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BLM proposes to allow ConocoPhillips to drill most of its Arctic Willow project

BLM proposes to allow ConocoPhillips to drill most of its Arctic Willow project
An aerial view of the exploration pad and one of the wells that ConocoPhillips drilled at its Willow Prospect during the 2018 exploration season. (Photo courtesy of Judy Patrick Photography / ConocoPhillips Alaska)

The Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that it is interested in allowing ConocoPhillips to develop Willow, the company’s proposal for oil drilling near the village of Nuiksut on federal land in the Arctic.

The agency suggests trimming the proposal from five drill sites to three. This would mean roughly 219 wells, 32 fewer than the company had sought.

The recommendations are in a planning document called Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

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

The BLM’s parent agency, the Department of the Interior, now has 30 days to issue a decision. Interior immediately emailed a statement explaining that it still has the power to block Willow.

“The Department has substantial concerns about the Willow Project and the preferred alternative presented in the Final SEIS, including direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on wildlife and Alaska Native subsistence,” the statement said.

Alaska’s congressional delegation, governor and several North Slope leaders supported Willow, saying it would bring needed jobs and revenue.

Environmental groups call the project a “climate bomb”.

“This would be the largest single oil drilling project ever proposed anywhere in the US, and it falls far short of the Biden administration’s goals for reducing climate pollution and transitioning to clean energy,” EarthJustice attorney Jeremy Lieb said in an emailed statement. “

The town and tribe of Nuixut also oppose the development.

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