Oil wins one: Judge tells eco-lawyers that Willow project can proceed with winter construction



It was a bad Friday for Earthjustice, one of the leading litigating groups trying to stop the North Slope Willow project from its winter construction season.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason rejected the request for an injunction from the groups trying to stop progress this winter, while their legal fight against the approved project continues at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Nov. 9, Gleason had declined to halt the project that had been approved by the Biden Administration. Earthjustice claims that Willow will be “catastrophic for the climate, and we will not drop our challenge.”

But for now, with Friday’s ruling, ConocoPhillips can continue its winter construction, while the appeal is pending.

Back in 2021, the Ninth Circuit sided with environmentalists who were challenging the Trump Administration’s approval of the project, which was then put on hold under President Joe Biden until the Biden Administration realized it would end up losing in court if it walked back the approval.

As written about earlier in Must Read Alaska, one of the groups litigating against the project is a phantom that has no actual legal standing, but is a type of ghost group that popped up to sue. Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic has no taxpayer identification number and is not a legal entity, but for some reason has been allowed to sue.

Other litigants against the project are the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Willow could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, according to ConocoPhillips. As many as 2,500 construction jobs and some 300 permanent jobs are projected to be created by Willow, which is located on the plain of the North Slope of Alaska, within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, in an area called the Bear Tooth Unit West of Alpine.

The environmentalists are not out of options, because permits still need to be granted for some of the important seismic work that can only be conducted in the winter.

Dec. 8 is the Department of Interior’s deadline for public comment on seismic exploration at the Willow site this winter. ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. has requested authorization from the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a three-dimensional geophysical winter seismic survey within the Willow Development area of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for the 2023-2024 winter season on lands managed by the BLM Arctic District and the Kuukpik Native Corporation. The seismic survey would be conducted entirely on BLM managed lands. 

Environmental groups are urging their supporters to submit comments opposing the winter work. The comment link at the Department of Interior can be found here.


  1. Alaska has great oil and gas potential but some want to kill efforts by exploration and production investors, America is in 33 trillion dollar debt so why not use this oil and gas to prosper our nation and our people?

  2. Excellent. Willow will be a great addition to Alaska’s oil production, and help keep US domestic oil production at the record highs we’re currently experiencing. It’s ironic that domestic oil production is reaching record quantities under Biden. Maybe he isn’t all that bad for the economy after all?

    • Thank goodness the Earth is flat so we dont fall off AND Elon promised us a safe landing on the moon WITH a safe return to the Earth for the first time…sarc

  3. Ever wonder how the price of oil would be if the cost of litigation wasn’t included? It’s not like we have a real alternative at this point. Maybe in the future. But you can’t heat your home and drive your car on dreams. There’s exchanges on every form of energy, all with environmental impact. The only solution is not very pretty.

  4. As many folks as can need to send in letters of support for the project. Point out that the seismic work will have no lasting impact and provides critical information that will allow reduced impact with targeted future work.

  5. The activity of comment solicitation in association with development of so called “federal” lands is a mechanism of pure democracy, which the Marxist left falsely claims is our system of government. Comment solicitation promotes the misunderstanding that those who submit the most comments in favor or against should “win”. Unfortunately, that has become the reality. It yields a toxic business environment that presents risk no developer could reasonably forecast through burdensome bureaucratic administrative controls in conspiracy with populist elements. Comment solicitation under NEPA, and NEPA itself is unconstitutional, as environmental regulation is not an enumerated power of the federal government. How will liberty and freedom be resurrected? Through federa permit reform? Not a chance!

    • The whole public comment process has always been a smokescreen to make people feel that they are participating in the system. For the most part, once a proposed regulation is put out for public comment, it is rarely ever changed in any significant way as a result of those comments.

  6. Sovreign Inupiat For A Living Arctic….. A ghost group that no one living in or near the Arctic belongs to needs to be researched.
    Is that the group headed by the crying and sobbing 13 year old Greta Thunberg that loves to shed her tears in public on the shoulders of Kamala Harris who listens to her intense rants and raves about the Earth dying next year?
    Or wait… was it the following year? Not sure but she will get back to us next year with a new sudden death date.

  7. We all need to remember that any oil produced on US soil will cause climate change and death. Other countries’ oil doesn’t. How this works I don’t know, I’ve yet to find an educated Liberal who can explain this to me.

  8. It is nice to win one.
    The libs can quit using fossil fuels now.
    Why don’t the politicians outlaw sports as they pollute a lot with tens of thousands fans and support people?

  9. The Biden Administration didn’t “stop” Willow. Multiple groups sued the Department of Interior immediately following the issuance of the Record of Decision in 2020 and the Courts issued an injunction until Judge Gleason ruled in August 2021. That ruling remanded the Willow EIS back to BLM to address deficient analyses. The BLM prepared a Supplemental EIS and the current Record of Decision was issued in March 2023, with DOI (under the Biden administration) upholding the decision to proceed with authorizing the project. The current litigation is in response to the 2023 Record of Decision.

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