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TikTokers generate 70k+ emails in 5 days urging Members to sign on to a letter lead by Champions Rep. Bowman, Ocasio-Cortez and Huffman
(Washington, D.C) – Today, Members of Congress sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland demanding that the permits for the controversial Willow Project be suspended. Led by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), the letter calls on Sec. Haaland and Interior to pause construction until litigation against the major oil and gas project is resolved and all stakeholders’ voices are properly considered.
The letter is signed by 33 Members of Congress, marking an increase in Congressional opposition to the project from when the first Willow letter was released.
ConocoPhillips has broken ground on the drilling project, with one of the first steps expected to involve blasting the Arctic tundra with explosives to mine gravel for drill pad foundations, likely causing irreparable damage while lawsuits are still pending. Worries about the ecological and societal impacts of the project mount, as details emerge about a gas leak at a ConocoPhillips oil field on the North Slope last year that resulted in an evacuation of over 300 employees, and locals becoming ill. On top of this, the document that approved the Willow Project acknowledges that its impacts include lowering the amount of subsistence resources locals depend on for food and increasing the suicide rate in the town of Nuiqsut.
Calls to Members of Congress to sign on to the letter grew last week, as content creators including Gen-Z for Change Acting Director Elise Joshi (20) and professional creator Alex Haraus’ (25) videos gained traction across social media. People posting videos on social media encouraging others to contact their Congress members have generated more than 70,000 direct emails to Congressional offices asking them to sign on to the letter.
This is a continuation of the #StopWillow movement, which took social media and news outlets by storm, generating over 650M views across social media platforms and causing an uptick in action. From early February to mid March, over 1.1M people wrote to the White House, and more than 10M signatures have garnered on petitions calling for the project to be stopped.
“The general public agrees pollutive industry must be stopped, so it’s not surprising this movement has so much strength. Trends rise because they resonate, and sample sizes in the millions prove this resonates beyond party lines,” says Haraus. “More and more of us are independent nowadays, especially young voters. We are issue affiliated, not party affiliated, and want public and private decision makers to ensure a healthy future for us and our friends around the world. Those acting against the interests of their own children haven’t seemed to realize that we grew up and see them letting our house fill with gas. When we ask them to stop, they make eye contact with us and turn the stove up. Our economic potential, our health, every opportunity we could have is affected by whether our environment is clean and bountiful or polluted and dangerous. We can’t stand with anyone choosing to move toward the latter.”
The recent decision by the Biden Administration to approve the project has generated major backlash, especially among youth voters. A new national survey from Data for Progress and Fossil Free Media found that after learning of the project in Alaska, Biden’s approval on climate falls by 33 points among Democrats and 12 points among Independents, with a 3-point drop among voters aged 18 to 29 since October.