Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today voted against the Senate Republican plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting.
Republicans in Congress claim drilling in the Arctic Refuge is necessary to fill a $1 billion hole in the Republican budget. However, similar lease sales near the North Slope of Alaska have not come close to raising that amount of money, according to news reports.
“Congressional Republicans are using fuzzy math to justify their scheme to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and destroy one of the last pristine landscapes on Earth,” Wyden said. “The reality is the potential for harm created by drilling in the Arctic Refuge is far greater than any perceived benefits to American families or businesses. If this misguided Republican attempt to line the pockets of oil company executives goes forward, the damage cannot be undone.”
Wyden also filed four amendments that would:
· Stop all drilling efforts and lease sales if oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge does not raise the amount of money — $725 million – the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it will by the end of fiscal year 2022. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., cosponsored the amendment, which Republicans blocked.
· Require that any oil and gas exploration and production efforts comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
· Limit the amount of land oil and gas companies can use for drilling infrastructure by counting bodies of water they drain to make ice roads toward the 2,000 acre cap outlined in the bill.
· Block drilling in the Refuge until all land disputes are resolved. Currently, there is a dispute between the state of Alaska and the federal government regarding the boundaries of the Refuge, including the area the Republican bill would open to oil and gas drilling.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1960 to protect from development one of the last untouched areas in North America, preserve a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals and safeguard the unique recreational values of Northern Alaska. Opening the area to drilling would do untold, irreversible damage to a landscape that remains one of the most majestic places on Earth.
Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.