A group of House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday that would block oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The bill from Reps. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Kerry announces climate statement with China Pelosi defends America's 'moral authority' on climate action Liberals, moderates strike deal on Biden agenda, clearing way for votes MORE (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and others would reverse Congress’s decision last year to approve drilling in a portion of ANWR, which was included as part of the Republican tax overhaul.
The sponsors of the anti-drilling legislation warned that with the Trump administration hoping to hold an auction for drilling rights next year, lawmakers have to work fast to overturn the provision.
“Plain and simple: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure worth protecting for future generations,” Huffman said in a statement.
“Although Republicans in Congress snuck a dangerous drilling provision into their tax bill last year, it’s not too late to keep drills out of this iconic landscape,” he continued. “But time is not on our side: we need to repeal this oil and gas giveaway soon to ensure that the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain remains unspoiled for future generations to experience and enjoy.”
Last year’s tax law passed with only GOP support. After decades of efforts by Alaskans, the oil industry and Republicans, it for the first time allowed drilling in ANWR’s small coastal plain, subject to the same environmental rules as other federal land areas.
The Interior Department was instructed in the law to hold at least two drilling rights lease sales in the next decade, limited to 2,000 acres leased.
Polling has consistently showed that most Americans oppose ANWR drilling. The conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports found last year that 53 percent of Americans opposed it, and only 12 percent supported it.
But most Alaskans and state leaders have long supported drilling.
Environmentalists cheered the House Democrats' bill on Tuesday.
“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a land of incredible beauty, ecological value and cultural importance. Oil rigs have no place there,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.