Anchorage, Alaska – A large crowd gathered and rallied outside the Annual Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention Thursday afternoon around a large hand-painted banner that read “Defend the Sacred: Extraction is NOT our way of life”. The rally was organized by a coalition of Alaska Native groups to connect the growing crisis of environmental and community health impacts of the extraction industry on Indigenous communities around the State. Host organizations included, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Mother Kuskokwim, Native Movement and Grandmothers Growing Goodness.
On March 13, 2023, President Biden approved the Willow project, an oil drilling venture by the large crude oil producer, ConocoPhillips, occurring on Alaska’s North Slope. The proposed drilling area is believed to hold 600 million barrels of oil, which will be extracted from three different drill pads. While there is no exact date for the project to begin, construction is set to commence at any time and will continue for decades. The detrimental climate impact is by far the project’s most severe effect. However, the media is ignoring a crucial factor: the drill site sits next to the Nuiqsut tribe, an Inupiaq community that strongly opposes the Willow project.
Despite overwhelming outcry by young people and climate justice advocates, President Joe Biden broke under the pressure of the fossil fuel industry March 13 to approve ConocoPhillips’s Willow project — the single largest oil project ever proposed on U.S. federal lands. It’s $8 billion of fossil fuel infrastructure in Alaska that impacts Indigenous communities, that will destroy wild landscapes north of the Arctic Circle and will erase nearly all of the climate benefits of Biden’s current renewable energy projects on public lands. Willow also concretely breaks Biden’s 2020 climate promise to stop new drilling on public lands, and the disastrous decision must serve as a wake-up call for all of us.
Indigenous people and environmental groups on Monday swiftly slammed the Biden administration's approval of the controversial Willow oil drilling project along Alaska's North Slope. They say the ConocoPhillips plan—which would be the largest oil development on federal land in US history—conflicts with the president's promise that no new oil and gas drilling would happen on public lands under his leadership and that the move keeps the country tethered to toxic fossil fuels at a time when scientists say the nation needs to be moving away from carbon pollution.