US Senate Quietly Passes Alaska Oil-Drilling Bill

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/US-Senate-Quietly-Passes-Alaska-Oil-Drilling-Bill-20171203-0004.html

  • The 19.6-million acre refuge is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife

    The 19.6-million acre refuge is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife | Photo: Reuters FILE

“It’s outrageous that the oil lobby and their allies in Congress are trying to destroy the crown jewel of America’s wildlife refuge system.”

Late Saturday the United States Senate passed a Bill that will allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) – an area which has been protected since 1960.

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Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, managed to get a narrow 52-48 vote for the Bill – a part of the tax reform legislation – to pass.

The 19.6-million acre refuge is located in northeastern Alaska and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife, but also billions of barrels of crude oil underground.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will authorize the sale of oil and gas leases in a section of the ANWR on Alaska’s coastal plain that faces the Arctic Ocean.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, expressed displeasure with the passing of the bill, stating that “sacrificing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has absolutely no place in a tax bill” adding it was “outrageous that some politicians will do anything to sneak this sell-out past the American people”.

“It’s outrageous that the oil lobby and their allies in Congress are trying to destroy the crown jewel of America’s wildlife refuge system after nearly four decades of bipartisan support for protecting it,” Williams continued.

“Fortunately, this fight isn’t over, and we are committed to fighting this legislation every step of the way.

But, the resources committee head held an opposing perspective regarding the area.

“This small package offers a tremendous opportunity for Alaska, for the Gulf Coast, and for all of our nation,” Murkowski said, according to The Washington Examiner.

“We have authorized responsible energy development in the 1002 area.”

One committee member, Senator Maria Cantwell, told The Washington Examiner before the vote: “We don’t think this has been a fair and open process. The only way they have been able to get any place on this issue is to throw away the regular process.”

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GOP-Controlled Senate Paves Way for Oil Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/gop-controlled-senate-paves-way-for-oil-drilling-in-alaska-s-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The Senate Republicans’ narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the “backdoor drilling provision” through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

The budget was passed through a legislative tool known as reconciliation which only requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. The budget was approved 51-49, with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joining Democrats in opposition, paving the way for President Trump‘s tax overhaul proposal.

Drilling ANWR would raise revenue for Trump’s tax plan that cuts taxes for the rich.

ANWR, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.

“The budget passed by the Senate today sets in motion a sellout of some of our most iconic public lands and waters to the highest bidder, in order to fund tax breaks for billionaires,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is not a budget issue, and should not be part of the budget reconciliation process,” Van Noppen added. “This is a blatant attempt to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a divisive and controversial proposal that would lead us in the wrong direction on climate.”

Senate Democrats, led by Maria Cantwell of Washington, offered an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution that would block drilling in the Alaskan refuge but the measure failed 48-52 mostly along party lines.

Republicans led a “sneak attack” that turned “public lands over to polluters,” Cantwell said.

Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon also said that there is “something cynical and sad” about opening ANWR since it would increase oil output from a state being impacted by climate change the fastest.

Conservatives have sought for decades to open up parts of the refuge to create jobs and boost the energy sector. As Reuters reported, Republicans have targeted the so-called 1002 area on the Prudhoe Bay in Northern Alaska, which has an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has long championed opening up the Arctic Refuge to drilling, called the 1002 a “non wilderness area” since the government set it aside for petroleum exploration decades ago.

But Earthjustice noted that the targeted area hosts migratory bird species and endangered wildlife and is considered to be sacred to the indigenous Gwich’in people, who sustain themselves from the caribou that migrate there.

“Americans should be outraged at the shameless hijacking of the federal budget process. This fight is far from over,” said Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams. “Now is the time for Americans across the country to speak out. Congress cannot sneak this through the back door when they think nobody is looking. The Arctic Refuge is simply too fragile and special to drill, and we have a moral obligation to protect it for future generations of Americans.”

The Wilderness Society pointed out that the battle is not over yet.

“The Senate’s drilling provision is just the first step towards drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” the organization stated. “It requires the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to draft instructions to reduce the federal deficit through revenues created by oil and gas leasing in the refuge. The House has already passed a similar budget provision, but both houses of Congress must now work to reconcile their budget versions before final passage and delivery to the president.”

Alaska Pipeline Leaked Gas into Endangered Animals’ Habitat for Five Months

The area has been subjected to a number of gas and oil leaks.

An underwater gas pipeline in Alaska that had been leaking gas for almost five months has finally been repaired.

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The 8-inch diameter pipeline, which supplies gas for power to four Hilcorp Alaska, LLC production platforms, was found leaking on Feb. 7 when a helicopter crew spotted gas bubbling near it.

An analysis of the flow found that the pipeline likely started to leak in mid-December. Hilcorp said floating ice and other weather conditions made it too dangerous for divers to reach the leak sooner.

Dive crews began working on repairing the leak on April 8 and finished Thursday night.

“Now that the leak has been stopped, over the next several days, as weather permits, further inspection and stabilization of both the oil and gas pipelines in Middle Ground Shoal will be completed,” Hilcorp said, as reported by KTUU. “Neither pipeline will be returned to regular service until Hilcorp, along with state and federal regulators, agree it is safe to do so.”

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The leak spewed hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of processed natural gas into Alaska’s Cook Inlet, which is home to endangered beluga whales and other marine mammals. It had leaked twice in 2014.

Environmental groups are concerned about both the short and long-term effects of the leak, and many are calling for a risk assessment of the area, given the extensive network of energy infrastructure in the inlet.

“It’s scary to think about how decayed some of the offshore pipelines littering Cook Inlet may be,” Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “These old, vulnerable pipelines pose a toxic threat to the people and wildlife of Cook Inlet.”

Hilcorp is also looking into two other potential Cook Inlet leaks.