WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 11, 2019) — Leaders in the U.S. Senate today introduced the Arctic Refuge Protection Act to designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a wilderness area and protect its sensitive coastal plain from oil and gas leasing and development. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (MA); Sen. Michael Bennet (CO); Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA); Sen. Tom Carper (DE); Sen. Charles Schumer (NY); and Sen. Tom Udall (NM).
The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge was recommended for wilderness status under its current Comprehensive Conservation Plan—issued in 2015—but the Trump administration ignored this recommendation and instead fast-tracked efforts to hold a lease sale by the end of this year to allow oil drilling in this sacred place. Against the wishes of the 70 percent of people across the United States who favor permanent protection for the coastal plain, it was opened for leasing and development by a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Drilling in the Arctic Refuge could have disastrous effects for people and wildlife. The coastal plain provides vital habitat for polar bears, migratory birds and other species and is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Indigenous Gwich’in communities have a spiritual connection to the Arctic Refuge and depend on the caribou to maintain their culture and way of life.
The Arctic is ground zero for climate change. Temperatures there are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. Villages are eroding into the sea, thawing permafrost is making infrastructure insecure, and food sources are disappearing. Oil drilling would compound the devastating climate impacts already being felt in the Arctic Refuge and cause permanent harm to future generations.