Murkowski bill calls for at least two major lease sales in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge By Juliet Eilperin - November 9
Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) released legislation Wednesday that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling for the first time in a generation by calling for at least two major lease sales over the next decade. The budget measure directs federal officials to auction off mineral rights in areas encompassing at least 400,000 acres each in the refuge’s coastal plain, also known as its “1002 area.” The measure requires at least a 16.67 percent royalty rate and dictates that the revenue would be evenly split between the federal government and Alaska. Surface development on the coastal plain must not span more than 2,000 acres, according to the bill. The Energy 202 newsletter Your daily guide to the energy and environment debate. Sign up [Trump quietly moves to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] Murkowski, who has scheduled a markup on the bill for Nov. 15, said the measure represents “a tremendous opportunity for both Alaska and our country.” The Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report published Wednesday that such sales, the first of which must take place within four years of the bill’s enactment, would raise nearly $1.1 billion over the next decade. The money would help offset tax cuts Republicans hope to enact as part of a broader tax reform bill. “Estimates of bonus bids for leases in ANWR are uncertain,” the CBO cautioned, noting that potential bidders would compare the opportunity costs of drilling there to other spots around the globe. It added that it did not anticipate the federal government would collect any royalties before 2027, given the time it takes to launch such operations. Environmentalists have questioned those projections, noting that recent sales on Alaska’s North Slope have failed to produce the level of revenue that would generate that much money. Given the costs of exploration in the Arctic, oil prices typically must be at least $70 a barrel to justify drilling. Right now, West Texas crude is selling for just under $57 a barrel. Opponents of drilling note that Congress has held off authorizing exploration in the refuge for more than three decades, partly out of concern that it could damage the habitat for polar bears, caribou, migrating waterfowl and other species. President Barack Obama called on Congress to designate it as wilderness, which would permanently bar energy exploration there, and ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage it as wilderness in the interim. Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement that it could give oil buried beneath the refuge “to China and other countries hungry for exports.” “It would allow roads, pipelines, gravel mines and well pads to be erected across the entire birthing grounds of the Coastal Plain, where caribou calve and where polar bear mothers den,” Kolton added. But Republicans see the drilling measure as a crucial way to raise revenue for their broader budget bill, and the idea enjoys support from the Trump administration. The Interior Department is exploring whether to allow seismic exploration in the 19.6 million-acre refuge for the first time in more than 30 years, but only Congress can greenlight oil and gas drilling there. Alaska’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan (R); its sole House member, Don Young (R); and its governor, Bill Walker (I), released a joint statement with Murkowski endorsing the bill. “Much like Midwestern states harvest the resources that grow on the ground, like wheat and corn, Alaska must harvest the resources in our ground,” Walker said. The American Petroleum Institute’s upstream director, Erik Milito, said in a statement that studies suggest the refuge’s “coastal plain holds the largest undeveloped conventional oil resources to be found in the U.S., and projections show that increased production over the long-term is exactly what we need to meet domestic and global demand.” Moving the legislation through the budget process means Republicans can pass it with just 50 votes, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. In a vote last month aimed at blocking the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from authorizing drilling in the refuge, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) each broke party ranks, giving Republicans a 52-to-48 vote edge. On Thursday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, told reporters that her side would try to win over votes by warning senators that the bill could pave the way for drilling in national refuges elsewhere in the country. “The question is, what’s next? What other wildlife refuge in America are they going to mandate drilling in?” Cantwell asked. “And your area, and your state, might be next.”
Energy and Environment Senate votes to raise revenue by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge By Juliet Eilperin - October 19 at 11:08 PM
Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) The Senate rejected an amendment Thursday that sought to block a key panel from raising revenue through drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move that could make it easier for future oil and gas drilling to take place there. Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, offered a budget amendment that would have removed instructions to the panel to raise an additional $1 billion through federal leasing. It failed 48 to 52 on a largely party-line vote, with only Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) breaking ranks. Collins voted in favor of Cantwell’s amendment, while Manchin opposed it. The vote, which came before the Senate approved Republicans’ proposed budget, represented a victory for the GOP and a defeat for environmentalists. The Trump administration is quietly moving to spur energy exploration in the refuge for the first time in more than 30 years by considering whether to allow seismic testing there, but only Congress can determine whether oil and gas drilling can take place within its 19.6 million acres. The Energy 202 newsletter Your daily guide to the energy and environment debate. Sign up Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told her colleagues that they should view the budget instructions “as an opportunity to do something constructive for the country.” “It’s about jobs, and job creation. It’s about wealth and wealth creation,” she said, adding that drilling in the refuge is “not the only option” for how her panel could find $1 billion in new revenue. “But I will tell you it is the best option, and it’s on the table.” Opponents of the plan say that such operations could imperil the refuge’s wildlife, which include polar bears as well as caribou and migrating waterfowl. David Yarnold, CEO of the National Audubon Society, said in a recent interview that based on recent lease sales, the federal government would likely get only $9 million in revenue if it auctioned off the right to drill on the refuge’s coastal plain. “It’s just bad math,” Yarnold said, adding that when lawmakers predict this activity could raise $1 billion, “there’s no reason to believe that that’s going to happen.” [Trump quietly moves to open door to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] But Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) hailed the move as a sign that his state was inching closer to developing an area that’s been shut off from development for years. “This resolution is another key step that we’ve recently accomplished in a decades-long fight to allow Alaskans to produce energy in our state – something that Alaskans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, overwhelmingly support,” Sullivan said in a statement. “More American energy production means more good-paying jobs, increased economic growth, and a stronger national security.” Environmentalists said they would continue to fight any move to drill in the refuge, which has been subject to fights in Congress for years. “Today’s vote is a wakeup call for all Americans. Americans have fought for decades to protect this last remaining truly wild landscape, and are rallying today because they believe in taking action on climate change and want to defend the rights of the Native Gwich’in people,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, in a statement. “Every member of Congress who supported this scheme, to hijack the budget process to do the bidding of oil companies, needs to hear loud and clear that we are determined to defend ‘America’s Serengeti.’”
