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No Arctic Drilling Since Oil Prices are Low, Argue Dem Senators

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said it is “no surprise” that Republicans are trying to permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calling the President Trump’s cabinet “the Big Oil all-star team.”

Markey led an effort to oppose any attempts to allow oil drilling in the as part of the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. The Senate passed a budget on Thursday that could pave the way for drilling in the refuge since it requests that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee craft a bill intended to raise $1 billion in revenue over the next decade from oil drilling.

“This Republican budget scam to hand over the wildest place left in America to Big Oil should be removed from the budget and put on ice, and we will stand and fight on the Senate floor to make sure that this does not happen,” Markey said Tuesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

“Rick Perry, to [Ryan] Zinke to [Scott] Pruitt to [Rex] Tillerson, it’s the Big Oil all-star team and the Arctic refuge has always had a bull’s-eye on it, so it’s not any surprise that they are coming for it even as we’ve reached a point that we are exporting oil,” he added.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said Republicans knows that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a controversial topic that would not see the “light of day,” so slipping it in the budget would be the only way to move it forward.

“This is the last wildest place we have in America, and the tribes there and the species that are there are counting on us to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” he said.

Bennet said the U.S. does not need to permit drilling in the Arctic since oil prices are low.

“Today, commodity prices are low,” he said. “We are importing much less oil and natural gas than we did when there was a consensus that we needed to protect the refuge.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said America’s “public lands are under assault.”

“[Republicans] are trying to give away vital tax dollars to give away sweetheart deals to coal companies,” she said. “Now, on top of that they are going to try to open up the most beautiful pristine wildlife refuge we have in the United States of America.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) compared the support among Republicans for drilling in the Arctic to drug addicts.

“It’s like watching an addict proceed to damage themselves. Well, we together are not going to be party to this addiction and we will fight this ‘polar express’ provision with everything we have,” he said at the press conference.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said oil and gas development in the Arctic would “do nothing” to enhance the nation’s energy security.