(CNSNews.com) – The White House said Thursday that despite President Biden’s climate change goals, the administration’s options were “limited” when it came to stopping the Willow oil and gas project from moving forward in Alaska.
The Interior Department announced Monday that the proposed Willow Master Development Plan in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska would proceed but the department was substantially reducing the scope of the project, by “denying two of the five drill sites proposed by ConocoPhillips, which is seeking to develop oil and gas leases it acquired beginning in the late 1990s.”
“The company will also relinquish rights to approximately 68,000 acres of its existing leases in the NPR-A, including approximately 60,000 acres in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area,” it said.
Environmentalists slammed the decision.
“Biden approved [Willow] knowing full well that it’ll cause massive and irreversible destruction, which is just appalling, particularly coming from an administration who has pledged to address the climate crisis, has pledged to address environmental injustice, has pledged to address the extinction crisis,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
“The administration has no excuse for letting this project go forward in any form, and new Arctic drilling makes no sense. Even one new oil well in the Arctic is one well too many,” she said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden kept his word where he could “by law.”
“That is important to note, and as the Interior Department said, some of the company’s leases are decades old granted by prior administrations. The company has a legal right to those leases. The department’s options are limited when there are legal contracts in place,” she said.
The press secretary cited the opinion of John Leshy, former DOE solicitor general for the Clinton administration, who currently serves as a law professor at UC Hastings.
“For example, the DOE solicitor under President Clinton and law professor at US Hastings said they have lease rights, and that can’t be ignored. That’s a big figure on the scale in the favor of development,” Jean-Pierre said.
“So I’ll leave it there, but again, the president is delivering the most aggressive climate agenda in the U.S. history, and that is going to be his continued commitment to the American people,” she said.
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