Quantcast

Alaska Sen. Murkowski Introduces Bill to Drill Arctic Wildlife Refuge

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced legislation Wednesday night that would open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development for the first time.

The bill could advance with only 51 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60 as it complies under Congress' budget resolution instructions for 2018.


The Alaskan senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, expects her legislation will bring in more than $1 billion in federal revenue over the next decade.

"Our instruction is a tremendous opportunity both for our committee and our country," Murkowski said. "The legislation I released tonight will put Alaska and the entire nation on a path toward greater prosperity by creating jobs, keeping energy affordable for families and businesses, generating new wealth and strengthening our security—while reducing the federal deficit not just by $1 billion over ten years, but tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades to come."

ANWR, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.

Last month, Senate Democrats offered an amendment to the Senate's budget resolution that would block drilling in the Alaskan refuge but the measure failed 48-52 mostly along party lines. Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process.

Conservatives have long sought to open up the refuge and have targeted the so-called "1002 area," a 1.5 million-acre coastal plain which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates has between 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

Murkowski calls the area a "non wilderness portion" but Earthjustice notes that the targeted area hosts migratory bird species, endangered wildlife and is considered to be sacred to the indigenous Gwich'in people, who sustain themselves from the caribou that migrate there.

Additionally, the expectation that drilling could raise $1 billion in revenue over the next decade is under dispute. Even oil industry execs anticipate a world of $50 for a barrel of oil over the next few years.

"Nothing in this bill can magically make these fantastical revenue assumptions materialize," said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, in a statement.

"What this bill would do is turn America's last great wilderness into a lost wilderness. Senator Lisa Murkowski had promised some kind of new and improved directional drilling, but that's just a talking point. What we got was simply misdirection and deception. The fact is that is that the entire 1.5 million acres could be offered up in two massive lease sales."

Here's what the legislation entails, as detailed by Huffington Post:

"As written, the bill would require Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to approve at least two lease sales—each no less than 400,000 acres—in the first 10 years. The first sale would be required within four years, with the second having to be finalized within seven years. The royalties from those sales would be split in half between the state of Alaska and the federal government.

The bill allows for 2,000 acres of the coastal plain to be developed with wells and support facilities.

Opening the refuge is also on the Trump administration's wish list. In May, Zinke signed an order to 'jump-start Alaskan energy production.' He said at the time that the move was an 'important first step in a smart and measured approach to energy development in ANWR.' Additionally, the administration's 2018 fiscal year budget calls for allowing oil and gas production in the coastal plain."

Murkowski's bill is scheduled for a committee hearing on Nov. 15.

Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Read More Show Less
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Read More Show Less