Natural Resources Committee Approves Huffman’s Bipartisan Bill to Block Arctic Wildlife Refuge Oil Drilling
Washington, D.C.- The House Committee on Natural Resources today approved, by a vote of 22 to 14, the bipartisan Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, legislation spearheaded by Chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The bill repeals a controversial provision included in President Trump’s 2017 tax law that started an oil and gas drilling process for the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today’s overwhelming vote is the last committee step for Huffman’s bill before a vote on the House floor.
“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. The Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain is one of those special places,” said Rep. Huffman in today’s Committee hearing.
The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act would protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling by repealing the controversial provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that mandated oil and gas leasing, development, and production in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge.
You can watch the clip or read the full text of Rep. Huffman’s speech in Committee below:
“This bill 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. The Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain is one of those special places. It’s home to more than 200 different wildlife species, including bird species that migrate from the refuge to states and districts across America represented by many, if not all of us on this committee.
You don’t have to have visited the refuge to be impacted and impressed by its ecological beauty, and as we heard during the subcommittee hearing on this bill, we know its ecological bounty has a great impact locally in Alaska. The Porcupine caribou herd is a vital source of subsistence for the indigenous Gwich’in people and the herd’s survival will be imperiled by oil and gas development.
During the Subcommittee hearing, I heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle point to evidence that the porcupine caribou herd is doing just fine, which is exactly the point. At a time in which the 2018 Arctic Report Card found that caribou populations across the Arctic had declined by 56% over the last two decades, the porcupine herd has shown strength because of the protections of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
In the face of climate change, let’s not mess up one of the few good things that are still going for caribou and the people who depend on them. I also want to make absolutely clear what this bill does, which is simply restore the Arctic Refuge to the status it had before the Republican tax bill of 2017. It doesn’t roll-back oil and gas development elsewhere in the state, it doesn’t shutdown activities in the neighboring National Petroleum Reserve, it does nothing to go after the existing jobs in oil and gas, it simply says you can’t expand into this one special place, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. No one living in communities like Kaktovik already working in current oil and gas production should feel threatened at all by this bill, so I urge my colleagues to support it and to oppose any weakening amendments.”