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Alaska Sen. Murkowski Introduces Bill to Drill Arctic Wildlife Refuge
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.
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
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The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›