Democratic Letter to Zinke: Arctic Drilling Proposal Shows Trump, GOP Care More About Pleasing Oil Companies Than Public Opinion

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter with eight House Democratic colleagues to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today questioning the haste with which the Department of the Interior (DOI) is moving the country closer to drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The letter highlights tomorrow’s expected announcement in the Federal Register – publicized this morning – that DOI is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to allow drilling in the Refuge.

The 2017 law that disproportionately cut rich Americans’ taxes mandated the lease sale of certain Arctic Refuge parcels within four years of its passage – a move the Trump administration now plans to make in approximately 18 months. The letter’s authors question this haste, writing in part:

We remain staunchly opposed to oil and gas activities on the Coastal Plain, and believe that inclusion of the Arctic Refuge leasing provision in H.R. 1 behind closed doors was improper and contrary to the majority sentiment in Congress and among the American people regarding leasing and drilling in the Refuge. [. . .]

Attempting to rush the leasing process, as DOI is doing, is unnecessary, inappropriate, and likely to result in serious harm to one of our nation’s last remaining truly wild areas. This rush is especially egregious because it has clearly been stated in the press that the goal of this timeline is to meet the purely political deadline of holding a lease sale within this presidential term.

The complete letter can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2J9jRro.

Tomorrow’s EIS proposal will open a 60-day public comment period. The administration has announced it will hold public meetings in Alaska to discuss its options.

As a thorough November 2017 report from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies found, “majorities of Democrats (84%), Independents (64%) and Republicans (52%) oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Only 18% of Republicans ‘strongly support’ the policy.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said last year that Alaska is “open for business.” He has said comparatively little about the need to conserve the state’s habitats, pristine salmon runs and other natural resources.

“This administration’s naked greed and corporate favoritism have become an ongoing self-parody,” Grijalva said today. “This is the kind of rushed policy that gets made during a backroom deal, not a careful assessment of public opinion and scientific data. President Trump and Secretary Zinke count drilling in the Arctic Refuge as a win because it upsets Americans they don’t like, not because it will have any public benefit. This is not the first time they’ve betrayed the public trust, and unfortunately it won’t be the last.”

The letter is also signed by Reps. Jared Huffman, Alan Lowenthal and Nanette Barragán of California, Donald McEachin of Virginia, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Anthony Brown of Maryland and Darren Soto of Florida.

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