The draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) of the oil and gas drilling project also has a “no action” alternative


The Willow project calls for the construction of up to five drill sites and associated processing and support facilities. (Credit: Anita starzycka from Pixabay)

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – Alaska has come up with a variety of alternatives in a revised draft environmental review of ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).

The draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) of the oil and gas drilling project also includes a “no action” alternative. The BLM stated that the SEIS does not represent any final decision on the proposed project.

According to the agency, the statement was prepared to address shortages identified by the US District Court for the District of Alaska in its last year’s vacatur of the Trump administration’s approval of the project.

The BLM said that its final decision will be made only after taking into account public comments on the draft SEIS and the completion of its analysis.

According to the agency, the Willow Master Development Plan calls for the construction of up to five drill sites and related processing and support facilities. The project is expected to have a peak production of more than 180,000 barrels of oil per day over an expected 30–31-year life to produce up to nearly 629 million total barrels of oil.

BLM said that the draft SEIS has a corrected and elaborated analysis of possible climate effects related to the Willow project.

The expanded climate analysis and other things address the courts’ observations that the original analysis did not take into account the downstream foreign emissions caused by the consumption of oil produced by the project, said the BLM.

For considering an alternative with modified infrastructure in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area (TLSA), the draft SEIS has a new alternative that will bring down the possible footprint of the project by taking off two of the five proposed drill sites from consideration. This includes removing the northernmost drill site and related infrastructure in the TLSA.

Under the alternative, BLM anticipates ConocoPhillips to relinquish substantial lease rights in the TLSA, which is an ecologically important wetland.

BLM said that in order to give a full picture of the potential effects of the Willow project, the alternative has an analysis of a fourth potential drill site that will be deferred. This would call for an additional review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and is not being looked into for inclusion in the new alternative.

Meanwhile, Earthjustice, which had opposed the project, claimed that if approved, Willow will release over 275 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Earthjustice attorney Jeremy Lieb said: “We are disappointed to see BLM moving forward with considering the Willow plan when it is so clearly inconsistent with the goals this administration has set to transition away from fossil fuels and avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

“This single project, which will release a staggering amount of climate pollution, threatens to send us dangerously off track by undercutting urgently needed measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”