The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a national wildlife refuge, that consists of 19,286,722 pristine acres in the North Slope region in northeastern Alaska and it has been under federal protection since 1960.
Opening ANWR, for the first time ever, to oil drilling was included in the massive debt hike legislation that was approved by Congress.
The measure would authorize oil leasing within the refuge’s 1.5?million-acre coastal plain, a move opponents called both destructive and dishonest.
The plan also includes sizable subsidies for the oil and gas industry and slashes federal investments in clean energy efforts that aim to combat the growing danger of climate change.
“It’s a sorry day for the country,” says Natural Resources Defense Council’s president, Rhea Suh. “This blows out the debt to enrich those who least need it—and leaves our kids to pay the price.”
The provision was buried in the Republican tax bill because it could not have passed on its own, said opponents in the Senate, environmentalists and indigenous people. The tax scheme protects the oil and gas industry while cutting clean energy initiatives and destroying millions of acres of nature.
Opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pledge to continue their fight to protect the fragile ecological resources there using every means possible, vowing lawsuits, demonstrations at banks and shareholders’ meetings and other protest action against companies that seek to drill for oil.
“As if this tax bill were not terrible enough, it goes after one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “This is the biological heart of the refuge and will drive a stake right through it.”
The move to defend the refuge from fossil fuel operations began in 1953, and it first became a federal protected area in 1960 by order of Fred Andrew Seaton, Secretary of the Interior under U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1980, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The bill was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December, 2, 1980.
Much of the debate over whether to drill on the coastal plain, known as the “1002 area” of ANWR rests on the amount of economically recoverable oil, as it relates to world oil markets, weighed against the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the natural wildlife, in particular the calving ground of the Porcupine caribou.
Indeed, the tax scheme is heavily skewed toward helping big business and the wealthy—and pads the profits of polluters. A 2012 study by NRDC and the Center for American Progress found that oil and gas companies alone receive $8 billion in tax benefits every year, and the Trump administration has been increasing those benefits with recent actions to lower royalty rates paid to the government.
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