Interior Department warns: Willow is not out of the woods


No sooner had the Bureau of Land Management issued the final supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed Willow Master Development Plan in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for which there are existing leases, than the Department of Interior put out a warning that said, in essence, “not so fast.” The problem? Greenhouse gases. Native subsistence. Wildlife.

The supplemental environmental impact statement produced by its own agency is not enough, DOI said. It has “substantial concerns.”

“The final SEIS includes a preferred alternative, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The preferred alternative is not a decision about whether to approve the Willow Project,” the Interior Department said in an unattributed quote.

“The Department has substantial concerns about the Willow project and the preferred alternative as presented in the final SEIS, including direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to wildlife and Alaska Native subsistence,” the news release said.

“Consistent with the law, a decision will be finalized by the Department no sooner than 30 days after publication of the final SEIS. That decision may select a different alternative, including no action, or the deferral of additional drill pads beyond the single deferral described under the preferred alternative,” the department said.

“Today’s statement from the Department of Interior about the Willow project sends worrisome mixed messages. While they issued a Supplemental EIS for an environmentally sound project that has been in the permitting process for 69 months, DOI officials suggest the final record of decision could look substantially different, which could ultimately deny the project.

President and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association Kara Moriarty said the statement from the Department of Interior is worrisom:

“At a time when our country is encouraging foreign countries to increase development, an American company is prepared to spend billions, increase American oil production by 180,000 barrels per day at peak production, and provide Alaska jobs and revenue. Throwing cold water on the project’s future is hardly reassuring that this investment will be allowed to continue. Uncertainty is enemy number one when it comes to making big investment decisions,” she said.

“Willow has earned strong support from a diverse group of Alaskans, from the majority of North Slope Borough residents and the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope to organizations like the Alaska Federation of Natives, labor unions, small business and contractors. It’s time for Willow to move forward for the benefit of all Alaskans,” Moriarty said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management issued its SEIS after a protracted process, in which it gave the nod to three of the five drill sites. The final decision must come from the mothership at the Department of Interior, however, and the later news release was The Biden Administration’s warning shot that this project is not done yet.

The Willow Project is in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, and is estimated to be able to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak and deliver $8 billion to $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the State of Alaska, and North Slope Borough communities, not to mention significant economic activity in a state that has been in economic decline. 

ConocoPhillips says the project, if it gets a final record of decision from the Department of Interior, will be built using materials primarily made and sourced in the United States and has the potential to create over 2,000 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs.

ConocoPhillips announced the new oil discovery in January 2017. A recent timeline on the project, provided by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office, indicates that the final record of decision should be completed this month, as promised by the Biden Administration:


  • On December 21, 2022 the Alaska delegation received a commitment from the Biden administration that the FSEIS would be released by the end of January 2023 and the Record of Decision completed by the end of February 2023.
  • On September 20, 2022 the Alaska delegation sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete the permitting process for the Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) by the end of the year, in time for the winter construction season.
  • In July 2022, 2022 BLM Alaska issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Willow Project.
  • On July 15, 2022, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote a letter to Secretary Haaland reiterating their strong support of the Willow Project and urging the Department of the Interior to promptly approve it.
  • On March 8, 2022, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and the late Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) wrote a letter to Secretary Haaland urging the Department of the Interior to expeditiously complete an SEIS and re-approve the Willow Project. 
  • On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief with the U.S. District Court for Alaska defending the Willow Project. After reviewing the final ROD for the Willow Master Development Plan (MDP), approved in October 2020 by the Trump administration, for consistency with the Biden administration’s initial executive orders on addressing climate change, the administration found the ROD legally sufficient. The filing followed weeks of advocacy and outreach by the Alaska delegation to President Biden and his administration.
  • On April 26, 2021, the municipal mayors of Utqiagvik, Wainwright, and Atqasuk—three communities located within the boundaries of NPR-A—wrote to Secretary Haaland asking her to allow the Willow MDP to move forward.
  • On April 21, 2021, George Edwardson, president of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, wrote to Secretary Haaland in support of the Willow MDP.
  • On April 15, 2021, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower, Jr. and Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige wrote to Secretary Haaland urging her to allow responsible oil and gas development on federal lands in Alaska to proceed.
  • On February 13, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended a District Court injunction of the Willow MDP, pending appeal.
  • On February 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for Alaska issued an injunction on the Willow MDP.
  • On October 27, 2020, BLM issued the ROD for the Willow MDP.
  • On August 14, 2020, BLM published the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Willow MDP.


  1. Told ya.

    The Biden administration wants to take us back to the Stone Age. Wood fires, except we can’t cut wood. Skins for clothes, except we can’t hunt the animals we need for them.

    The Cult of Man Made Climate Change is a death cult.

  2. Just keep dragging it out . The feds are anti anything now so we should sue to stop any project in any state so they can feel what we are. This is beyond ridiculous as this project will help fill the Juneau crowd looking for revenue and oil for this country. Just a bunch of leg dragging.

  3. Not a problem. Representative Mary Peltola should be able to convince the Brandon Regime and her sister Secretary Haaland to green-light the project. Right……?

  4. The Willow project is never going to happen. There are too many greenie judges who will eagerly overrule any errant bureaucratic decision such as this one.

  5. Murkowski has been handing out billions of Biden’s Chinese money and has sold her sould to the Democrats. Now she’s out patting herself on the back for the BLM final statement. Not so fast Lisa, can’t have it both ways. 100% federal government dependence for Alaska.

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