Biden administration backs Trump-era Alaska oil drilling project plans

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States
  • Lisa Murkowski
    American politician

The Biden administration on Wednesday defended in the U.S. District Court for Alaska a massive ConocoPhillips oil and gas project approved during the Trump-era, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: President Biden has pledged to move away from fossil fuels. But the project has the backing of officials including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — who's viewed as a potential ally for Biden in his attempts to push through policies in an evenly divided Senate, the NYT notes.

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Driving the news: Some tribal leaders and unions also back the project, but environmental groups say the Trump administration didn't consider the effects the Willow drilling project in part of the National Petroleum Reserve would have on "wildlife and climate-change impacts," according to Reuters.

  • A judge to temporarily blocked the project in May after the environmental groups filed a lawsuit.

  • The Biden administration didn't clarify how its stance lined up with its climate policies, but it said in the filing that greenhouse gas emissions considerations and the effects the project would have on "fish, caribou and polar bear habitat" had been sufficiently taken into account when the project was approved, the Times reports.

  • The filing noted that Conoco has "valid lease rights" and can "develop its leases 'subject to reasonable regulation,'" according to the NYT.

What they're saying: An Interior Department spokesperson told Reuters in a statement that the court filing "continues to defend a 2020 Record of Decision for the Willow Project" in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska (NPR-A).

  • "The filing maintains that the decision complied with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) standards in place at the time, and that the plaintiffs did not challenge the Record of Decision within the time limitations associated with environmental review for projects in the NPR-A," the statement added.

  • Representatives for the Interior Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

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