Senators vote for Arctic Refuge drilling based on inflated numbers

Nov 15, 2017

The Porcupine Caribou Herd, estimated at nearly 200,000 animals, travels hundreds of miles each year to reach its calving ground on the coastal plain, which is the biological hear of the Arctic Refuge.


The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today approved a bill that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bill’s supporters claim such drilling would raise $1 billion in revenue to offset tax cuts, despite best estimates indicating that revenue target is highly unrealistic.

In response to today’s committee vote, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from its president, Jamie Williams:

“It is unconscionable that this committee has voted to give the oil industry one of the last pristine, untouched places we have left, over the objection of the American people. For nearly 40 years, there has been bipartisan support in Congress and across the nation for protecting the Arctic Refuge.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the Arctic Refuge for future generations. Every American must urge their senators to vote against this bill as it goes to the full Senate.”

Because Congress has never passed a stand-alone Arctic Refuge drilling bill, Republicans are trying to use the budget reconciliation process to open the refuge to industry. Budget reconciliation can pass in the Senate with only 51 votes, bypassing the normal 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, and is traditionally used to reconcile differences between various pieces of spending legislation and tax legislation at the end of each year.

The amount of revenue the federal government could raise depends on the number of acres leased, the price per acre leased, and the distribution of revenue between the U.S. Treasury and the state of Alaska. The Trump administration claims $1 to $1.8 billion could be raised by lease sales alone in the next 10 years. The Center for American Progress, meanwhile, finds no more than $37.5 million in federal revenue could be raised from leases over the same period, or just 2 percent of the administration’s estimate.