According to oilprice.com, by December the total oil output of the United States could reach 13.4 million barrels a day — a new record. So why do we need to transform one of the most pristine and ecologically critical places on U.S. soil into another Prudhoe Bay?
I question what the American people would gain from developing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Two years ago, Washington predicted that opening the ANWR for oil development would generate $1.8 billion for the federal Treasury. However, according to current estimates, if the entire coastal plain of the ANWR were leased for the going price of $55/acre, it would only add $45 million to federal coffers over the next 10 years.
I also question the wisdom of sacrificing denning polar bears in return for more oil. Sales of oil leases for land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may begin before year’s end. After that, companies will employ seismic testing to choose the best drilling sites. Seismic testing involves the use of 30-ton vehicles that “thump,” sending low-frequency vibrations deep underground. They can roll over hibernating bears, crushing them if dens are undetected. With fewer than 900 bears remaining in the Southern Beaufort Sea population, the risk is not worth it.
We are at a pivotal point in the decades-long fight to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil and gas drilling and industrial development. In New York, we understand the splendor of protected lands and public spaces — such as our magnificent Adirondack Park — for wildlife watching, hunting, fishing and recreating. Alaska offers unparalleled opportunity to protect entire ecosystems and abundant wilderness for dispersed recreation, which is why conservation of its most important public lands has been supported and championed by democrats and republicans alike for more than 40 years.
I call on U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik to support H.R. 1146, a bill to restore protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, when it comes to the floor this month. Arctic Refuge drilling remains deeply unpopular — more than two-thirds of Americans oppose it. This bill would restore essential protections and sides with the majority of the American public who do not want, have not asked for, and will not accept sacrificing the wildest place in America for bargain basement oil development. If you support H.R. 1146, the Gwich’in people, the Porcupine caribou, denning polar bears, and nesting birds from all 50 states will thank you.