A group of legislators has introduced a bill to protect Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. The bill, if enacted, would designate ANWR’s coastal plain as wilderness.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a Trump administration initiative approved by a Republican-dominated Congress, opened that portion of ANWR to fossil fuel development after decades of controversy surrounding preservation of the refuge.
“This bill would ensure that one of the most imperiled pieces of our natural heritage will be protected now and for future generations of Americans,” Kristen Miller, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League, said. “We cannot afford to create more climate disasters when scientists agree that an urgent transition is needed to cleaner energy sources.”
Nineteen U.S. senators are listed as co-sponsors of the proposed legislation, with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in the lead. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Cal.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. An additional 37 members of the House are co-sponsors.
Political battles over ANWR have raged since the 1980s. Opponents of drilling on the coastal plain were able to prevent any mandates to open the refuge for oil and gas exploration until Republicans attached an amendment compelling oil and gas extraction there to a tax cut plan proposed during former President Donald Trump’s first year in office.
About 1.5 million acres of ANWR would be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System if the bill becomes law. The proposed designation tracks a 2015 recommendation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Similar bills have been introduced in previous Congresses.
Image courtesy Alaska Wilderness League, photo by Florian Schulz.