Environmentalists believe they can use waves of litigation to render moot a proposal within the Republican-led tax bill allowing energy companies to drill in a remote part of Alaska.
Environmental rules, miles of bureaucratic red tape, and lawsuits from environmental groups could stymie attempts to develop the untapped resources of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), even as Republicans pass legislation lifting a bock on exploration in the areas.
“It’s still an open question about whether drilling will ever happen there,” Matt Lee-Ashley of the left-leaning Center for American Progress told reporters Tuesday. “It’s hard to image that drilling will occur in the next 10 years — or ever.”
Lawmakers approved a Republican tax plan Tuesday that includes a provision forcing the Interior Department to hold lease sales in a coastal portion of the 19-million-acre federally protected wilderness area, which is estimated to contain 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable crude.
Activists managed to dodge a few bullets during the lead up to the tax bill. Lawmakers spared a $7,500 electric-vehicle tax credit and a wind production tax credit that Republicans nixed to balance out the hefty tax bill. Activists argue the credits are crucial for propping up the solar industry, as well as keeping electric vehicles affordable.
They might have a point. Electric car sales slumped badly in Georgia, going from 1,400 a month to just 100 a month, after the state shuttered its $5,000 credit. Other countries have eliminated electric vehicle credits with similar results.
The final bill also preserved a phase-out of tax incentives for both the solar and wind industries passed in 2015, most of which are set to expire in 2020 and 2022, respectively. But many environmental groups are not happy about having to swallow such a bitter pill allowing energy groups their way in Alaska.
They successfully fought ANWR drilling for decades, and now they’re taking the battle to the courtrooms.
“The fight has just begun,” Bernadette Demientieff, who was one of the principal founders of a group in 1988 that worked to fight similar proposals, told reporters. “We will rise up and protect the Arctic Refuge and the ‘Sacred Place Where Life Begins’ just as our ancestors have before us.”
Proponents of the measure remain undaunted — they are willing to play the long game for future success.
“The United States really needs to find new places to prospect for oil, not for today, but for the future,” Robert Dillon, a consultant and former aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said in an interview with Bloomberg shortly after the bill was passed.
He added: “You need to be looking 10, 20, 30 years out to know where your supply is going to come from for the future of the country.”
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