Audubon Advisory

Senate Takes Next Step Toward Drilling in the Arctic Refuge

The U.S. Senate is continuing to advance the unprecedented threat to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week on opening the Arctic Refuge to drilling—a significant step in drilling proponents' goal to include it in the tax bill. The committee released legislation that would open the Refuge to drilling earlier this week, and is expected to vote on the bill next week.

The committee action follows a previous vote in October on the Senate budget, which included language that would lead to drilling in the Arctic Refuge. The budget called on the Energy Committee to raise an additional $1 billion of revenue. As expected, the hearing focused entirely on drilling in the Arctic Refuge as the means to raise this revenue. [Related: Opening the Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling: Simply Irresponsible]

Some of the witnesses at last week's hearing voiced significant concerns over the attempt to drill in the Arctic Refuge. Sam Alexander, a member of the Alaska Native Gwich’in tribe, stated that the “the land is essential to our way of life; it provides us sustenance, and we view it as sacred.” Numerous Senators expressed concerns, led by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the ranking member of the committee, relating to impacts on wildlife. Drilling would cause permanent impacts on birds, caribou, and polar bears, and would mean the loss of one of our last wild landscapes through widespread industrialization of the coastal plain. Senators and witnesses also raised questions about the ability to raise the necessary revenue required by the bill. Yesterday, 37 Arctic wildlife scientists sent a letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell outlining their opposition to drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Next, as part of the broader tax bill, the full Senate and House will need to vote on the bill. Please keep writing to your Senators and Representatives to ask them to remove the Arctic Refuge from this process.

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