Senate GOP presses Interior to open Atlantic, Arctic to drilling

A coalition of 21 Republican senators is urging the Interior Department to open up the Atlantic and areas of the Arctic to oil and gas development in its next five-year lease plan.

Interior is currently gathering comments on for its 2017-2022 lease plan, which could include the Atlantic, Arctic and new parts of the Pacific to oil and gas drilling.

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“With our allies under threat, our friends under attack, and our enemies on the move, continued exploration and production of energy from federal lands in the United States is absolutely vital,” the letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell states. “Our offshore resources, which the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 declares ‘should be made available for expeditious and orderly development,’ are critical to this effort.”

The letter states the new program should include the Arctic, Alaska's Atlantic and Cook Inlet, on top of areas that are currently open. 

"We must not return to the constrained vision of the past wherein America's resources remain untapped just off our coastline," the letter, signed by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), James Inhofe (Okla.) and John Cornyn (Texas), states.

The 21 Senate Republicans were not only ones to send a letter to Jewell about future offshore drilling on Thursday. A group of 45 House Dems pressed Jewell to exclude parts of the Arctic off Alaska's coast from the five-year plan.

"New lease sales in the Arctic Ocean or Bristol Bay are unnecessary and risk moving this administration down an unwise path that could put these regions at risk for decades if not generations to come," the letter signed by Reps. Rush Hold (N.J.), Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) states.

The battle surrounding offshore drilling is set to heat up more this year as Interior readies to propose a draft of the possible lease sales for the next five-year plan.