Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line

Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line
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Congress is expected to vote in the coming week on final passage of Republicans' tax-reform bill, which would also open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling.

The conference committee responsible for reconciling the House and Senate tax bills — which includes top ANWR drilling proponents Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MORE (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungImpeachment demonstrates dire need for term limits House approves pro-union labor bill House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking MORE (R-Alaska) — is due to unveil their final bill late Friday, setting up potential votes for next week.

Murkowski and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives To avoid November catastrophe, Democrats have to KO Sanders MORE (R-Ky.) have said ANWR drilling would be in the legislation.

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Since the bill is being considered under budget reconciliation rules, it only needs 51 votes to pass.

Some House Republicans expressed concern about opening up ANWR, but in recent days have said its inclusion in the tax bill would not be a deal breaker.

The GOP is eager to pass the tax bill before Christmas to secure a major legislative victory for the year.

Under the initial proposal that passed the Senate, the Interior Department would be required to hold at least two auctions for drilling rights leases in ANWR's Coastal Plain area in the next 10 years.

The vote would cap off decades of advocacy by most Alaska leaders, some Alaska Native groups, the oil industry, Republicans and others to open up ANWR for drilling.

Environmentalists have been furiously fighting the proposal at every step, arguing that drilling would be devastating for AWNR's ecology, its imperiled fauna and the climate.

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But greens and Democrats have recognized that their time and options for stopping drilling are running out, particularly since the drilling provision is in a budget bill. 

The Senate also could act on Trump administration nominees who are pending before the year ends.

The nominees still in the Senate's hopper include Andrew Wheeler to be the Environmental Protection Agency's deputy administrator, Kathleen Hartnett White to be chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Barry Myers to be the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) administrator and Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineKatherine Johnson, 'hidden figure' at NASA during 1960s space race, dies at 101 The real reason SpaceX hired former top NASA official Trump goes all in for NASA's Artemis return to the moon program MORE to be NASA's administrator.

A Senate panel cleared Myers on Wednesday. Myers was, until recently, the CEO of AccuWeather, Inc., which he co-founded. The company provides weather forecasting information similar to the National Weather Service, which NOAA oversees. Democrats had raised concerns that Myers would be conflicted.

 

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