Drill, Baby, Drill? Not So Fast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

If passed, a new bill could reverse Trump’s efforts to open the Alaskan wilderness to Big Oil.

For decades, environmentalists have been fighting to keep drilling out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a sprawling 19 million acres of undisturbed wildlands in Alaska. And just before leaving office, President Obama adopted a plan to manage it as wilderness.

And for good reason. This place is more than just beautiful. The Far North is already dealing with the effects of climate change, and the area is one of the lasts redoubts for species like polar bears and musk ox—not to mention the breeding grounds for myriad species of migratory birds. The refuge is also essential to the native Gwich’in people’s way of life and the Porcupine River caribou herd their communities have relied on for thousands of years.

So when Trump allies opened the region to drilling late last year by jamming the measure into a tax bill, the backlash was fierce.

A new bill, introduced last week by congressmen Jared Huffman of California and other House Democrats, would repeal the Arctic Refuge drilling provision in the tax bill, prohibiting new gas or oil leases and halting the renewals of existing leases. The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Act would protect one of the last pristine corners of the country where even one lease—and one spill—could bring disaster.

“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,” Huffman said. “But time is not on our side."

A companion bill is expected to be announced soon by Senate Democratic lawmakers, but both are likely to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.

This NRDC.org story is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.

Related Stories