this project. I really appreciate that. I know it takes a lot of courage.
I am going to talk about some of the far-left lower 48 environmental groups that don't support it based on nothing--no facts, no data. But stand up to them, go to the White House and say: Come on, Mr. President. Come on, Biden administration. You have to make sure Alaska has this.
So my Democrat colleagues, I am not going to name you. I don't want to get you in trouble or anything, but thank you. I really, really appreciate this.
On the Alaska delegation’s meeting in the Oval Office:
As I mentioned, we had a meeting with the President last week, and, at the beginning of the meeting, in addition to handing the President a unanimous resolution from the entire Alaska Legislature--the entire State senate, the entire State house; Democrats, Republicans, Independents; Native, non-Native--all passed a resolution saying to the Biden administration: Please support the Willow Project.
There were three pads. I handed that to the President. I also handed him this map that describes really the context, as I said to the President, of what is happening in Alaska under this administration.
I was respectful. We were in the Oval Office. Of course, you are going to be respectful with the President and his team. The Oval Office is a very historic place, obviously. But I said, respectfully: Mr. President, in every region of the State, every industry--oil, gas, mining, hunting, fishing; you name it--there have been 45 Executive orders and Executive actions--it is now 46; there has been another one since the meeting we had last week--looking to shut down Alaska. It is exhausting, to be honest. No other State is getting that kind of attention.
I walked through some of these, but I just, again, respectfully, wanted the President to know, and that is it. Every time we meet with senior White House officials and say--these are the days we have met with senior White House officials—"Hey, how about a ceasefire?” we just get more, more.
There is no other State in the country getting this kind of attention. It is unwanted attention. As I have told many of my Democratic colleagues, hey, if a Republican administration came after you like this, singling your State out, putting thousands of people out of work, and you came to me and said, ``Hey, Dan, could you help me?'' I would help you. Every Democrat here knows I would help you. So I appreciate the help that we are getting.
That was the context of the meeting. Again, it was respectful. We appreciated it. We had over an hour with the President and his team. He is a busy, busy man, the leader of the free world. So we appreciated that.
On the enormous attention focused on the Willow decision:
I was also recently down in Houston at this very big energy conference called CERAWeek. To be honest, it is not an exaggeration to say that all eyes are on the Willow Project because, essentially, the question that is being posed in our energy sector is this. There was a very good Wall Street Journal editorial last week calling the Willow Project the test for Biden. This editorial lead by saying that the ``President . . . says the only barrier to more U.S. oil production is recalcitrant'' companies.
OK, a lot of us don't believe that, by the way. So here is an opportunity to say: Is that true or not? Because if the Biden administration--the President--approves Willow tonight, ConocoPhillips will start moving people to build it tomorrow. We are ready. The State is ready. The private sector is ready.
So I think that is the key question, and it was the key question down in CERAWeek, the biggest energy conference probably in the world, with almost 8,000 attendees.
This is a really important question, not just for Alaska but for America.
I think the key arguments here are, given the President's priorities, what the President emphasizes, what he and his administration talk about. The Willow Project is actually exactly the kind of project President Biden and his team should support because it reinforces so many things that they talk about and care about.
Let me just mention four of those.
On the high environmental standards of the Willow Project:
No. 1, which, of course, is really important, is that this project has the highest environmental standards of any major energy project in the world, by far. It is not even a close call. How do we know this? Because the Biden administration's own environmental impact statement, which came out a month ago, says this. It says this.
The Trump administration passed this project in their environmental reviews with flying colors. Then, it was five pads. The Biden administration's EIS, or environmental impact statement, took it down to three. We didn't really like that, but that is about the minimum it could go. And they explained in this administration's own environmental impact statement--the scientists, the career staff were saying things like that the greenhouse gas emissions would be ``minimal,'' not a climate bomb like these lower 48 far-left groups keep talking about--minimal.
Here is the number: Emissions from this project, according to President Biden's own environmental impact statement, 0.15 percent, the 2019 emission levels. And they call it ``minimal.''
They also said if you don't do the Willow Project, the market substitution analysis in the Biden administration's own EIS says that, then, we will likely--we, America--have to go to other countries--Saudi Arabia, Venezuela--to get oil, and their environmental records and standards are so bad that the emissions globally from not doing this project will actually rise.
