Democratic leaders, indigenous groups, say 'no' to Alaskan drilling

A USGS study finds there are billions of commercial barrels in a reserve area so long as oil is priced above $30 per barrel.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Dec. 7, 2017 at 7:01 AM
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Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Alaskans who rely on the state's pristine resources for survival don't want the drilling outlined in the Republican tax bill, members of the indigenous community said.

A $1.4 trillion, 479-page tax reform bill passed along partisan lines early Saturday morning with Republican leaders in the Senate pushing the measure through on a 51-49 margin. The bill contains a section drafted by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would open up a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drillers.

Members of the indigenous communities in Alaska were joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., in voicing opposition to the effort to drill in ANWR.

"The Inupiaq people do not want this drilling," Adrienne Titus, an Inupiaq, said in a statement emailed to UPI from the nation's capital. "We do not want to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling,"

The Inupiaq tribe was joined by other indigenous communities that said drilling in the Arctic refuge would threaten calving grounds and their subsistence way of life.

Alaska's government in 2014 awarded oil and gas drilling licenses after clarifying authority near the border of the wildlife refuge. Murkowski's office said the section of ANWR, the so-called 1002 Area, is a non-wilderness portion of the refuge and her provision would carve out only a "small portion" of the acreage for oil and gas drilling.

Congressional measures designating ANWR deferred action on the 1002 area because of the oil and gas potential, as well as its importance as a wildlife habitat. Native lands are situated within the northeastern coastal plain of the area.

A study from the U.S. Geological Survey found most of the oil was in the western section of the ANWR 1002 area and recovery depends on the price of oil. A USGS fact sheet found as much of 10.4 billion barrels of oil would be considered commercial with oil priced at $30 per barrel.

After the tax bill passed, Advocacy group Earthjustice said Republicans in the Senate moved in stark contrast to constituents who seemed to be in favor of conservation over oil and gas interests. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen pledged to "fight hard" to defeat the measure.

The United States is already a world leader in oil production with a current capacity above 9 million barrels per day.

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