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An aerial view of Nuiqsut, Alaska, near the oil drilling project. Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday defended in the U.S. District Court for Alaska a massive ConocoPhillips oil and gas project approved during the Trump-era, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: President Biden has pledged to move away from fossil fuels. But the project has the backing of officials including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — who's viewed as a potential ally for Biden in his attempts to push through policies in an evenly divided Senate, NYT notes.

Driving the news: Some tribal leaders and unions also back the project, but environmental groups say the Trump administration didn't consider the effects the Willow drilling project in part of the National Petroleum Reserve would have on wildlife and climate-change, according to Reuters.

  • A judge temporarily blocked the project in May after the environmental groups filed a lawsuit.

What they're saying: The Biden administration didn't clarify how its stance fit with climate policies, but it said in the filing sufficient considerations had been made in regards to greenhouse gas emissions and the effects the project would have on "fish, caribou and polar bear habitat," the Times reports.

  • The filing noted that Conoco has "valid lease rights" and can "develop its leases 'subject to reasonable regulation,'" per the NYT.
  • An Interior Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Axios that the filing by the Justice Department "continues to defend a 2020 Record of Decision for the Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A)."
"The filing maintains that the decision complied with NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] standards in place at the time, and that the plaintiffs did not challenge the Record of Decision within the time limitations associated with environmental review for projects in the NPR-A."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the Interior Department.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
May 27, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Big Oil's climate earthquake

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A rat-tat-tat burst of events Wednesday could mark a turning point in pressure against Big Oil to act more aggressively on global warming.

Catch up fast: In a span of hours, ExxonMobil shareholders voted to add at least two new board members nominated by activist investors (a third nominee's vote is outstanding).

Dutch court orders Shell to cut its emissions in landmark ruling

A Royal Dutch Shell Plc logo on a fence at the Shell Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Shell reports first quarter earnings on April 29. (Peter Boer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In a precedent-setting ruling, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday in favor of environmentalists and more than 17,000 residents of the Netherlands, by ordering Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Why it matters: It’s the first court ruling that orders a major oil company to make its emissions plans more consistent with Paris Climate Agreement targets, and it could spur legal action against other oil and gas firms.

Updated 23 mins ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storms lash Southeast

A car drives in the rain in Galveston, Texas. Photo: Zeng Jingning/China News Service via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes," per AP.