Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): New Directions in the 110th Congress
Publication Date: February 2007
Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service
One part of the energy debate has been whether to approve energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska -- and if so, under what conditions -- or whether to continue to prohibit development to protect the area's biological, recreational, and subsistence values. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and oil potential. Its development has been debated for over 40 years, but sharp increases in energy prices from late 2000 to early 2001, terrorist attacks, more price increases in 2004-2006, and energy infrastructure damage from hurricanes have intensified debate. Few onshore U.S. areas stir as much industry interest as ANWR. At the same time, few areas are considered more worthy of protection in the eyes of conservation and some Native groups. Current law prohibits oil and gas leasing in the Refuge.
Changes in party control in the 110th Congress have encouraged those who seek wilderness protection for this portion of ANWR. However, any change from the status quo appears just as difficult for proponents of wilderness designation who seek to provide additional statutory protection as it did for development advocates in the 109th Congress.
In the first session of the 109th Congress, ANWR development was added to the conference report for the Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2863). The House passed the conference report with the ANWR provision, but the ANWR title was removed from the bill (P.L. 109-148) after failure of a cloture motion in the Senate. In the second session, on March 16, 2006, the Senate passed S.Con.Res. 83, the FY2007 budget resolution. Its sole reconciliation instruction was to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and it assumed revenues from leasing in ANWR. On May 25, 2006, the House passed the American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act (H.R. 5429), which would have opened ANWR to development. Neither was enacted into law.
Development advocates argue that ANWR oil would reduce U.S. energy markets' exposure to Middle East crises; lower oil prices; extend the economic life of the Trans Alaska Pipeline; and create jobs in Alaska and elsewhere in the United States. They maintain that ANWR oil could be developed with minimal environmental harm, and that the footprint of development could be limited to a total of 2,000 acres. Opponents argue that intrusion on such a remarkable ecosystem cannot be justified on any terms; that economically recoverable oil found (if any) would provide little energy security and could be replaced by cost-effective alternatives, including conservation; and that job claims are exaggerated. They maintain that development's footprints would have a greater impact than is implied by a limit on total acreage. They also argue that limits on footprints have not been worded to apply to extensive Native lands in the Refuge, which could be developed if the Refuge were opened.