On Thursday, Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of legislation that would open up the Alaskan Arctic to oil drilling and other measures extremely harmful to wildlife and the natural landscape. While the large mass of Alaskan wilderness has been protected for years, in one vote Senate Republicans voted to promote oil exploration. With no regard for the hard fight Democrats and environmental conservancy groups have had to keep the region protected. Republicans voted to allow oil companies into the once protected governmental land.
Now 19 million acres are now in danger, Huffington Post reports. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is now being threatened. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, was spearheading a section in the chamber’s budget plan that would prevent drilling in the wildlife refuge. But Republican senators shot it down.
The region is one of Alaska’s crown jewels and is home to a population of polar bears, moose, hundreds of species of migratory birds and majestic caribou. Now the oil companies threaten these animals’ natural habitat.
“The notion that we, tonight, after 60-plus years, would give up what is a biologically important area, a critical habitat for polar bears, a breeding ground for caribou, migratory birds and over 200 species ― for what? For oil we don’t need?” Cantwell said on the Senate floor Thursday, according to The Hill.
Alaska’s own Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was eager to get the oil companies drilling in her home state. She was one of the people to push for the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a way to raise more than a billion dollars in the next decade.
“Those who would support this amendment will deny us the opportunity to do something constructive in this country, when it comes to our opportunities to produce energy, to produce wealth,” Murkowski said, concerning the amendment to protect parts of the ANWR.
Republicans used their majority to overpower the Democrats trying to preserve Alaska’s natural beauty.
The amendment lost 52 to 48. Susan Collins from Maine was the only Republican to support the amendment.
“Republicans are trying to use the budget process to ram through drilling in the crown jewel of America’s wildlife refuge system because they know they don’t have the votes to do so through regular order,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “Republicans are moving forward with a budget that includes this poison pill to hand over the wildest place left in America to Big Oil. This is nothing more than fossil fuel folly.”
Environmental groups hate the decision.
“Right now polar bear mothers are preparing to hibernate and give birth on the coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement, according to Huffington Post. “Already contending with climate change, today’s vote casts their future into even greater doubt. Hundreds of bird species, as well as a vast caribou herd, muskoxen and wolves also stand to lose from drilling in the refuge. Enough already.”
Do you think Republicans should have the power to destroy America’s beautiful scenery?