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Broken Promises: The Approval of the Willow Project

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

A few weeks ago, the last “okay” was given by the US government for the Willow Project to proceed. Climate activism has brought this tragedy to light, but what does the Willow Project mean for the world?

The Willow Project was first proposed in 2020 by the Trump Admin as a major oil drilling project in Northern Alaska, estimated to produce 600 million barrels of oil. Although the Biden administration compromised on a smaller amount of drill pads, 90% of the projected oil will still be drilled. Hundreds of roadways and pipelines will line an originally untouched, frozen landscape. The estimated start date for the project is currently unknown, but likely to begin as soon as next winter to avoid environmentalist legal blockades.

The northern Alaskan region where Willow will be drilling is home to numerous endangered species, such as Polar bears, whose lives will be put at stake through disturbance of habitat. What appears to be a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act will also release the same CO2 emissions as 1.7 million cars would produce over the project’s span. The increase in CO2 emissions will only warm the Earth more, creating a feedback loop of more polar habitat lost. This dramatically accelerates climate change and directly goes against the Biden administration promise to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. 

Not only is our environment at stake here, communities of indigenous Alaskans are at high risk of oil spills and air pollution due to this project. Specifically, the Inupiat people are speaking out against the project, as the federal government is not properly recognizing the health impacts to these people with the project’s construction. The Inupiat released a statement saying that “profit is being placed over people and the environment”. Their frustration is beyond understandable, as Biden’s initial promise upon election was a step towards a greener future, of which this project takes five steps backwards. The U.S. government has failed to account for indigenous communities for centuries, and the approval of the Willow Project just adds to the injustices. 

A few weeks ago, the US government failed in a critical moment. Our environment and people are not expendable in the name of monetary gain. This election season, it is crucial to vote and elect officials that will remain true to their promises rather than sell out when their support is needed most. 

Hey! My name is Novalee Knepper and I'm from Orlando, Florida. I'm an environmental science major here at USF. I love reading, journaling, thrifting, and bringing home more plants. I hope to one day write for National Geographic as a journalist.