Jimmy Carter

Trump Tax Cut Opens Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Petroleum Companies

After about 40 years of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from petroleum exploration and development, in December 2017, the Republican controlled Congress and Trump Administration hid within the tax cut legislation allowing oil leasing. According to the The Hill article, Mr. Trump boasted, “We’re going to start drilling in ANWR, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, that for 40 years this country was unable to touch. That by itself would be a massive bill…They’ve been trying to get that, the Bushes, everybody. All the way back to Reagan, Reagan tried to get it. Bush tried to get it. Everybody tried to get it,” he said. “They couldn’t get it passed. That just happens to be here.”

According to the Energy Information Agency EIA, In December 2017, “the passage of Public Law 115-97 required the Secretary of the Interior to establish and administer a competitive oil and natural gas program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in and from the coastal plain (1002 Area) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Previously, ANWR was effectively under a drilling moratorium.”

I still recall as a college student in 1980 the great excitement when President Carter announced protecting ANWR. Despite the Iranian oil embargo causing massive fuel shortages, he valued preserving wildlife and the environment leading to Mr. Carter’s announcement for energy independence using alternative sources and to restore American confidence. Protecting ANWR in 1980 is described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Act re-designated the Range as part of the larger, approximately 18 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated eight million acres as Wilderness, and designated three rivers as Wild. It also called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the Refuge coastal plain. In addition, ANILCA allowed KIC to relinquish their selected lands outside the Refuge and instead to select the remainder of their Corporation lands within the Arctic Refuge. Section 1003 of ANILCA states that the "production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress." The FWS website for ANWR describes the, “Arctic Refuge contains the largest area of designated Wilderness within the National Wildlife Refuge System, "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man." [The Wilderness Act, 1964].”

This year, when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, they and a few Republicans introduced the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act. However, like most of the multitude of other bills passed by the House, this bill is stuck in the Republican-led Senate.

Update: On Thursday, June 20th, I caught C-SPAN when full House voted to block oil drilling and seismic exploration for one year as part of the Department of Interior’s spending bill for 2020.