US House votes to block drilling in Arctic Refuge; bill unlikely to become law

(Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

The U.S. House today voted to close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. But, as Alaska Congressman Don Young pointed out, there’s almost no chance the Senate will pass it.

 “You’re wasting our time,” Young told drilling opponents during the floor debate. “It will not go anywhere. That’s why I’m not going to get really excited and go over there and – never mind.”

“Well, I thank the gentleman for his restraint,” joked Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., the bill’s prime sponsor.

Huffman cited opposition to drilling among Gwich’in communities south of the refuge. Young said Huffman should listen to more Alaskans.

“The Gwich’in is all this gentleman listens to. Doesn’t listen to the (Inupiat),” Young said. “And that to me is important: The people that live there want the drilling. The people at least 150 miles away don’t want the drilling, but that’s who they’re listening to.”

It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which the Republican leadership of the Senate would consider Huffman’s bill.

The House vote, though, shows Democrats are still trying to slow the Trump administration’s momentum on ANWR.

The vote was 225-193 voted against it. Four Republicans crossed the aisle to vote yes. Five Democrats were among the “no” votes. 

So far, it’s produced no sign of a pause from the administration. A few hours after the House vote, the Bureau of Land Management released its final environmental report on oil leasing in the refuge. Officials said they plan to hold the first ANWR lease sale by the end of the year.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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