Five Democratic members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources introduced a bill on Tuesday to halt oil and gas drilling exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which the Trump administration is currently trying to implement.
According to a press release by vice-ranking committee member, Representative Jared Huffman of California, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act would protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling by repealing the "dangerous provision snuck in" by the Republicans in Congress into their 2017 tax law that mandated oil and gas leasing, development, and production in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge.
Calling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "a national treasure worth protecting for future generations," Huffman said it was not too late to keep drills out of this "iconic landscape".
"But time is not on our side: we need to repeal this oil and gas giveaway soon to ensure that the Artic Refuge’s coastal plain remains unspoiled for future generations to experience and enjoy," he added.
Ranking member Representative Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona said the ANWR was "too precious to hand over to oil and gas companies for oil that we don’t even need, and that the American people will see no benefit from".
"It's for these reasons and more that I’m a proud cosponsor of Congressman Huffman’s bill that would immediately stop the Trump administration from drilling in the Arctic Refuge and protect this pristine land from being handed over to big corporate polluters,” he said.
Adam Kolton, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League – a non-profit organization which seeks to protect Alaska’s wild lands – accused the Trump administration of making "a mad dash to lease" the region, which he said was "all about beating the political clock with no consideration for the wildlife, wilderness or subsistence values of this cherished landscape".
"Representative Huffman’s repeal bill is an opportunity to right a wrong perpetrated five months ago and restore protections to the wildest place left in America," Kolton added.
-Drilling in Arctic Refuge 'terrible idea'
Athan Manuel, director of the Oakland, CA-based Sierra Club's Lands Protection Program, which works on public lands, forests, wilderness, and wildlife issues, said drilling in the Arctic Refuge was a "terrible" idea acknowledged by both the American people and some of the world's most significant investors.
"It would threaten the food security and human rights of the Gwich'in [an Alaska native] people, contribute to climate change, and permanently destroy one of the world's last wild places, all for the benefit of corporate polluters," Manuel said.
"Now Congress has a chance to undo the dangerous and short-sighted decision to sell off this special place to corporate polluters. We applaud Representative Huffman for his leadership in protecting America's Refuge," he added.
The majority of Americans are "strongly opposed" to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, according to the press release, which cited a recent public opinion research commissioned by the Center for American Progress.
The polling showed that 67 percent of Americans opposed drilling in the Arctic Refuge, while a majority (52 percent) "strongly opposed".
Established in 1960 by then-Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers an area of 19.6 million acres (79,318 square km) in the northeast corner of Alaska.
The Arctic Refuge and its Coastal Plain is home to polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, muskoxen, and more than 130 species of migratory birds, according to the statement.
Representatives Alan Lowenthal of California, Donald McEachin of Virginia and Ruben Gallego of Arizona are the other Democratic members who introduced the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act.
By Hale Turkes