Senators Make Key Play to Save the Arctic Refuge

In its haste to hand over our most sacred public lands to polluters, the Trump administration is expected to finalize plans to allow oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as soon as this week. Meanwhile, determined Senate champions today introduced a bill to help save these treasured lands from the administration's reckless plans for destruction. 

As Republicans jockeyed to pass the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in late 2017, this determined group of Senators stood outside in the bitter cold—side by side with Indigenous leaders—making a final plea to remove one particularly harmful provision from the bill.

Senator Udall (D-NM) speaking at an Arctic Refuge rally during the 2017 tax bill fight.


The group included Senators Markey (D-MA), Udall (D-NM), Cantwell (D-WA), Schumer (D-NY), and Bennet (D-CO). The provision they opposed—Title II—would drastically alter the course of the decades-long fight to save the Arctic Refuge. Jammed into the bill as a favor to Senator Murkowski (R-AK), it not just allowed—but required—oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Refuge’s pristine coastal plain.

Since then, the administration has barreled ahead with a flawed environmental review process, flatly ignoring the serious biological, cultural and climate impacts that oil and gas development will have on the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain.

Today, this same group of Senators—along with Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Carper (D-DE)—reaffirmed their commitment to saving the Arctic Refuge from destruction, by introducing legislation to help protect it from oil and gas leasing.

The “Arctic Refuge Protection Act” represents a critical opportunity for Congress to choose preservation over destruction of America’s grandest wildlife refuge; to defend Indigenous people rather than squander vital subsistence habitat; to protect imperiled species instead of hastening their decline; to prioritize public interest above corporate profit.

This bill could not come at a more pivotal time; the administration is expected to soon release its final Environmental Impact Statement for oil and gas leasing on the Refuge's pristine coastal plain.

Senators Markey, Udall, Cantwell, Bennet, Carper and Schumer recognize that legislative action is essential to protecting the Arctic Refuge’s native people, irreplaceable public lands and wildlife, and fragile climate from irreversible harm.

NRDC stands ready to work to get this legislation to protect the Arctic Refuge through the finish line.

About the Authors

Nora Apter

Deputy Director, Federal Affairs, Center for Policy Advocacy

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