WASHINGTON – Today the Senate voted down a vigorously debated amendment to prevent Congress from advancing destructive drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of a multi-step budget process that is intended to be the basis for tax reform. Last month, a leaked Department of the Interior memorandum also revealed the Trump administration’s own plans to illegally roll back restrictions on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic refuge. Recently, the House also narrowly passed a budget resolution that includes Arctic refuge drilling despite bipartisan opposition to the provision. The upcoming congressional budget reconciliation process is now the final opportunity to remove the Arctic refuge drilling authorization from the budget.
This vote shows that the Senate would reject Arctic refuge drilling if this poison pill had not been snuck into a budget process that is not subject to regular legislative procedure, as standalone legislation opening the Arctic refuge to drilling would be subject to a filibuster. The following statement is from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:
“It is unconscionable that Congress is using the budget process to gain access to one of America’s last great wilderness landscapes. We look to legislators to strip this extraneous and controversial provision from the budget and save this vital wildlife refuge from the ravages of oil drilling. Congressional leaders need to make a choice: reject using the budget to ram through the Arctic refuge drilling agenda, or allow it to further complicate tax reform legislation.
“Right now polar bear mothers are preparing to hibernate and give birth on the coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Already contending with climate change, today’s vote casts their future into even greater doubt. Hundreds of bird species, as well as a vast caribou herd, muskoxen and wolves also stand to lose from drilling in the refuge. Enough already.”