An Alaska Federal Judge has recently ruled that the ConocoPhillips corporation's controversial and bipartisan Willow Project can move forward. This project—which would drill for oil in Alaska’s North Slope—has been challenged numerous times by climate activists for its potentially catastrophic effects. It also remains completely antithetical to a Biden Administration campaign promise, which was, according to CNN, to move toward a cleaner, greener future.

This ruling comes as a turning point, as back in 2021, the same judge vacated those same claims on the basis that the presidency—the Trump Administration—did not adequately assess the potential climate impacts the project could cause.

This project has already received major backlash, with an estimated one million letters being written to the White House and over 2.8 million signatures on a petition being recorded in the weeks leading up to the project’s approval.

Advocates refer to this project as a ‘climate bomb’ due to its estimated production of 9.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year—a figure that is equal to adding 2 million cars to our roads. “The biggest concern of the Willow Project is the amount of emissions that would end up in the atmosphere, but, aside from the climate impacts, we're also concerned about local ecological impacts,” says Chris Labosier, Concord Academy’s new environmental sustainability coordinator and science teacher. What he is referring to is the danger that the project might pose to the area’s migratory species, such as caribou and yellow-billed loons. “It’s going to be a scar on the Earth,” Labosier elaborated.

Not only would the production of oil displace and harm many of these animals, but Alaska-based Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe argues that the loud construction and traffic could negatively impact their habitat.

The issue has split local indigenous opinion, as populations more centrally located near the drilling site worry about its potential negative health impacts, whereas others centered further away from the project argue that it would boost economic activity in the far north. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak—the mayor of Nuiqsut, one of the towns closest to the site—detailed in a letter to Interior Secretary of Alaska Deb Haaland this stark difference. He wrote, “[The] villages get some financial benefits from oil and gas activity, but experience far fewer [negative] impacts than Nuiqsut does.” Time will tell how the controversial Willow Project will impact both the economy and the environment.