In its first markup of the 116th Congress, the House Natural Resources Committee today approved legislation to restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) would stop the Trump administration’s dangerous scheme to sell oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge, by repealing a provision underhandedly included in the 2017 Republican tax bill that mandates industrial development in the biological heart of the Refuge: the coastal plain. By including H.R. 1146 in their very first markup, House Natural Resources Committee Democrats recognize that this bill must be a top priority for Congress until it’s passed.
We are at a pivotal point in the decades-long fight to protect the Arctic Refuge from destruction.
Since the passage of the tax act, the Trump administration—led by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt—has rushed to push through permits for seismic testing and oil and gas lease sales on the Refuge’s coastal plain. Unless blocked, the Trump administration could soon open these lands to polar bear-crushing thumper trucks, earth-scarring oil rigs, and climate change-causing resource extraction.
In taking swift action on H.R. 1146, Natural Resources Committee Democrats are sending a strong signal to the two-thirds of Americans who oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge—not to mention House leadership—that they are committed to winning this fight.
The fact is, this legislation is not simply good; it is essential to preserving this crown jewel of American wildernesses for future generations. Given the 2017 tax bill mandate, H.R. 1146 represents the only permanent way to protect the Arctic Refuge—its native people, irreplaceable public lands, iconic wildlife, and fragile climate—from irreversible harm.
The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act will now be referred to the House floor for consideration. House leadership must take heed and swiftly schedule H.R. 1146 for a vote. After that, the hunt will be on for a handful of Republicans in the Senate to come to their senses and help pass it there as well. The longer Congress waits to act, the closer the Trump administration gets to opening the floodgate to destruction.