Drilling bills again threaten Western Arctic and other American wildlands

Some members of Congress want to overturn a popular decision that would protect caribou and other wildlife habitat in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. 

USGS

A few members of Congress are aiming to gut a decision by the Obama Administration to protect sensitive habitat in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The effort is part of a trio of bad drilling bills resurfacing in the House this week, proving that while Congress has its wilderness champions, it also has its share of wilderness foes who just won't quit when it comes to legislation that attacks wildlands

These latest bills are retreads of legislation that was introduced last Congress, one of the most anti-wilderness Congresses in history. Like last year’s editions, each of these bills threatens American wild lands, putting oil and gas drilling above recreation, wildlife, water quality and other values that our public lands hold.

H.R. 1964, explicitly repeals a popular decision we helped gain from the Obama administration to protect 11 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska. That plan kept more than 70% of the oil in the NPR-A available to drilling, while also protecting 95% of the most critical wildlife habitat. It was basically a win-win plan that H.R. 1964 would completely overturn. In addition, it would force drilling in almost all of the NPR-A, along with blanketing the area with roads and pipelines.

Next in the trio of drilling bills is an unnecessary bill – H.R. 1965 – that tries to grant more drilling permits to an oil and gas industry that isn’t using them.  H.R. 1965 would hamstring the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to make thoughtful decisions about approval of drilling permits, and instead force their approval, regardless of environmental impacts. This is despite a continuing backlog of nearly 7,000 approved but unused drilling permits held by the oil and gas industry.

Finally, there is H.R. 1394, which would make energy development the number one use of public lands.  This would radically change the current law, which states that public lands are for multiple uses – things like recreation, wildlife habitat, ensuring a stable water supply, etc.  Instead, under this bill, all lands managed by the BLM would only be for energy. Hiking and biking trails, hunting lands, and endangered species habitat would all be less important than energy development under this bill.

These repeat bills threaten America’s wildest places, and Congress should leave them to the same fate as last time – languishing in the dark and expiring at the end of the term.

Check out our tweets from the House hearing for HR1964 - the bill to gut protections for the western Arctic: 

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