Per the LA Times, the Trump administration announced Thursday its final plan to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, giving the petroleum industry access to the pristine wildland for the first time.
Proponents of the plan like Senator Lisa Murkowski call this a key step to U.S. Energy Independence.
Many environmentalists oppose drilling in the Alaska arctic.
The plan would allow oil leasing on 1.56 million acres of the 19-million-acre refuge. The proposal — which would open the entire coastal plain to the energy industry — was seen as the most extreme of three options considered by the Interior Department.
Supporters have argued it will result in a windfall for the federal Treasury and revive Alaska’s struggling economy. But opponents have said that opening the refuge to oil leasing could do irreversible damage to a region already destabilized by warming temperatures and other effects of climate change. The refuge is home to large numbers of polar bears, caribou, wolves and migratory birds.
“Unfortunately, this sham environmental impact statement ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence that demonstrates the unprecedented risks to wildlife that would result from drilling in the Coastal Plain,” said Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, a conservation group. “Alaskans, tribes and conservationists all agree that this is the wrong approach.”
The plan is expected to face legal challenges from environmentalists.
Opening the refuge to oil leasing has been a long-held dream of Republicans in Congress, in particular Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has argued that drilling is key to U.S. energy independence. Until President Trump’s election, Democrats and environmentalists successfully fought off these efforts.
But in 2017, Murkowski added a provision to the GOP tax cut bill that required the Interior Department to allow oil and gas leasing on 1.5 million acres within the refuge’s coastal plain. It also mandated that the agency hold at least two lease sales by 2025.
Murkowski on Thursday called the Interior Department’s final plan a “major step forward.” She said she was “hopeful we can now move to a lease sale in the very near future, just as Congress intended.”
This article was written by the staff of TheConservativeOpinion.com
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