With budget, US House inches toward ANWR

The U.S. House unveiled a budget that could lead to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Image by USGS)

A budget blueprint in the U.S. House is reviving hopes for Alaskans who want to see the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge open to oil drilling.

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The budget plan does not actually discuss the Arctic refuge, in Alaska’s far Northeast. It calls on the House Natural Resources Committee to find $5 billion in cuts or revenues over a decade.

Environmental groups are sounding the alarm, saying that’s a back-handed way of directing the committee to put ANWR lease revenues in the budget package.

Matt Shuckerow, spokesman for Rep. Don Young, said that’s the congressman’s take on it, too.

Alaska’s Congressional delegation has been trying for decades to open the so-called 1002 area of the refuge. Adding it to the budget would be a way to get the legislation through the Senate with just 51 votes, rather than the usual 60.

The proposal, though, remains controversial in the Senate, where even some Republicans oppose the idea.

A House committee plans to take it up tomorrow.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.