Drilling opponents in U.S. House launch bill to close ANWR

A view of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. A bill was filed in the U.S. House of representatives to close ANWR to drilling, Monday. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images)
In the U.S. House, opponents of development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (northern Alaska) filed a bill Monday that would end the possibility of drilling in the refuge.

“It is time for this administration to listen, and regardless of what they do, we are speaking out, and we are not going to let this happen,” said one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif. The bill has 101 co-sponsors, including one Republican: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

The bill would delete the section of the 2017 tax law that opened the door to drilling. Its chances are comparatively good in the House, but dim to non-existent in the Senate. Prime sponsor Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said he’s not thinking about that.

Rep. Jared Huffman, left, sponsored a bill to close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, right, is a co-sponsor. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

“Others can handicap the prospects and the viability,” Huffman said. “I simply see a moral and environmental imperative to push this through as fast and as far as possible.”

Huffman said the administration is in a hurry to hold a lease sale, because once oil companies have a property stake in the refuge, it will be more complicated to close the area to drilling.

Environmental groups hope to make the refuge an election-year issue.

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said the bill will “sharpen the conversation” in Congress. He said polling his organization conducted last year, in 26 districts that had a close House race, shows Americans want to protect the refuge.

“It’s an important issue, and the politics are on our side,” Karpinski said. “It’s good policy, and good politics.”

Political science research has shown that public opinion on ANWR can vary dramatically, depending on how the question is asked.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Northern Canada: Northwest Territories gov, mining company sign agreement on benefits of proposed mine, CBC News

Finland: Gold mining in northern Finland hurts reindeer, says Natural Resources Institute, Yle News

Norway: Urgent action needed to protect Arctic Ocean, WWF says, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Large ore mine to be developed in remote Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Why some northerners will welcome Sweden’s relaxed shoreline protection rules, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. government shutdown will doom Arctic projects in court, critics say, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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