Approving the Willow oil development project in the Arctic would run counter to Biden’s historic climate achievements

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington (March 3, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, and Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee today led their colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden calling on his administration to reject the Willow Master Development Plan (MDP), a massive oil and gas development proposal on public land in the Western Arctic. Last Congress, Senate Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act and delivered the federal government’s largest-ever investment in climate and clean energy to President Biden’s desk. In their letter, the legislators raised concerns that approving any plan to advance the Willow project would be inconsistent with the historic achievements on climate and environmental justice made to date.

“If allowed to proceed, the Willow MDP would pose a significant threat to U.S. progress on climate issues,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to President Biden. “Climate damage is unlikely to stop with the first phase of the Willow project; your administration needs to draw the line now.”

According to some estimates, the Willow MDP could alone cause nearly $20 billion in climate-related damages while threatening the well-being of nearby Nuiqsut, Alaska. Nuiqsut’s federally recognized and elected tribal government, in partnership with the city’s mayor and city council, made their concerns on the Willow project clear to President Biden. The lawmakers stressed in their letter that, rather than approving the Willow MDP, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has the authority to choose the no-action alternative and initiate a rulemaking proceeding that fully and permanently protects the Nuiqsut region’s designated special areas and meets the ecological and subsistence needs of the people of Nuiqsut.

“You can stop this ill-conceived and misguided project,” they continued. “We therefore ask your administration to reject the Willow MDP, choose the no-action alternative, and fundamentally reconsider this unsustainable approach to managing the Western Arctic.”

Senator Markey and Congressman Grijalva were joined by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Last month, Senators Markey and Cantwell were joined by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) in reintroducing their Arctic Refuge Protection Act, legislation that would restore critical protections to the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people and the nation’s largest national wildlife refuge.