Breaking! U.S. House Of Representatives Passes Historic Legislation To Protect Arctic Refuge From Oil Drilling; Saving Threatened Polar Bears & Many Other Endangered Species

On Thursday of last week, in a historic vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed (225-193) the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that would halt the Trump administration in its efforts to pursue oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the measure, which is the first stand-alone bill the House of Representatives has passed to protect the sacred Arctic Refuge.

This bill would restore protections that were removed when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act mandated oil and gas leasing, development and production on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. Oil industry allies in Congress used the Tax Act to circumvent normal legislative channels and insert Arctic Refuge drilling into legislation using an expedited process. Approximately 70% of Americans oppose development in the Arctic Refuge, according to a number of recent polls.

The Arctic Refuge contains the greatest biodiversity of any protected area north of the Arctic Circle.

“Today’s historic vote to restore protections for the Arctic Refuge fills us with gratitude to our elders for guiding us, and to House leaders for listening to us and respecting our human rights,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee in a statement. “The Gwich’in Nation and the Porcupine Caribou herd are entwined. The caribou’s survival is our survival. We give thanks today to all who stood with the Gwich’in and who will stand with us every step of the way to protect the sacred coastal plain and our way of life.”

“The American people never wanted drilling in our nation’s largest and wildest wildlife refuge. Arctic Refuge drilling passed, not because of popular sentiment or because of any urgent need for its speculative oil, but because it was jammed into a larger tax bill, skirting a full, fair and open debate,” said Adam Kolton, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “Today’s historic passage of the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act by the House sends a strong message to the Trump administration that this national treasure should remain protected as a legacy for future generations, not turned into a giant industrial complex that will increase carbon pollution and send American oil overseas.”

“Today’s vote underscores the strong support Americans have demonstrated for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its iconic wildlife for decades. The U.S. House of Representatives has taken an important step to restore protections to this pristine American landscape and thwart attempts by the oil and gas industry to drill in this national treasure. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge supports a diversity of species such as the Porcupine caribou herd, thousands of migratory birds, and the most imperiled polar bear population on the planet. Defenders of Wildlife is pleased to see members of Congress standing firm to protect our natural heritage,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.

“The last Congress snuck the Arctic drilling provision into the 2017 Tax Bill despite the well-known adverse environmental, human rights, health, and climate consequences of Arctic oil and gas drilling,” said Earthjustice Legislative Counsel Marissa Knodel. “Today’s vote marks a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to restore protections for the cherished Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And it serves as a reminder that those who would sacrifice a global treasure of incomparable value for the sake of corporate profits are completely at odds with the public interest, and the vast majority of American voters.”

“America wasn’t fooled by GOP leaders’ backhanded tax bill maneuver to destroy these precious wildlands for private profit,” said Susan Casey Lefkowitz, Chief Program Officer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “‘Refuge’ means a place of safety and shelter from danger.  This vote reaffirms the country’s overwhelming intention to protect the Arctic Refuge —its sensitive coastal plain and wildlife, our climate, and the human rights of the Gwich’in and other Indigenous people — from industrialization and exploitation by polluters.”

“The overwhelming majority of the American people oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge because it would threaten one of America’s last truly wild places, the climate, and the human rights of the Gwich’in people,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Today’s vote should be a clear signal to the oil industry that opposition to drilling in the coastal plain isn’t going away, and that investing in Arctic drilling would be an expensive risk that’s not worth taking.”

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