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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
Aug 31, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The path to Biden's offshore wind goal

There's enough U.S. offshore wind on the drawing boards to surpass President Biden's goal of 30 gigawatts (30,000 megawatts) of capacity by 2030, but getting there means transforming lots of planning into actual development.

Driving the news: A new Energy Department report takes stock of the emerging U.S. sector. The chart above looks at the project pipeline by state (and officials are also in the early stages of planning for California development).

Federal judge strikes down Trump-era rule reducing waterways protections

The Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. Photo: Bruce Bennett via Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a Trump administration rule that rolled back protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the U.S.

Why it matters: Environmental and tribal groups have pushed the court to vacate the rule, which the Biden administration has kept in place while coming up with its own protections policy. The new ruling will expand protections for drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and thousands of wildlife species, per the Washington Post.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.