WASHINGTON (Reuters)- On Tuesday, six environmental groups sued the federal government over the Biden administration’s approval of the ConocoPhillips Willow oil and gas project in Alaska, arguing that the move could pave the way for further development in an ecologically sensitive region.
Trustees for Alaska, the Alaska Wilderness League, the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and other groups said that the U.S. Interior Department approved Willow on public lands on the north coast of the state, even though it knew about “known harms” to Arctic communities, public health, wildlife, and the climate and did nothing to fix them.
The lawsuit says that the administration didn’t think about the long-term effects of Willow and ignored parts of its new guidelines for reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act that were supposed to take climate change into account. Karlin Itchoak of The Wilderness Society said, “By rejecting Willow, the Biden administration has not listened to the science, the voices of Native leaders in the region, or the millions of people across America who have asked for the protection of air quality, subsistence resources, and the global climate.”
Opponents of Willow had said that the project went against President Joe Biden’s plans to fight climate change and move away from fossil fuels.
The project had been criticised by young people on social media like TikTok and by the United Nations, which has been pushing countries to get off fossil fuels faster.
The Interior Department said last month that it was worried about the greenhouse gas emissions, but on Monday, it gave the go-ahead for three drill pads in Willow. ConocoPhillips wanted up to five drill sites and dozens of miles of roads, pipelines, and seven bridges for infrastructure. Interior said that the smaller size will have less of an effect on animals like polar bears and loons with yellow bills .The environmental law firm Earthjustice will file another lawsuit, the groups said. When asked about the lawsuits, the Interior Department did not answer right away. ConocoPhillips said it thinks U.S. agencies “conducted a thorough process that meets all legal requirements.”