“The notion that we, tonight, after 60-plus years, would give up what is a biologically important area … for what? For oil we don’t need?”
Almost every Senate Republican voted Thursday to block an amendment that would have protected a swath of the Alaskan Arctic from oil exploration, flouting attempts from Democrats and environmental groups to keep the region under government protection.
Democrats, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), were attempting to attach an amendment to the chamber’s budget plan that would bar drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers more than 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska. The region, described by the state’s tourism bureau as one of Alaska’s crown jewels, is home to polar bears, caribou, moose and hundreds of species of migratory birds.
“The notion that we, tonight, after 60-plus years, would give up what is a biologically important area, a critical habitat for polar bears, a breeding ground for caribou, migratory birds and over 200 species ― for what? For oil we don’t need?” Cantwell said on the Senate floor Thursday, according to The Hill.
Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have pushed to allow the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee (which Murkowski chairs) to pass legislation to raise $1 billion over the next decade. While a provision including the ANWR ― as the Arctic reserve is known ― isn’t explicit, environmental groups say government revenue from drilling permits in a portion of the refuge is a likely source to raise such money.
“Those who would support this amendment will deny us the opportunity to do something constructive in this country, when it comes to our opportunities to produce energy, to produce wealth,” Murkowski said. Parts of the ANWR that could be opened for drilling are thought to hold 10.3 billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.