The U.S. Interior Department announced Monday the approval of three drilling sites in northwest Alaska under the Willow Master Development oil drilling project.
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"The Record of Decision denies two of the five drilling rigs proposed by ConocoPhillips, reducing the project's drilling rigs by 40 percent," the Interior Department said in a statement.
In this regard, the Department outlined measures to make some 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean "indefinitely off-limits" to future oil and gas leasing.
The government will also introduce new protections for more than 13 million acres of "ecologically sensitive" Special Areas within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, where the Willow project would be located.
"The President and the Biden-Harris administration's economic program have put the United States back on the right track to meet its 2030 and 2050 climate goals while reducing U.S. dependence on oil," the Department stated.
Environmental groups have raised opposition to the energy development project, which will accelerate climate change and harm local indigenous communities, according to the environmental advocacy organization Wilderness Society.
Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said that "protecting one area of the Arctic in order to destroy another makes no sense, and will not help the people and wildlife that will be disrupted by the Willow project."
The Willow project, led by energy giant ConocoPhillips (COP.N) was announced in January 2017. According to ConocoPhillips, it is expected to produce about 600 million barrels of oil equivalent over its lifetime, with a maximum of 180 000 barrels of oil per day.