Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senate Republicans have proposed a provision in the budget that could allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Photo: Dusty Vaughn/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr)

#ProtectTheArctic: Senate Battle Underway to Stop GOP From ANWR Drilling

"Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling won't balance the budget, but it will break the trust of the American people who object to a greedy few robbing us of our irreplaceable natural heritage."

Jessica Corbett

Conservation groups and Senate Democrats have come together in hopes of thwarting Congressional Republicans' attempts to include a provision in the federal budget resolution that would allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska.

The legislation does not explicitly mention ANWR, but calls on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to pass additional legislation to raise $1 billion over the next decade—which environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers warn would likely come from drilling for oil in the refuge that has been federally protected for the past 40 years.

In recent weeks, environmental, wildlife, and natural resources groups have sounded alarms about the importance of preserving ANWR. Conservationists Martin Roberts and George Schaller wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday:

The Arctic refuge must continue to be preserved as a symbol of America's natural heritage. It remains a healthy ecosystem supporting wildlife, and native peoples as they adapt to profound climate-related changes. True wilderness holds a spiritual value that can nourish us. That is why the American public enjoys its national parks, monuments, and other protected areas.

There will always be pro-development forces and those with political agendas who are prepared to dismantle, cripple, gut, and destroy our natural heritage for short-term gain, heedless of the long-term cost to us as a civilization. In that effort they forget that everything we want, need and have comes from nature.

Congress should stop its headlong rush to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and extraction. Surely patriotism encompasses the protection of the most pristine and beautiful representations of America.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)—joined by leaders of conservation organizations—gave a press conference on Tuesday to state their opposition to the ANWR provision.

Calling it "nothing more than a Big Oil polar payout," Markey also noted, "we are reaching out to Republicans to try to make this as bipartisan as we can." Securing support from GOP senators in favor the Democrats' amendment to protect ANWR will be necessary; because the provision is part of the budget, it could pass by a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

"It is unnecessary and simply wrong to destroy an incomparable wilderness that serves as our nation's most important polar bear nursery, provides essential habitat for the world-renowned Porcupine caribou herd and supports more than 200 species of migratory birds."
—Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife

However, winning over Republicans could prove difficult, as demonstrated when Cantwell—the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee—rattled off recent moves by the Trump administration and GOP-led Congress to roll back environmental regulations and cater to interests of the oil and natural gas industry.

"We know that our public lands are under assault," she declared. "Now, on top of that, they're going to try to open up the most beautiful, pristine wildlife refuge that we have in the United States of America," Cantwell continued, vowing to "resist" Republican efforts "to turn public lands over to polluters, and to those who want to take away from taxpayers the unbelievable recreational opportunities that we hold so dear."

"Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling won't balance the budget," said Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark, "but it will break the trust of the American people who object to a greedy few robbing us of our irreplaceable natural heritage."

"It is unnecessary and simply wrong to destroy an incomparable wilderness that serves as our nation's most important polar bear nursery, provides essential habitat for the world-renowned Porcupine caribou herd and supports more than 200 species of migratory birds," she said. "We stand with champions in the Senate in opposing this underhanded budget scam."

Watch:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing Need for 'New, Inclusive Leadership,' Chuy García Files for Chicago Mayoral Race

"We have an opportunity to elect a trusted and experienced leader with a history of building coalitions and a vision for a brighter future for all Chicagoans," said the Democratic congressman.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Cyber Monday, Climate Activists Take Aim at Fashion Industry

"The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries globally. We can all do better, but it's on companies to make this industry better for workers, the planet, and consumers alike."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Accused of Selling Out Rail Workers by Urging Congress to Prevent Strike

"Biden is siding with corporate rail bosses over the rank-and-file workers who voted against this agreement," said one progressive commentator after the president urged lawmakers to take action to force through a deal without paid sick leave.

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·


Biden Mulls Sending Long-Range Missiles to Ukraine

While Ukrainians and supporters welcomed Boeing's proposal to arm Ukrainian forces with long-range precision-guided bombs, one anti-war voice accused the American military-industrial complex of "dictating the U.S. foreign policy and profiteering from wars."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo