Republicans Want to Pay for Tax Cuts by Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Activists attend a news conference on Republican sponsored legislation that would open the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)Activists attend a news conference on Republican-sponsored legislation that would open the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

The fact that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski wants to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in her home state to oil and gas companies is news to no one in Congress.

Murkowski’s father fought to open the refuge to drilling for years when he served in Congress during the 1980s and 1990s. Alaska’s state budget depends on oil revenues and has suffered as fuel prices dropped in recent years. Geologists say billions of barrels could be found under the refuge if only oil companies were allowed to look.

The fact that environmentalists and most Democrats loathe the idea of setting up oil platforms and pipelines in a sanctuary for caribou and polar bears is also no surprise. The prospect of drilling in the “crown jewel” of the nation’s wildlife refuge system has been a hot debate item in Congress for decades, and it flared up again at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Wednesday, as Chairwoman Murkowski and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) faced off over Murkowski’s latest attempt to open the refuge to drilling.

“The fact that oil prices have fallen and a state is over-reliant on oil does not mean we should destroy a wildlife refuge today,” said Cantwell, who added that the purpose of the refuge is to protect wildlife, not oil interests.

Unfortunately for Cantwell and environmentalists, Democrats are in the minority and a fossil fuel fiend lives in the White House. Murkowski was able to pass a resolution to open the refuge for drilling through her committee on Wednesday by a 13-10 vote, largely along party lines. The resolution is attached to the tax overhaul bill, which the GOP is attempting to pass under the budget reconciliation process to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

Whether Republicans are able to pass Murkowski’s resolution along with…

Read more