First Markup of 116th Congress Showcases Dem Priorities: Ending Arctic Refuge Drilling, Supporting Tribes, Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands

Washington, D.C. – The first House Natural Resources Committee markup of the 116th Congress, which concluded moments ago, showcased a wide range of Democratic priorities and sometimes offered a stark contrast with Committee Republicans’ environmental thinking. Among other bills, the Committee passed Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-Calif.) bipartisan proposal to cancel the oil and gas program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was opened thanks to an amendment by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to an unrelated tax bill in 2017; Rep. Tom Cole’s (R-Okla.) bipartisan bill to address the impacts of the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri ruling, which has prevented the federal government from taking new land into trust for many Native American tribes across the country; and Rep. Matt Cartwright’s (D-Pa.) bipartisan bill to distribute $1 billion to communities historically reliant on the coal industry for abandoned mine cleanup and economic diversification. 

The markup also featured passage of Rep. Seth Moulton’s (D-Mass.) bipartisan SAVE Right Whales Act, which establishes government grants for states, non-profits, and industry members to fund research and restoration efforts for the North Atlantic right whale; and approval of Rep. Bill Keating’s (D-Mass.) bipartisan bill to affirm the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s legal access to 321 acres of land taken into trust by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and end legal challenges to the Tribe’s efforts to build a casino on the land.

Chair Grijalva argued in an April 11 op-ed in The Hill that Trump officials should never have undermined the Mashpee Wampanoag’s access to the land in the first place, highlighting the dramatic economic downturn tribal members had suffered since the administration’s September 2018 decision not to defend the tribe’s right to the land from unfounded legal challenges.

The full list of bills and amendments considered is available at http://bit.ly/2XUgADG.

Contentious amendments included Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) effort to block any gaming on the land at issue in the Mashpee bill, which failed 10-26; Rep. Gosar’s similar amendment to the Carcieri bill, which failed 9-27; and Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-La.) effort to leave the decision about whether to drill in the Arctic Refuge to a determination by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist, whether importing oil causes more “environmental harm” – a term the amendment does not define – than drilling on Alaska’s coastal plain. Graves’ amendment failed 13-22. 

In all cases, yea votes for the failed poison pill amendments came from Republican lawmakers.

Photo highlights of the markup are available athttps://www.flickr.com/photos/naturalresourcesdems/sets/72157678029429787/with/32807610027/.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile