Biden Plans New Limits on Arctic Drilling Ahead of Controversial Willow Decision
WASHINGTON — President Biden will announce sweeping new restrictions on offshore oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean and new conservation measures in Alaska, according to an administration official. The actions come as the administration prepares to approve an enormous drilling project in the North Slope that has faced widespread opposition on environmental and climate grounds.
Mr. Biden is expected to declare on Monday the entire Arctic Ocean off limits to oil and gas leasing and also to announce that the Interior Department will issue new rules to protect more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska from oil and gas leasing.
The announcement comes at a delicate time for President Biden, who has been lobbied fiercely by the oil industry and Alaska lawmakers to approve the an $8 billion drilling project, led by ConocoPhillips and known as Willow, inside the petroleum reserve. Environmental activists have launched online campaigns and protested outside the White House, arguing that approval of the project would be a betrayal of Mr. Biden’s pledges to move the nation away from fossil fuels.
The Willow project could produce as much as 600 million barrels of crude over 30 years. The administration plans to approve it, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, stressed in recent days that a final decision hadn’t been made. Another administration official said that advisers to the president were deliberating whether the government had the legal authority to deny permits to ConocoPhillips, which has long held leases on the land in the petroleum reserve.
In addition to the ban on new Arctic drilling, Mr. Biden will announce new protections for a number of sites in Alaska, including Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay Special Areas. The administration official described the protections as forming a “fire wall” against future leasing in the North Slope and Arctic lands and waters.