U.S. House to vote on Arctic Refuge protections
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U.S. House to vote on Arctic Refuge protections

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in a July 17 tweet that he will bring a bill to restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a floor vote the week of Sept. 9.   

The Gwich’in Steering Committee released a statement in response:

 “The coastal plain is sacred to the Gwich’in people and critical to our food security and way of life. It is no place for destructive seismic testing or oil rigs and pipelines. The Gwich’in Nation remains unwavering that seismic exploration and oil leasing can never happen on the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, and we will continue to fight until our lands and our way of life are secure. I am thankful to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for scheduling this historic vote and making this bill that will restore protections for the coastal plain a priority. Oil and gas activities here are a direct attack on our way of life and our human rights. We shouldn’t have to be fighting for our human rights this way in 2019.”

A historic vote for Alaska’s Arctic

Representatives of the Gwich’in Nation from Alaska and Canada, along with supporters from across the country, have traveled to D.C. repeatedly to education legislators and the public about the importance of protecting sacred lands in Arctic Refuge. Photo courtesy the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

The Trump administration has pushed public lands into private hands since Trump took office. That included opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas leasing and drilling using a rider in the 2017 Tax Act.

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, H.R. 1146, will protect sacred lands in the Arctic Refuge and restore the decades-long protections stripped by the Tax Act.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Ca.) introduced the bill in February 2019 and the bill now has 182 co-sponsors in the House. The vote on H.R. 1146 will be the first on a bill specifically directed at protecting the Arctic Refuge since the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Representative Hoyer’s announcement noted that he would bring three bills to the floor, including another to block efforts to expand offshore drilling. He was also in the news last week for calling out legislators who refused to support a resolution condemning the President’s recent tweets telling Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) to “go back” to the countries they came from.