Letters to the Editor
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is too important to exploit
A polar bear in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (SUBHANKAR BANERJEE/Associated Press) - October 29
Regarding Dino Grandoni’s Oct. 27 Energy 202 column, “White House has power to let firms drill in large area in Alaska. And drill they will.”: Some places in our nation are simply too special, too sacred to drill. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last truly wild places, is among them. The refuge supports an impressive diversity of wildlife: caribou, polar bears, wolves, musk oxen and many species of migratory birds. It’s obvious that Congress and President Trump care more about filling the pockets of the oil industry than about Americans, who strongly support protecting the refuge. Our country has a proud, bipartisan tradition of standing together to protect the Arctic against the greed of millionaires and corporate polluters. A majority of Americans do not want to see this precious landscape developed and drilled . This dangerous proposal would put profits over the values of hardworking people.
The GOP tries to trade polar bears for tax cuts
A polar bear swims in the water. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock) By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer November 10
Desperation seems to be driving Republicans this grateful season as they seek to trade polar bears for tax cuts, while fervently praying that former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore didn’t do what he’s alleged to have done, which might give the U.S. Senate another Democratic vote. The race is on to pass tax reform before Dec. 12, when Alabama will select a new senator to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore, best known as the “Ten Commandments judge,” has been accused of having pursued teenage girls several decades ago when he was in his 30s. He is set to face off against Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted two of the Klansmen accused of setting off the bomb in a Birmingham church that killed four African American girls in 1963. Paging Flannery O’Connor. Not that this evolving Southern gothic narrative needs a fiction writer’s labors. Even O’Connor, who once explained Southerners’ tendency to write about “freaks” because “we are still able to recognize one,” would be hard-pressed to embellish the already weird. We might also ping William Faulkner while we’re at it, who noted that the past isn’t past. In Alabama, where I once worked as a reporter, the past just keeps on truckin’. Read These Comments The best conversations on The Washington Post Sign up In the wake of these accusations by four women, including one who was 14 at the time of Moore’s alleged advances, several Republican senators have offered cautious remarks, saying that “if true,” then Moore should step aside. If true, Moore should probably have reread those commandments more closely rather than forcing his courtroom audiences to study them as he presided over others’ moral failings. While it is neither right nor fair to condemn another without due process, the statute of limitations is well past on these allegations, which were published by Post reporters who spent a month interviewing dozens of people in addition to the accusers. In the case of one teen, Moore allegedly offered alcohol to his underage date and modeled his “tight white” underwear. The swirl of allegations arrived at a moment when it seemed likely that Moore was to become Alabama’s senator. The state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the office in more than 20 years. As momentum builds for Moore’s possible retreat and optimism grows among Alabama Democrats, Republicans desperate to pass something before year’s end have been trying to pull elephants out of hats. Or something. In addition to proposing tax cuts for the rich, they’ve turned from draining the swamp to thawing the Arctic to scrounge up more money. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has introduced a bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. Murkowski, usually the more rational member of Alaska’s Senate duo, seems to have fallen under the spell of the greedy brotherhood. If we were desperate for oil, her bill might make more sense, but we’re in the midst of a glut. Some environmentalists, meanwhile, have questioned the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that Arctic drilling would produce $1.1 billion over a decade. For this to be true, they say, oil would need to earn $70 per barrel. Yet, in West Texas today, a barrel of crude oil is selling for about $57. Obviously, this is only a $13 difference. And the refuge contains 19 million acres, of which Murkowski proposes exploiting only 800,000. For now. But what about later? And what refuge might be next? More than 100 years ago, when the first national wildlife refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt, we seemed to have a better sense of our role as wardens of our nation’s natural resources and the ecosystems that support wildlife. The idea that we no longer need to protect or manage animals humanely — or that they still have more than enough acreage to sustain them — ignores the reasons we created these protections in the first place and the reality that the planet does not, in fact, require our presence. The fact that this is a partisan issue simply ignores reason. That a few Republicans would sacrifice even a square inch of the Arctic unnecessarily for the profit of a political victory is, frankly, as stomach-turning as the image of a tighty-whitey-wearing Roy Moore pawing a 14-year-old. Surely, there’s a better way to make a buck — and a better soul to warm Sessions’s seat.