An effort to stop the Trump administration from opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling took a step forward in Congress this week.
In a 22-to-14 vote on Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill that seeks to amend the 2017 tax bill to remove the section that opened the refuge to drilling. Dubbed the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Act, the bill can now make its way to the House floor where all representatives will be given a chance to vote on its passage. While the bill stands a chance of passing the Democrat-controlled House, it’s unlikely that the Senate will pass the bill or that President Donald Trump will sign it. He, after all, wants to drill the shit out of ANWR.
The president ended decades of failed Republican attempts to open the refuge’s pristine 1.6 million acres of Coastal Plain to the fossil fuel industry in November 2017 with the passage of a tax restructuring package. Snuck into this bill package was a section permitting the opening of the Coastal Plain—and this recently passed bill is trying to repeal that section.
“The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act reflects a simple proposition, and that is there are some places too wild, too important, too special to be spoiled by oil and gas development,” said Rep. Jared Huffman of California during the hearing Wednesday, per a statement. “The Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain is one of those special places.”
The refuge is home to the largest swath of wilderness in the country. Polar bears live throughout it, as do grizzlies, Arctic foxes, and gray wolves. It’s also where the Porcupine caribou herd comes to calve every summer. Members of the Gwich’in First Nation depend on the caribou for food and their culture. In fact, many hunt throughout the lands of the refuge though they’d never step foot on the Coastal Plain. It’s too sacred.
“This is an important day for the Gwich’in people,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, which works to protect the refuge, in a statement. “The survival of our people depends on the sacred place where life begins which is in the Arctic Refuge, a place that keeps the Porcupine caribou herd healthy.”
There still isn’t a planned date for a House vote on the bill.