By Ari Natter
The House is poised to vote Thursday to again bar oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as Democrats seek to put Republicans on the record on tough environmental issues for the 2020 election.
The legislation by California Democratic Representative Jared Huffman would repeal a law passed by Republicans in 2017 that ended a 40-year-old ban on drilling in the protected wilderness area and instead mandated lease sales in a coastal portion of the 19-million-acre refuge.
“The Trump administration is now recklessly rushing to ruin the Arctic refuge with oil rigs,” Huffman told reporters. “Overwhelmingly, Americans don’t want this to happen.”
The bill, which is expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled House, caps off a week of anti-drilling legislation. The House voted Wednesday to limit drilling in U.S. coastal waters, including an effort to permanently ban rigs near Florida.
The measures have virtually zero chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, but the Democratic challenge to President Donald Trump’s pro-drilling agenda arises as voters say climate and other environmental issues are of increasing importance to them.
House Republicans have countered by offering an energy bill of their own they said would create jobs and lessen dependence on foreign adversaries, while warning Democratic restrictions would lead to increased energy costs.
The Republican measure would give coastal states a 50% share of oil and gas revenue from the Gulf of Mexico and allow states to take over permitting functions.
“America is rich with energy resources, and developing them will create jobs, strengthen our economy, and protect our national security,” said Representative Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican.