‘POTUS is wrong’: Sen. Ed Markey calls out Biden over Alaska oil-drilling project

The Massachusetts senator says the president was wrong to authorize the massive oil development proposal to move forward.

President Joe Biden is greeted by, from left, Sen. Ed Markey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and Lisa Wieland, CEO of Massport, obscured, as he arrives at Boston Logan International Airport, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.
President Joe Biden is greeted by, from left, Sen. Ed Markey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and Lisa Wieland, CEO of Massport (obscured) as he arrives at Boston Logan International Airport, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Patrick Semansky / AP

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey rebuked Joe Biden on Monday over the president’s authorization of the controversial Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska, calling the approval “an oil stain on the administration’s climate accomplishments.”

“@POTUS is wrong,” Markey, the chair of a Senate environment subcommittee, wrote in a tweet, soon after the Biden administration said it would sign off on the large project on Alaska’s North Slope. “The approval of a massive oil development project on federal lands is a mistake we will regret for generations. The Willow project’s devastating consequences will be suffered by all of us. We must move forward not backward.”

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Critics of Biden’s decision say the move flies against the president’s environmental goals and legacy, not to mention severing a campaign promise to halt new drilling on publicly-owned lands.


The development would produce up to 190,000 barrels of oil a day and would usher in as many as 2,500 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, according to oil producer ConocoPhillips.

The administration’s approval would provide for three drill sites, with up to a total of 199 wells, while proposals for two other drill sites would be rejected.

ConocoPhillips has owned leases at the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska for decades. The Biden administration was concerned that those agreements limited its ability to block the project from moving forward, and that government’s objections could have been shut down in court.

Monday’s announcement came a day after the Biden administration said it would prohibit or limit drilling in other areas of Alaska and on the Arctic Ocean.

Still, in a statement, Markey called the Willow project approval “an environmental injustice” that also risks harm to a nearby native village:

“The Biden administration’s decision to move forward with one of the largest oil development projects in decades sends the wrong message to our international partners, the climate and environmental justice movement, and young people who organized to get historic clean energy and climate investments into law last year. This decision not only leaves an oil stain on the administration’s climate accomplishments and the President’s commitment not to permit new oil and gas drilling on federal land, but slows our progress in the fight for a more livable future and puts into harm’s way the neighboring Native Village of Nuiqsut and the Arctic landscape.

“By investing in the fossil-fueled past and not the green-energy future, we are failing frontline environmental justice communities who are bearing the brunt of climate chaos, and American consumers who remain at the whim of rising and volatile prices of oil and gas.

“I am in solidarity with the community of advocates who oppose this disastrous decision and will continue fighting alongside them to put our people and our planet ahead of the profits of Big Oil.”

Markey was among 20 lawmakers who urged Biden earlier this month to reject the proposal.

In a letter to the president, the Congressional cohort cited estimates the Willow project alone could cause almost $20 billion in climate-related damages and would threaten the wellbeing of Nuiqsut, which had already expressed concerns over the project to Biden.

“The lawmakers stressed in their letter that, rather than approving the Willow MDP, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has the authority to choose the no-action alternative and initiate a rulemaking proceeding that fully and permanently protects the Nuiqsut region’s designated special areas and meets the ecological and subsistence needs of the people of Nuiqsut,” Markey’s office said earlier this month.


While the approval from Biden was a key hurdle for the Willow project, there is still likely more red tape ahead, as environmental groups are expected to bring the matter to court.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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