Oil and gas lobbying efforts appear to be bouncing back from 2021’s 10-year low. OpenSecrets reported last week that companies spent more than $63.5 million in the first half of 2022 on lobbying, representing an 11% increase compared with that same time period last year. One of the primary culprits is ConocoPhillips, which has been eyeing a massive oil-drilling project in Alaska dubbed Willow. Recent findings from a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement—and support from lawmakers ultimately in the pocket of ConocoPhillips—suggests that Willow could ultimately become a reality.
ConocoPhillips found an easy mark in Sen. Lisa Murkowski, deploying lobbyists and officials who previously worked with both the Alaska Republican and her father. A former Frank Murkowski aide and Murkowski’s own former staff director for her role on the Energy Committee both donated to the lawmaker’s Senate campaign while appealing to her on ConocoPhillips’ behalf. According to OpenSecrets, ConocoPhillips-linked donors have sent more than $39,000 to Murkowski’s campaign during this election cycle alone. The results have certainly paid for themselves, and Murkowski has been an eager spokesperson for the Big Oil giant.
Just look at a recent press release from Murkowski’s office misleadingly titled, “Alaskans Voice Strong Support for Willow Project.” A large coalition of tribes, environmental groups, activists, and all those battling the climate crisis have voiced their opposition to the project since its initial scoping, yet you wouldn’t know that by what Murkowski has to say about it:
“From day one, I’ve elevated the Willow project to the Administration as my top priority, and I will continue to hold them accountable to their commitment to see this additional environmental review through so that construction can begin this winter. Responsibly-developed Alaskan energy benefits both our national security and American families who are facing near-record energy prices. The Willow project has gone through several extraordinarily stringent environmental reviews and will adhere to Alaska’s world-class safety and environmental standards. It’s no wonder the project has such broad support from Alaskans—including the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska AFL-CIO, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, and Alaska Native stakeholders across the North Slope.”
It’s worth noting that support from the Alaska Federation of Natives has been previously touted by ConocoPhillips, which has previously sponsored the group’s annual convention. Alaska AFL-CIO President Joelle Hall is a prior Murkowski donor. And the Alaska Chamber of Commerce’s own PAC has only donated to one politician: a former BP site engineer and commissioning lead who now serves as a Republican representative in Alaska’s State House. ConocoPhillips seemingly has its hands on every big supporter of Willow. The project is expected to provide a massive boost to ConocoPhillips’ already dominant production in Alaska, with up to 590 million barrels of oil estimated to be produced over 30 years. This comes at a cost of generating around 260 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions within that time.