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 MurkowskiMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungElection handicapper moves 10 races toward Dems Dunleavy, Begich win party nods in 3-way race for Alaska governor Alaska congressional candidate has never visited the state: AP 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 McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) have said ANWR drilling would be in the legislation.

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.

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 looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report NASA administrator says he always thought humans caused climate change We really are going back to the moon and then on to Mars 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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