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Final GOP tax bill would allow Arctic refuge drilling

Final GOP tax bill would allow Arctic refuge drilling
© Greg Nash

A tax cut compromise reached Wednesday by GOP negotiators contains a plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiLawmakers scold Trump official over Pacific island trust fund Republican agenda clouded by division Greens sue over Interior plans to build road through Alaska refuge MORE (R-Alaska) said.

At a tax bill conference committee meeting, Murkowski said the bill “contains the single most important step I believe we can take to strengthen our energy security and create new wealth.”

“We fought long to authorize a program for energy development in Alaska’s nonwilderness 1002 area,” she said, using the formal term for the area within the refuge that would see drilling under the GOP plan.

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Murkowski said the terms of the bill would raise “more than $1 billion within 10 years and it will likely raise over $100 billion for the federal Treasury” over the long term.

“This is new wealth from responsible development and the investment it brings,” she said. "It’s time to open up the 1002 area and it’s time to reform our broken tax code.”

The Senate-passed version of the tax bill included a Murkowski provision calling for drilling lease sales in a corner of the 19 million-acre ANWR within the next decade, with the federal and Alaskan governments splitting the revenues.

The oil industry and supporters of the plan insist it will raise significant revenue, though analysts and critics of ANWR drilling question whether there is enough demand to match those estimates.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), another tax bill negotiator, called the ANWR provision “a completely unrelated, unpopular provision that should not be forced through this Congress under these procedures.”

“It’s wildly optimistic that because of what happens in the refuge, somehow that is going to offset part of the huge deficit that is begin created by this legislation,” he said at the conference committee hearing.

“We don’t need the oil. We’re exporting millions of barrels per day in this country and I hope there is consideration given to that.”

The tax bill deal announced Wednesday also restores several energy industry tax breaks that the House bill would have nixed.

Bloomberg Politics reported that tax credits for electric vehicles and wind production will not be eliminated as part of the tax bill compromise. The House had attempted to end those tax credits.