Lawmakers want to block drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

Lawmakers want to block drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge
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A group of mostly Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to indefinitely block oil and natural gas drilling throughout the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The bill, which a similar group of lawmakers have introduced in previous sessions of Congress, would designate refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plain as wilderness, preventing drilling and most other development.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure and it's more important than ever that we protect this uniquely American area,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Only by designating the threatened Coastal Plain as wilderness can we fully protect the intrinsic value that this land holds — for those who live in the region, and for future generations.”

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Huffman was joined on the bill by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.).

The Senate version of the legislation, also introduced Tuesday, was led by Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger MORE (D-Mass.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetCourt-packing becomes new litmus test on left New England Patriots player says he will remain in locker room during anthem next season Press: Which way do Dems go in 2020? MORE (D-Colo.) and was joined by 38 senators.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the natural wonders of America, worthy of the highest level of protection as wilderness,” Markey said.

The legislation comes amid decades of heated debate over the refuge, located in the northeast corner of Alaska.

The refuge has been protected since Alaska became a state in 1959. But in 1980, Congress set aside the small coastal plain area for possible oil and natural gas drilling, subject to legislative approval.

Congress never gave that approval, although it tried repeatedly in the 1990s and 2000s, amid fierce opposition by environmentalists and strong support from the oil industry. The area is estimated to have 16 million barrels of recoverable crude oil.