The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
While America Focuses on Tax Bill, Congress Quietly Tries to Open Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling
Herd of caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izuru Toki / Flickr
The U.S. Senate has passed a Republican tax-reform package that contains a provision to authorize oil drilling on the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, placing the biological heart of one of our last pristine, untouched places in severe peril.
"This vote to deface and pollute one of the nation's last pristine and untouched wild landscapes is outrageous," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement after the Senate passed the tax package. "The Arctic Refuge drilling provision has no legitimate place in a tax bill, and this backdoor political deal now threatens to destroy the crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, attached her drilling bill to the tax legislation under the budget reconciliation process as a way of getting the unpopular measure passed with a mere 51 votes, with no chance of a filibuster by Democratic senators who want to defend the refuge. The bill now needs to be reconciled with the House version, which does not include an Arctic Refuge drilling provision .
Unless the drilling provision is stripped from the legislation during negotiations with the House, it will be part of the final tax bill that goes to President Trump for his signature, allowing the fragile coastal plain to be auctioned off to the oil industry and undoing nearly 40 years of bipartisan support for protecting the Arctic Refuge.
At 19.3 million acres, the Arctic Refuge is America's largest wildlife refuge and provides habitat and birthing grounds for native caribou, polar bear and migrating birds from across the globe, and a diverse range of wilderness lands. Its 1.5 million-acre coastal plain—stretching north from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean—provides vital denning habitat for endangered polar bears and is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, which contains nearly 200,000 animals.
Oil and gas drilling would have devastating impacts on this pristine and fragile ecosystem, caused by the massive infrastructure needed to extract and transport oil. Drilling the Arctic is risky, would fragment vital habitat and chronic spills of oil and other toxic substances onto the fragile tundra would forever scar this now pristine landscape and disrupt its wildlife.
"This fight is not over," Williams said in his statement after Senate Republicans passed their bill in the middle of the night. "The oil industry and its allies in Congress may think they can sneak this past the American people, but communities across the country are speaking out every day. They are calling on principled leaders in Congress to reject this poison pill and oppose a tax bill that would drill the refuge."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Europe is gearing up for another extreme heat wave that could set all-time records for several European countries.
Micro-Naps for Plants: Flicking the Lights on and off Can Save Energy Without Hurting Indoor Agriculture Harvests
By Kevin M. Folta
A nighttime arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport flies you over the bright pink glow of vegetable production greenhouses. Growing crops under artificial light is gaining momentum, particularly in regions where produce prices can be high during seasons when sunlight is sparse.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) former head of the Office of Air and Radiation who was instrumental in drafting policies that eased climate protection rules and pollution standards is under investigation by a federal watchdog for his dealings with the fossil fuel industry he was supposed to be regulating, according to the New York Times.
It's no secret that the Trump administration has championed fossil fuels and scoffed at renewable energy. But the Trump administration is trying to keep something secret: the climate crisis. That's according to a new analysis from the watchdog group Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) who found that more than a quarter of the references to climate change on .gov websites vanished.
By Adrienne Hollis
Climate change is a threat multiplier. This is a fact I know to be true. I also know that our most vulnerable populations, particularly environmental justice communities — people of color and/or low socioeconomic status — are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the adverse effects of climate change. Case in point? Extreme heat.