Huffman Leads Colleagues in Amicus Brief to Support Willow Project Appeal

Lawmakers highlight environmental, national security concerns and call on the appellate court to reverse the lower court’s decision

January 08, 2024

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) led his colleagues in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of several conservation groups in their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to approve the ConocoPhillips Willow Project in Alaska and calling on the court to reverse a lower court’s judgment allowing the Willow Project to proceed.

As the lawmakers wrote in the amicus brief, “Due to national security and environmental considerations, modern-day United States policy embodies a pressing need to reduce national reliance on non-renewable energy sources—policy that is undermined by the Willow Project.”

The members made three primary arguments in the amicus:

  1. The Willow Project would take place on public lands that belong to all Americans.
  2. The Willow Project is inconsistent with U.S. policy and modern-day congressional intent to reduce national reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
    1. Recent efforts—including the Inflation Reduction Act—evidence a broad congressional and administrative intent to transition the United States away from fossil fuel development.
    2. National security lies at the forefront of the United States’ concerns regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. The Willow Project is inconsistent with congressional statutory intent.
    1. The district court erred in giving disproportionate weight to certain portions of the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act’s text.
    2. NEPA requires an analysis of downstream greenhouse gas emissions catalyzed by the Willow Project.
    3. The ESA requires consideration of impacts to ESA-listed species from greenhouse gas emissions.

Representative Huffman was joined by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Katie Porter (CA-47), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Mike Levin (CA-49), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Becca Balint (VT-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), as well as Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders, (D-VT), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

As originally proposed, the Willow Project includes hundreds of wells, multiple pipelines, a central processing plant, an airport, and a gravel mine close to ecologically fragile habitats. The Project is estimated to produce anywhere from 239 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of annual emissions from at least 60 coal-fired power plants—and cause nearly $20 billion in climate change-related damages.

The Willow Project poses a significant health and safety threat to Alaska Natives and local communities, particularly those living in the nearby Inupiat village of Nuiqsut. Nuiqsut’s federally recognized and elected tribal government, in partnership with the city’s Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and city council, made their extensive concerns on the Willow project clear to President Biden.

Congressman Huffman has fought to protect the Arctic from fossil fuel exploration since he first came to Congress and has been a vocal opponent of the Willow Project, repeatedly calling on the administration to halt the project and rebuking this latest decision.

The full amicus brief submitted by the lawmakers can be found here.