Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line

Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line
© Getty Images

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 MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Abortion stirs GOP tensions in Supreme Court fight MORE (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum House Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority 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 McConnellTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power MORE (R-Ky.) have said ANWR drilling would be in the legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 BridenstineNASA publishes Artemis plan to land first woman, next man on moon NASA is in the market for moon rocks Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' 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.

 

Recent stories:

House chairman invites Patagonia CEO to testify on monuments 

Zinke reprimanded park head after climate tweets 

Time running out for opponents of Arctic drilling 

EPA moves toward updating lead water pipe standards 

Zinke promises 'zero tolerance' after 35% of Interior employees report harassment 

Trump's EPA chemical safety nominee withdraws nomination 

Final GOP tax bill would allow Arctic refuge drilling 

Senate panel clears Trump's nominee for NOAA 

Watchdog: Trump officials improperly withheld funds for advanced energy office

EPA watchdog to probe Pruitt's $25,000 privacy booth

Feds: Arctic saw record-low sea ice, second warmest year on record 

Emails: Disney annoyed by Obama push to use 'Frozen' brand 

Feds push court to dismiss children climate change lawsuit 

Energy commissioner undaunted by delay in Perry coal rule consideration