After lawsuit, a major Alaska North Slope oil project is again moving forward

A map of the Willow development on Alaska's North Slope
This map from the Bureau of Land Management shows the site of the Willow development on the North Slope of Alaska. Willow’s drill sites are marked by squares. (Bureau of Land Management)

On Friday, the federal Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental impact statement for the Willow project, a major oil development planned for federal land on Alaska’s North Slope.

Willow, which at peak production is expected to deliver as much as 180,000 barrels of oil per day to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, is opposed by environmental groups who successfully sued to overturn a prior impact statement that would have allowed the project to advance.

The release of the new impact statement is necessary to advance the project toward construction.

Members of the public have until 10 p.m. Aug. 29 to state their support for one of five options for the project’s future. The alternatives include “Option A,” which would not build it, and “Option B,” which is preferred by ConocoPhillips Alaska, the company backing the project.

On Friday, the BLM’s initial draft stated that it supports “Option E,” which reduces the amount of surface infrastructure to something less than preferred by ConocoPhillips. Early Saturday morning, the BLM said that language had been a mistake and it does not have a preferred option.

The state of Alaska and Alaska’s Congressional delegation have supported the project.

At current oil prices, the Willow project could be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax credits, according to information provided to the Alaska Legislature in 2019.

In the long term, the project is expected to generate several billion dollars in additional state revenue, and generate work for construction firms and oilfield services companies.

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