WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — For 60 years, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been environmentally protected by members of both parties. But in their waning days, the Trump Administration is pushing to approve the final step to allow drilling, logging and mining.
Officials are moving to approve land leases for drilling for oil and gas in the pristine region.
Rep. Mike Levin, a California Democrat, said the Trump Administration is “trying to do all they can to undermine decades of bipartisan progress that we’ve made on environmental protection.”
Drilling in the refuge was approved as part of the 2017 tax reform law and in a statement the Bureau of Land Management said it’s now simply trying to meet the law’s requirements.
Levin and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said the Democrats are fighting to stop the land leases.
Levin said the effort is to ensure “that the process is not short circuited for the, again, for the narrow interest of a handful of polluters.”
“A group of us wrote to 11 major banks and asked them not to provide financing for this drilling and the banks have all said, ‘You’re right, we will not finance this,'” Merkley said.
Marine ecologist and author Enric Sala works with governments to help protect wild lands and oceans. He said opening up the refuge to drilling will drastically impact global climate.
“Extracting that oil is not going to change the global price, the global oil market,” Sala said. “It would affect one of the most pristine, wild, wonderful places that we have left.”
Lawmakers say once the land leases are approved, reversing them would be difficult.
“Drilling activity is incredibly disruptive and damaging to this very fragile Arctic landscape,” Merkley said.