Breaking: Willow lawsuit tossed, construction can begin

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U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason threw out a request for a preliminary injunction from an environmental group challenging the Willow Project, an oil development approved by the Biden Administration for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, Environment America, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society have lost in their attempt to shut down progress this year on a three-mile road to the area, if ConocoPhillips proceeds with the project.

“With this decision from the federal district court, we are able to immediately begin construction activities. We appreciate the support from the intervening parties and others who recognize that Willow will provide meaningful opportunities for Alaska Native communities and the State of Alaska, and domestic energy for America,” ConocoPhillips said in a statement.

Gleason said that the balance of the equities and the public interest tip sharply against preliminary injunctive relief for the plaintiffs. Construction activities, including gravel work, are expected to begin on Willow immediately.

This Court order validates Alaska’s high standards for the environment when it comes to oil production. It is also responsive to the unifying bilateral support demonstrated in our Alaska Legislature and from our Congressional Delegation,” said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “Alaskans understand that Willow will reinvigorate the Alaska economy with jobs, billions in State and local taxes and grants to North Slope communities.”

No decision on investment has yet been made by ConocoPhillips but if Willow proceeds and produces according to projections, up to $4 billion is estimated to go into a development impact mitigation fund for grants for Alaska residents living near the development.

As many as 2,500 construction jobs and some 300 permanent jobs are projected to be created from Willow.

“It is heartening to hear that the Willow project can move forward, while we have to continue fighting this lawsuit. This will mean progress and jobs for Alaskans,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor.

The Willow Project is not a mega project by any stretch, but is the largest project in size and scale to be developed on the North Slope in more than 20 years. 

In the order the Court wrote: “In this regard, the Court considers the fact that the Alaska House and Senate unanimously adopted a resolution on February 20, 2023, stating that “a further delay in approval or construction of the Willow project . . . is not in the public interest. … Alaska’s Congressional delegation has also expressed its unanimous support of the Willow Project and specifically their support for the construction activities proposed for this winter.169 In the amicus brief filed by the Alaska Congressional Delegation and Alaska State Legislature, they assert that “[i]t is uncontested that an injunction would kill many Alaskan jobs and deprive Alaskans of direct and indirect economic benefits associated with imminent development activities.”  Moreover, allowing the Winter 2023 Construction Activities to proceed would be consistent with the Congressional directive to the Secretary of Interior to conduct “an expeditious program of competitive leasing of oil and gas in the” NPR-A.”

The State joined the case with defendants ConocoPhillips, the North Slope Borough, Arctic Regional Slope Corporation (ASRC), and Kuukpik Corporation. The State serves the broader interests of the residents of the state as a sovereign landowner in the development of natural resources.

Read U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s Order at this link.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Nuiqsut cant have both they rather want the gas from NPR or no oil. They are hypocrites using gas from the slow and saying they don’t want any oil exploration. If they don’t want to oil, then turn off the gas.

    • I didn’t read anything in the article where she referenced the law. Her opinion on what’s good for others seems to me to be her guiding principle. In that regard I thought her opinion was typical Gleason. I’m thankful that this time her opinion falls in line with what’s better for the state.

    • Gleason shut it down before citing a rushed environmental study. She wanted a more thorough study and that was done. She had no reason to shut it down at this point.

  2. At least they have a native face to it. The Northern Center looks like a bunch of white enviro-supremacists who are transplants.

  3. Judge Gleason siding with the oil industry and Governor Dunleavy is an unexpected surprise indeed. With a new president in a couple of years, three wells may expand to five or more to maximize the resource. This project, Pika, and a few others will literally save the pipeline and the Alaska economy. Now let’s get spending under control.

  4. Outstanding verdict for Alaskans.
    Willow has been double checked by all of the regulators. The preliminary requirements for resource development in Alaska is unprecedented. These projects are the most environmentally sound on the Plant. Hence Gleason citing anything but sound science to proceed with the Project. Gleason would have the same issue Biden had, the Willow Project passed all the environmental standards/hurdles, so to not approve or allow a stop work injunction, would be inviting reversal from higher authorities.

  5. The Greenies want control of our State, its people, its land, its government, all of it. I hope this sends a message to them and their ilk that they are not allowed to keep our state from growing, maturing and being the best that it can be.

  6. From the start I found this project very odd. It popped up out of nowhere and I found out about it from Murkowski’s tweets. The usual folks raised voices and said no, but they were not to be heard. It flew right through. Where will the oil go? I have a feeling the destination is not the US. China?

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