WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) questioned key officials during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing today on the potential for oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The hearing included testimony from Alaskan elected officials and Tribal government officials, a federal representative from Fish and Wildlife Services and witnesses from various corporations, non-profits and experts in Alaskan wildlife.
During Senator Heinrich’s questioning, a member of the Gwich’in Tribe highlighted the importance of the Arctic Refuge to their culture and community, and discussed the negative impact of development of the Coastal Plain of the refuge. Senator Heinrich emphasized the need to recognize the concerns and voices of Native communities, instead of outsiders looking to extract economic value.
Senator Heinrich expressed his frustration with Republicans rushing this through the budget bill, instead of the regular legislative process, and questioned the proposed new revenue that drilling would actually produce. The requirements of the budget bill expects drilling to produce $1 billion in new revenue over the next ten years, but during the hearing, the Program Director of the Wilderness Society raised concern about the feasibility of revenues hitting that target. Senator Heinrich also noted that allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sets a dangerous precedent of opening up more of America's special places to oil and gas development.
Senator Heinrich is an original cosponsor of legislation to designate a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness and recently called for the removal of Arctic Refuge drilling from the Republican budget.
Testimony, a list of witnesses, and the entire webcast of today's hearing will be available here.