Senate Budget Plan Could Open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Drilling

The Senate rejected an amendment that would have blocked raising revenue through federal oil and gas leasing.

This fall, when a Senate budget measure instructed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to come up with $1 billion, it opened the door for oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands and offshore areas. Though the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, had proposed an amendment that would have stopped the panel from raising those funds through leases to oil and gas companies, the Senate voted last night to reject that measure.

“Senate Republicans are following the irresponsible lead of their House Republican colleagues promoting dirty energy we don’t need,” said Franz Matzner, deputy director of federal campaigns for NRDC’s Center for Policy Advocacy.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—19.6 million acres of spectacular, unspoiled nature—is the largest and wildest of our publicly owned reserves. The Trump administration, however, sees it simply as an untapped resource in its pursuit of “American energy dominance” and is moving for the first time in 30 years to allow oil exploration there.

It is proof, as NRDC’s Alaska Director, Niel Lawrence, notes, that no part of our natural heritage is safe from commercial exploration these days. We don’t need the oil, and even if we did, the Arctic Refuge is the last place we should tear up to get at it, he says.

“They’re acting against the public interest—using a backdoor gimmick to open the pristine Arctic Refuge and our other public lands and offshore areas to indiscriminate oil and gas exploitation—all to pad the profits of big polluters,” Matzner said.

Indeed, Trump’s $2.4 trillion tax plan is heavily skewed toward helping big business and the wealthy—including oil and gas industry allies. A 2012 study by NRDC and the Center for American Progress found that oil and gas companies alone receive $8 billion in tax benefits every year, and the Trump administration has been increasing those benefits with recent actions to lower royalty rates paid to the government.

“This is not sound fiscal management of taxpayer money,” Matzner concluded. “And it must be stopped.”

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