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Alaska delegation reacts to halting of the Willow project

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Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 6:44 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young are expressing disappointment after a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Saturday to stop ConocoPhillips from doing winter road construction, gravel mining and blasting on its Willow project.

“I am deeply troubled by the 9th Circuit’s decision to halt work on the Willow project, which received extensive and completed environmental review from the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies prior to approval,” said Sullivan in a part. “This decision completely upends the legal development of a project that was already providing good-paying jobs to hard-working Alaskans, and would generate hundreds of millions of barrels of oil, and billions in revenue for our state.”

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed last year in response to the former President Donald Trump administration’s approval of plans related to the development of the Willow project.

“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling over the weekend is a kick in the gut to Alaska. Giving up the winter season of work means forfeiting access to the ice roads that will melt by springtime, setting the project back until next winter. This decision could lead to a possible delay in the production of hundreds of billions of barrels of oil and desperately needed revenue for the State of Alaska and the federal government,” said Murkowski.

According to a release from Trustees for Alaska, ConocoPhillips applied for its permits and rights-of-way to drill in December and had planned to start construction work on Feb. 2.

The decision halts construction activities until the court rules on SILA’s appeal of the District Court’s denial of the motion for a preliminary injunction. That will occur after briefing is completed in late April.

“By halting the Willow Project, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a devastating blow to Alaska’s energy workers, their families, and all who would benefit from responsible resource development in the NPR-A,” said Young. “The Willow Project represents immense potential for our state, and this is not the time to roll back progress on initiatives that could bring back jobs and help our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic.”

A day after the announcement, ConocoPhillips Alaska announced roughly 8-9% of its employees will be leaving due to voluntary severance or workforce reductions. A spokesperson for the company confirmed the severances but said they are not related to the recent court decision.

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