ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday would permanently prevent resource development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The bill, co-sponsored by six Democratic senators, would designate the Coastal Plain of ANWR as wilderness, stopping an oil and gas lease sale planned before the end of the year.
Thank you @SenatorBennet @SenatorCantwell @SenatorCarper @SenMarkey @SenSchumer @SenatorTomUdall for introducing a bill to #ProtectTheArctic from oil drilling! The Arctic National #WildlifeRefuge is America's last true wilderness! pic.twitter.com/eshEMd6Bhw— National Wildlife Refuge Association (@WildRefuge) September 11, 2019
Environmental groups applauded the news with many sending representatives to Washington D.C. to urge passage of the bill.
"On behalf of the Gwich'in Nation, we thank our congressional leaders for listening to the voice of our people,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “When we have people in leadership that respect human rights and Indigenous voices, we know that change is happening.”
“The Gwich'in have a cultural and spiritual connection to the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Our way of life and the caribou have been connected for thousands of years.”
Alaska’s Congressional Delegation has long spearheaded efforts to develop the area for oil and gas extraction. After decades of debate, Congress passed a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would open up the Coastal Plan for leasing and development.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a resolution is expected to go to a floor vote Thursday that would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from administering the lease sale of the Coastal Plain.
Getting 60 votes in a Republican controlled Senate would be a tough lift. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said the legislation is going "to go nowhere while I'm a senator."
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