These pieces of legislation were introduced in the 115th Congress (2017/2018).
Arctic Refuge Wilderness bills (H.R. 1889/S. 820)
Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) introduced H.R. 1889, the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act, and Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced its companion legislation S. 820, which would designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain as Wilderness. The 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain has been in legislative limbo for decades, needing an act of Congress to either protect it as Wilderness or open it to oil and gas drilling. The Coastal Plain is the biological heart of the Refuge, providing habitat to polar and brown bears, nesting areas for migratory birds from all corners of the world, and the calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd that provides subsistence to the Gwich’in people.
Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act (H.R. 1784/S. 985)
Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced H.R. 1784, the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act, and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced its companion legislation, S. 985, which would prohibit oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean. Conditions in the Arctic Ocean are harsh and unpredictable. Development would take place a thousand miles from the nearest Coast Guard station, ensuring that any accident would be disastrous for wildlife and local communities. Development in the Arctic also undermines U.S. efforts to combat climate change, which is disproportionately affecting Alaska already.
A bill to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from revising the approved oil and gas leasing program for fiscal years 2017 through 2022. (H.R. 2248/S. 985)
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 2248/S. 985. This legislation would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from revising the approved oil and gas leasing program for fiscal years 2017 through 2022. The current 5-year leasing plan is the result of extensive public comment and analysis and reflects the best available science. Expanding drilling into Arctic, Atlantic, eastern Gulf or Pacific waters would put coastal residents, businesses, oceans and our climate at grave risk.
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution (H. Con. Res. 71)
Representative Diane Black (R-TN), chair of the House Budget Committee, introduced H. Con. Res. 71, the FY2018 Congressional Budget Resolution. This resolution includes instructions to the House Natural Resources Committee to pass laws to raise $5 billion over the next five years. If this resolution moves forward, it is expected that pro-development legislators will attempt to use these instructions, and the limited debate allowed for budget proposals, to promote development in sensitive areas including the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Alaska Oil and Gas Production Act (H.R. 49/S. 49)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 49/S. 49, the Alaska Oil and Gas Production Act, which would open the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. Drilling in the Refuge would be devastating for the more than 250 species that call it home, including birds that migrate to every state and six continents, polar and brown bears, and the Porcupine Caribou Herd that the Gwich’in Nation has relied on for generations. For nearly 30 years, Americans have stood together to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil and gas activities, and today there is a bigger, stronger and more diverse coalition than ever that stands ready to continue the fight to ensure this iconic landscape is protected for generations to come.
King Cove Land Exchange Act (H.R. 218/S. 101)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 218/S. 101, the King Cove Land Exchange Act. This bill would force construction of a destructive road through the internationally significant, wilderness-designated wetlands of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, putting iconic species at risk and undermining bedrock environmental laws. It mandates the transfer of world-class, wilderness-designated wetland habitat for less ecologically important lands owned by the State of Alaska, setting a precedent for wildlife refuges across the country. The Department of Interior rejected the land exchange and construction of this road in 2013, following four years of extensive public comment and stakeholder meetings. For decades, study after study has found that there are other solutions to the medical needs of the community of King Cove, and American taxpayers have already spent more than $50 million on alternative solutions. On July 20, 2017, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 218 by a vote of 248 – 179.
Unleashing American Energy Act (S.665)
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced S. 665, the Unleashing American Energy Act. This bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to authorize adding additional lease sales to an already approved 5-year leasing program. Under OCSLA today, amending or adding additional lease sales to a final program requires the Secretary of Interior to follow the same multi-step process required in finalizing the program itself, including environmental impact statements and opportunities for public comment and stakeholder engagement. If amended, the Secretary of Interior could bypass all of these important steps requiring re-approval of the final leasing program.
Outer Continental Shelf Energy Access Now (OCEAN) Act (S.956)
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced S. 956, the Outer Continental Shelf Energy Access Now (OCEAN) Act. This legislation would restrict the president’s authority to withdraw areas of the outer Continental Shelf from oil and gas development under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the Antiquities Act. If enacted, this legislation would also undo previous presidential withdrawals, including President Obama’s withdrawal of 125 million acres in the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas development.
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvement Act (S. 1481)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 1481, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvement Act. This legislation combines several other pieces of legislation with far-reaching impacts on Alaska’s public lands into one bill. This legislation contains numerous provisions that transfer some of the most pristine public lands in Alaska out of the public trust and into the hands of private, for-profit corporations. These transfers pose threats not only for wildlife, but also for the people who rely on these public lands for subsistence and economic uses.
Resilient Federal Forests Act (H.R. 2936)
Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AK) introduced H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act. This bill would prioritize logging over the many other uses of national forests. This legislation would streamline logging activities by undermining the National Environmental Policy Act and severely limiting judicial review of logging projects in our national forests. It would also undermine the Roadless Area Conservation Rule by only excluding inventoried roadless areas from “forest management activities,” a.k.a logging, if they are in national forests that have updated their management plans to specifically protect roadless areas from road building and logging. Many forest plans have not yet been updated to protect roadless areas, meaning this bill would open millions of acres of currently protected roadless areas to harmful logging practices. In Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, this legislation would help prolong the long history of destructive old-growth logging in Southeast Alaska.
State National Forest Management Act (H.R. 232)
Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 232, the State National Forest Management Act. This bill would authorize states to each acquire up to two million acres of national forest lands that are currently providing economic, social and ecological benefits to communities. It would remove land from the public trust and see it managed for short-term timber or other extractive development rather than the current federal multiple use mandate. For example, this legislation would allow the state of Alaska to seize control of more than two million acres of public land from the Chugach or Tongass national forests – equaling an area the size of Yellowstone National Park.