Caribou. Polar Bears. Migratory birds. These are just some of the 200-plus species that would be at risk if the Arctic Refuge is open to oil and gas drilling.
That’s why Friends of Animals is horrified that the U.S. Senate passed a provision buried in the budget resolution that provides Alaska’s congressional delegation its best shot in decades to exploit this special area of untouched wilderness.
The provision requires that that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee raise $1 billion in revenue over the next ten years. A House budget resolution requires its energy committee to raise $5 billion in revenue—all part of efforts to offset tax cuts under the administration’s tax reform proposals.
Because the provision is part of the budget, it would only require a 51-vote majority to pass. The measure is being championed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who is chairwoman of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
Murkowski has said that while drilling is not the only option to raise the revenue, “it’s the best option.”
A recent poll by the Center on American Progress found that a majority of Americans surveyed are opposed to drilling in the Refuge. Additionally, more than one hundred wildlife and environmental groups have sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to stop any attempt to open the coastal plains to drilling.
The Refuge was first set aside for protection in 1960 and consists of 19.6 million-acre swath of land that is home to 250 species. A 1.5 million-acre coastal plain region of the Refuge, however, is open to drilling if approved by Congress.
To counter the provision, there are Congressional efforts to designate the area as a protected region. U.S. House bill 1889, called the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act, which has bipartisan support and is cosponsored by 133 representatives, would extend full wilderness protection to the Coastal Plain. Senate bill 820, cosponsored by 39 senators, would enact similar protections.
“We must muster the energy to block this assault on one of the most pristine refuges in the U.S. any way possible,” said FoA President Priscilla Feral. “The Arctic Refuge is pure wilderness.”
In 2002, FoA chartered a plane to survey the coastal plain region of the Refuge.
“As we said then, Friends of Animals strongly opposes any legislation or maneuver that permits oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge, primarily because of the detrimental effects that drilling will likely have on wildlife, their natural behaviors and their habitat.”
As part of its effort to protect the Refuge, Friends of Animals filed testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November. The testimony noted:
While drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge may cause catastrophic consequences and irreversible damage, it comes with little to no benefits. The U.S. Geological Survey had estimated that the Coastal Plain area would only provide a six-month’s supply of oil for Americans and would take years to get the supply to market.
Additionally, while drilling proponents claim the drilling in the 1002 region would raise more than $1 billion in revenue for the U.S. Treasury over the next ten years, an analysis by the Center for American Progress found that oil and gas leases would raise less than $40 million.
Please contact your Congressional representatives and tell them to vote no to any budget legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling and support Senate bill 820 and House bill 1889. You can contact them here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.