Week ahead: Senate panel to consider Arctic drilling bill

Week ahead: Senate panel to consider Arctic drilling bill
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A Senate Committee is scheduled to consider legislation next week opening the door to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (R-Alaska) unveiled her bill to open up a portion of ANWR for drilling on Wednesday, a week after a tense committee hearing saw supporters and opponents of drilling there go head-to-head for the first time this session.

The bill would direct the Interior Department to hold drilling lease sales for up to 800,000 acres of land in ANWR, with the federal government and Alaska sharing any potential royalties from production there. It would raise $1.092 billion over ten years, according to a Congressional Budget Office score.

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"The legislation I released ... will put Alaska and the entire nation on a path toward greater prosperity by creating jobs, keeping energy affordable for families and businesses, generating new wealth, and strengthening our security -- while reducing the federal deficit not just by $1 billion over ten years, but tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades to come," Murkowski said in a statement this week.

Any potential revenue from the bill is mandated by a Senate budget deal reached late last month, raising the issue of drilling in ANWR as a serious policy proposal for the first time in years. That also makes its potential income a key component of a GOP tax cut bill that will also begin moving through the Senate next week.

Republicans already shot down an effort to strip the ANWR provision from the budget bill, and environmentalists have said they're preparing to aggressively fight the proposal. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs, will consider the bill on Thursday.

During a committee hearing last week, Democrats and Republicans both drew battlelines over ANWR drilling.

Supporters of the plan say it's necessary for raising revenue not just for the federal government, but Alaska, where the state economy is based around oil and gas development. They argue drilling can be done safety and wouldn't disturb the wilderness.

But Democrats and opponents say ANWR is too ecologically pristine to even risk drilling in the region. They have also challenged the revenue projections, given the state of oil prices and the unpredictability of the global oil market.

Thursday's hearing is one of two high-profile meetings for the Energy committee next week.

On Wednesday, several officials from Puerto Rico will appear before the committee to discuss Hurricane Maria recovery efforts on the island, including efforts to repair its stricken electric grid.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) is slated to testify, as are the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the federal oversight and management board that is working to appoint a special manager to oversee the utility.

Officials from the Virgin Islands are also scheduled to attend.

Members of the Puerto Rico oversight board testified before the House Natural Resources Committee last week. Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopRyan picks his negotiating team for tax cut bill Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments Five things to know about Trump's national monuments order MORE (R-Utah), the chairman of the committee, said the hearing didn't give lawmakers the chance to ask about the controversial Whitefish Energy contract because no one from PREPA was there to answer questions about it.

With Rosselló, PREPA and the oversight board all scheduled to testify together, lawmakers will have ample opportunity to raise the issue next week.

The House Natural Resources Committee will also hold a hearing on territorial recovery efforts on Tuesday. Bishop said last week that Rosselló and PREPA chief Ricardo Ramos will attend that meeting.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee will host its own hearing on Tuesday, focusing on "response and recovery to environmental concerns from the 2017 hurricane season."


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