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.
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.”