That is in the EIS.
I have talked about the high standards for Alaska with regard to the high standards in the world and the impacts on the environment.
By the way, this project is next to existing infrastructure. So you don't have to build a lot of infrastructure. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, just plug it in.
This has the highest environmental standards in the world. How do I know that? Because the Biden administration's environmental impact statement lays it out in about 1,500 pages. That is one very important argument that fits with the Biden administration's priorities.
On the threat of “eco-colonialists” subverting the interests of Alaska Native people:
Let me give you another one. The Biden administration frequently talks about racial equity, racial justice, environmental justice for people of color, indigenous people. They talk about that all the time. The indigenous people in my State overwhelmingly support this project. There are a few people--and that happens in every State, in every country--who are opposed. They are getting a lot of press, by the way. But the vast majority of the people, the First Nations' people, the Alaska Native people in our State, strongly support this.
We held a press conference last week here in the Capitol. Some of the most famous Alaska Native leaders in our State's history flew thousands of miles just to be here to support this.
So all this rhetoric from the administration on racial equity, racial justice is going to be very empty if they say: Do you know what? We are going to choose the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace's priorities in the lower 48 over the priorities of the people who live there.
I want to go into this a little bit deeper. This is a quote from the Voice of the Arctic Inupiat. This is a group of Tribes and Native leaders, a really broad-based group of the people who live where this project would be. Here is a quote from Nagruk Harcharek:
Outside activist groups opposing Willow have drowned out local perspective--
That is for sure--
and are actively working to supersede the views of the Alaska Native people.
That is for sure.
This is not environmental justice or any kind of justice. It is a direct attack on Alaska Native self-determination.
Some of our Native leaders last week were saying: Do you know what really is infuriating? These lower 48 environmental groups that are all driving the opposition of this project, are trying to tell Alaska Natives who have lived in Alaska for thousands and thousands of years how to live and what is good for them.
Do you know what some of our Native leaders are starting to call this? The second wave of colonialism, eco-colonialism. Condescending lower 48 environmental groups that don't know anything about Alaska are coming up to our State and telling the Native people how to live--eco-colonialism. By the way, that topic came up in the Oval Office meeting.
The administration is going to listen to lower 48 environmental groups that condescendingly tell Alaska Native people how to live? That is certainly not racial equity. That is certainly not racial justice. That is the definition of eco-colonialism, and I hope that they are not going to go there.
On the overwhelming union support for the Willow Project:
One other area, another great group of Americans, whom I love to talk about on the floor who support this project, are the great men and women who build things in America. There has been no better champion of that in the entire country than the president of the Laborers, my good friend, Terry O'Sullivan, who, just 2 days ago, wrote another letter to the President. He has been such a great advocate. The Laborers are the greatest construction union in America.
This project will create 2,500 jobs, 75 percent of which are union jobs, building trade jobs.
Madam President, I would like to submit for the Record another great letter from Terry O'Sullivan. This one is dated March 6, 2023, to the President of the United States.
So I am just going to read a few lines from this letter. But Terry O'Sullivan is a very astute man. He has seen what is happening in Washington this past couple of weeks.
Here is what he said:
Administration officials are considering . . . limiting [Willow's] scope to only two of the proposed Pads.
By the way, there is no environmental analysis of that at all in the EIS in the Trump administration or the Biden administration. So if they do that, it won't be based on any science, any data.
I want to be clear-
Said Terry O'Sullivan--
a limited approval like this [of two pads] is, in fact, a rejection of the project.
This is what we have told the President. This is what we have told his team many, many times. They know that.
Proponents of this approach are displaying the kind of con-game that has American voters and LIUNA--
That is the laborers--
members turning away [from] established political norms.
So this great American, Terry O'Sullivan, he is a working man. He leads working men and women. He is saying: Don't play these games. Two pads is a denial. That was our respectful message last week.
What else did Terry O'Sullivan have to say in his final letter to the President?
It is time to listen to local leaders [check] workers [for sure] and residents and reject the game-playing that the press reports indicate is happening behind the scenes in the Administration. [K]eep your commitments [Biden administration] to a rational energy policy that allows for the responsible development of domestic energy resources while the Nation transitions to a lower-emission economy.
Terry O'Sullivan, once again, Madam President, weighing in. I can't thank him enough, Sean McGarvey, the building trades.
