On March 24th, 2023, President Joe Biden spoke to reporters and expressed his inclination to oppose the approval of the Willow Project. However, he was concerned about the legal consequences of such a decision. The Biden administration blamed prior administrations for leasing decisions over the past few decades. The Department of Interior (DOI) had announced the approval of the project on March 13th, 2023, and Secretary Deb Haaland stated in a video message that the project was inherited and a difficult and complex issue.
During a recent press conference, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the Biden administration had to approve the project due to legal constraints established by previous administrations. The company, ConocoPhillips, had a legal right to the leases granted to them in the past. Despite his reservations, President Biden approved three out of the five proposed drilling sites for the Willow Project, fearing that the government might lose in court against ConocoPhillips.
President Biden has stopped the sale of new land leases, refused to issue permits to drill on previously leased land, and is working towards safeguarding Alaskan land and water. The approval of the Willow Project came after facing opposition from environmental groups, while the entire legislature of Alaska and the Alaska Federation of Natives supported the project, citing the thousands of job opportunities for residents. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, informed President Biden that the people of Alaska were in favor of the project.
The environmental groups that have been opposing the Willow Project since the beginning have already filed a federal lawsuit. They argued that the Biden administration was mistaken in believing that it had to allow ConocoPhillips to develop all economically recoverable oil on its leases.