Credit: Florian Schulz
A serious situation has developed in Congress, and it poses a severe threat to one of the wildest and most pristine places we have left—Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The U.S. House of Representatives released a proposed 2018 budget that, if passed, would essentially authorize oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to polar bears, grizzlies, musk oxen and tens of thousands of caribou. It is a national treasure and one of the last remnants of wild America. This is not an appropriate place for oil development, roads and noisy infrastructure.
The refuge originated as the Alaska National Wildlife Range in 1960, and later joined our National Wildlife Refuge System. Ever since, the oil industry’s allies in Congress have tried to open the refuge for drilling, but they have always failed because of strong public opposition to any bill that would sell our Arctic Refuge to the highest bidders.
After decades of failed attacks, new effort to target Arctic Refuge
Now, the oil industry’s allies in the House have resorted to sneaky tactics and hijacked the federal budget process to authorize drilling. It takes only a few moments to urge your own congressional delegation to oppose this dirty budget.
The porcupine caribou herd migrating to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Florian Schulz
Here’s how the threat was set in motion: by including instructions for the House Natural Resources Committee to generate $5 billion over 10 years— the Budget Committee has authorized the Resources Committee to write new laws to raise that money. And – you guessed it – Chairman Bishop is expected to say that to raise that money, he will open the Arctic Refuge to oil development. The reason for this complicated backdoor maneuver? First, Congressional leaders know that this is unpopular policy that would enrage America if they did this in the day of light. Second, unlike other laws, the final budget bill is protected from the filibuster so will only require 50 votes to pass in the Senate.
Drilling in the Arctic is dirty and dangerous. Oil and gas development and the accompanying air, water and noise pollution would threaten the existence of wildlife in the refuge and harm indigenous populations that rely on this ecosystem for subsistence hunting.
The Arctic Refuge is in peril and the stakes have never been higher, but the fight is far from over. With your help, we will win this battle to protect the Arctic Refuge for our children and grandchildren.