Alaska environmental protections announced as Biden reportedly set to approve huge oil project | Alaska

Joe Biden has announced new steps to ban oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and limit onshore drilling in Alaska, as his administration reportedly prepares to approve a huge new oilfield in the state.

Nearly 3m acres (1.2m hectares) of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean will be “indefinitely off limits” for oil and gas leasing, effectively closing off US Arctic waters to oil exploration.

In addition to the drilling ban, the government will put forward new protections for more than 13 million acres of “ecologically sensitive” areas within Alaska’s petroleum reserve, the administration announced on Sunday.

In total, 16m acres in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean will be protected from oil drilling.

The new measures come as sources speaking to Reuters and the New York Times said the Biden administration would on Monday approve ConocoPhillips’ massive Willow oil project.

Willow would be the biggest new oilfield in decades in Alaska, producing up to 180,000 barrels a day, according to ConocoPhillips. It is fiercely opposed by environmentalists.

It would be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a 23m acre area on the state’s North Slope that is the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the US.

An environmental group said the new protections announced on Sunday did not go far enough and the government should stop oil and gas developments to help fight climate change.

“It’s insulting that Biden thinks this will change our minds about the Willow project,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Protecting one area of the Arctic so you can destroy another doesn’t make sense, and it won’t help the people and wildlife who will be upended by the Willow project.”

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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