By the way, when we held this press conference last week, every union in Alaska supports this project. The trades, of course, but all the public unions, every single union, 100 percent.
Now, again, this administration likes to talk about: Hey, we really care about the working men and women, the men and women who build things, the unions. OK. OK. Let's see where you are on Willow.
On the serious national security implications at stake in the Willow decision:
Finally, Madam President, I want to talk about an issue that, again, came up in the Oval Office, and that is just the foreign policy ramifications of this upcoming decision.
We are in a new era of authoritarian aggression that I talk about a lot. The brutal dictators Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and this guy Maduro in Venezuela, they are on the march. But the one thing they fear almost more than anything is American energy power. Read the reporting. Xi Jinping is scared to death, the dictator of Beijing, scared to death of American energy power. So is Putin, by the way.
So in the last 2 years--because, like I said, Senator Murkowski and I have been raising this issue about daily--I have asked in dozens of hearings on the Armed Services Committee, military experts, Biden administration officials, Biden administration military members: Do you think it matters and do you think it is good for our national security if we have more energy in a project like this?
By the way, Willow, at max production, will produce about 200,000 barrels a day.
Every single official in this administration who deals with national security, for 2 years--for 2 years--has said yes. Not one has said no.
Now, I am not going to name names. I don't want to get anybody in trouble. But it is obvious. This is one of the great strengths of our Nation. And our adversaries--the dictator in Moscow and the dictator in Beijing--fear it.
So why do I have this slide up? There is something going on right now that is unbelievable. And every time I have asked anybody and I have raised it with anybody in this administration, they look at me with a blank stare and don't answer my question.
My question is this. This administration came in; they wanted to limit the production of American energy. I fully disagree with that approach, but what happened?
Well, the predictable result happened. If you limit supply, prices go up. So prices on energy have gone up on working families for the last 2 years like this. We all know it. Inflation like this.
So what have they been doing? They have been going overseas begging other countries to produce more oil and then poured it into America. Now, why on Earth would you do that when you can do it here?
So the latest and greatest--they did it in Saudi Arabia. They were rejected, by the way. They were flirting with Iran. My goodness, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and you are flirting with those guys, with the blood of American soldiers on their hands? Ridiculous. But they went to Venezuela after the election, and they said: Let's lift sanctions on you.
So we are now importing over 100,000 barrels a day from Venezuela. Can you believe that? That is a fact. Venezuela pollutes--in its processes to produce oil, it is a production and greenhouse gas emission process that is 18 times--with an ``x'' times--more polluting than in America and certainly way more polluting--probably 30 times more than the great State of Alaska's Willow Project.
So if you really care about the environment, why did you just lift sanctions on one of the dirtiest producers in the world? They are a terrorist regime. They have a horrible human rights record, a horrible worker rights record, a well-known U.S. adversary, and we are already importing 100,000 barrels a day from them--just started. And we don't want to produce in Alaska, with the highest standards in the world on the environment and workers?
So when I ask the question why would we do that and not let us produce in the great State of Alaska, like I said, I have never gotten an answer to that question. So, hopefully, the answer is going to be: Well, we are going to help the great State of Alaska with this Willow Project.
Do it because, right now, Madam President, with regard to energy policy, my State is being treated worse than a terrorist regime. And that is not hyperbole. That is a fact.
So in my final appeal before this decision is made, respectfully asking this administration: This is exactly the kind of project that we think should be easily supported by this administration, given their priorities--the highest standards in the world on the environment, no doubt about it; the lowest greenhouse gas emissions--negligible, according to the President's own EIS; racial equity; racial justice.
The Native people of Alaska want this. Listen to them. Don't listen to the ecoterrorists down in the lower 48, coastal elites who don't know anything about Alaska and are trying to tell the Native people how to live their lives--insulting, by the way. Don't listen to the ecoterrorists. Listen to the great union members like Terry O'Sullivan, all of whose members support and help enhance the national security of America with strong energy policy in the great State of Alaska.
I hope the Biden administration does the right thing. So many of my colleagues have helped. I want to thank Senator Murkowski again for her relentless, relentless advocacy on this with me.
We will see. Big stuff for America. Giant stuff for my State. I hope they do the right thing for our country, for our workers, for the Native people, for our national security.
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