Recently, the U.S. Federal Court made a decision that sparked widespread controversy: it approved a project to drill oil wells in Alaska by ConocoPhillips. This decision opens the way for the start of work on the Willow oil project, located at the northernmost tip of Alaska in the Arctic zone, within the National Petroleum Reserve.
According to some estimates, the extraction at the site could reach about 567 million barrels of oil over 30 years. However, this court decision has raised concerns and criticism among environmentalists and the public, as the project poses a serious threat to the environment and violates U.S. President Joseph Biden’s promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also jeopardizes biodiversity in the region, including vulnerable species like polar bears.
The approval of the ConocoPhillips Willow project by the U.S. Supreme Court contradicts the interests of several American environmental groups and representatives of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. Environmental organizations express serious concerns about the project’s impact on the environment and call for work to be halted.
The green light for the ConocoPhillips Willow project also means ignoring the calls of more than 5.6 million people, including residents of the village of Nuiqsut, adjacent to the field. These people are appealing to the federal government to stop the project, fearing its negative impact on the environment and their own well-being.
The ConocoPhillips Willow project itself includes three drilling sites, gravel roads, a central processing complex, an operational center, a runway, and much more. These infrastructure facilities will affect specially protected areas, such as Teshekpuk Lake, considered one of the most important and sensitive regions in the American Arctic.
Nicole Whittington-Evans, the director of the Defenders of Wildlife program in Alaska, expressed her disappointment with the Biden administration’s decision: “This is a disappointing step backward that jeopardizes the climate-sensitive wilderness, including polar bears at risk of extinction.”
However, in addition to potential environmental consequences, the project also poses serious risks of technological disasters, associated with possible oil spills. Past experiences, such as accidents with BP’s pipeline in 2006 and 2009, show that such incidents can have long-term negative consequences for nature and humanity.
It is important to note that in this situation, as in the past, global environmental organizations, including WWF and Greenpeace, show no activity and do not participate in the fight against the project. Instead, the main struggle is led by local environmental groups and activists. This raises questions about global responsibility and the effectiveness of the activities of global environmental organizations in nature protection.
Despite this, Alaska has already experienced serious environmental disasters, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, which left long-lasting traces in the form of dead animals and polluted water resources. Today, the consequences of this tragedy are still felt, and the region has not fully recovered.
It is also worth considering that in the past year in the U.S., there have been numerous environmental incidents and disasters about which global environmental organizations have said nothing. Examples include an explosion at a chemical plant in Texas, the explosion of a train car carrying chlorine in Nebraska, the derailment of cars with chemicals in Michigan, and other incidents that did not receive the attention of global environmental organizations.
According to experts, the main cause of these catastrophes is the worn-out infrastructure in the U.S., affecting not only railways and pipelines but also the maritime fleet actively involved in transporting oil extracted from the approved U.S. wells. More than half of the ships were built before 1980 – this year they raised the sunken tug TAGISH from the water, built even before World War II, which sank in the port of the Alaskan capital, leaking fuel and lubricants; the lift cost almost 1 million dollars.
The raising of the sunken 71-year-old Challenger ship near the Mendenhall Reserve cost 2 million dollars. The sunken Lumberman near Juneau, the capital of Alaska, cost taxpayers $230,000. Emergency ships have become a headache for Alaska’s municipalities. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of mandatory hull insurance.
And again, neither Greenpeace nor WWF have shown any interest in these incidents and disasters. On the websites of both organizations, there is not a word about the incidents. Yet, just 60 miles west of the accidents in Juneau, lies the Glacier Bay National Preserve, home to the world-famous Margerie Glacier, and the Alexander Archipelago is the territory of the Tongass National Forest, declared a U.S. national heritage site after the water bodies where salmon spawn were virtually devastated by the barbaric felling of relic forests in the 1970s.