Actor Robert Redford is once again working with environmental groups, asking activists to tell their congressmen to oppose the Republican tax bill over a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling.
Redford appears in a new National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) ad opposing opening ANWR’s coastal plain to drilling. Alaska lawmakers have pushed for drilling in ANWR’s “1002 area” for decades in the face of environmental opposition.
“Republican leaders are saying the refuge needs to be auctioned off to the oil industry to help offset a $1.5 trillion tax giveaway,” Redford said in the ad. “They claim that they can raise $100 million plundering these public lands.”
Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a reconciliation bill to raise $1 billion over 10 years from opening ANWR’s 1.5 million acre coastal area to oil and gas exploration. Congress specifically set aside ANWR’s coastal area for potential drilling.
Congress is in the middle of hammering out the final details of the tax bill, and even though about one dozen House Republicans opposed the ANWR provision, it’s unclear if they would vote “no” on tax reform over drilling.
“I’m feeling pretty good about where we are with ANWR right now,” Murkowski told Politico on Wednesday.
“We just need to make sure that we’re able to come together as conferees and get a package that both bodies can support,” Murkowski said.
Democrats and environmentalists are up in arms over opening ANWR. Opponents have challenged the economic and environmental rationale of opening a small portion of the refuge to drilling.
“Well let me tell you, $100 million won’t even pay the interest on that tax giveaway for one day,” Redford said. “You can’t pay for a $1.5 trillion tax cut on the back of the Arctic refuge, and no amount of oil money could offset the loss of our last vast wild land.”
Democrats cited the weak results of a recent Arctic lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The Department of the Interior said the sale only resulted in $1.2 million in high bids for 80,000 acres of land.
Opponents of opening ANWR said the sale results show there’s no interest in Arctic drilling with oil and gas prices at current levels.
But that argument was undercut by a strong lease sale on state lands closer to ANWR, along Alaska’s North Slope. State officials said they got $19.9 million in bids — their third-largest sale in two decades.
ANWR is also estimated to hold much more oil than NPR-A. NPR-A holds 896 million barrels of recoverable oil, and ANWR could hold anywhere from four to 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
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