Stefanik signs letter opposing Alaskan oil drilling

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (Photo provided — Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times)

Northern New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik publicly opposed drilling for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Friday after advertisements from the Wilderness Society targeted her and 12 other Republican congresspeople, asking them to vote against the Senate’s GOP tax bill including a rider for Arctic drilling.

Though Stefanik voted against the bill, it passed through Congress and the Senate on the shoulders of other Republicans voting along party lines. It will go through a conference period where the two bills will be dissected and combined before it can be finally voted on.

“We are grateful to Representative Stefanik for standing up against this backdoor scheme to sell off a national treasure,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “For nearly 40 years there has been bipartisan support for defending the Arctic Refuge, and it is bipartisanship that can save one of our last wild and untouched places for future generations of Americans.”

Stefanik has stated that drilling in ANWR should be debated separately from the tax bill, and has made a formal request with 11 fellow Republicans to separate it from the larger legislation. The rider was added to the bill by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to effectively repeal the state’s National Interest Lands Conservation Act, allowing for at least 800,000 acres in the 19 million-acre Arctic refuge to be drilled for oil and gas.

A letter from a dozen Republican congresspeople, including Stefanik, expresses concern over digging in the Alaskan Arctic reserve, stating that seismic testing — the practice of sending loud blasts from airguns through the ground at 10 second intervals, 24 hours a day to locate buried oil and gas — could threaten at-risk species and the Arctic’s fragile habitat.

They suggest oil and gas companies dig in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve to the west for less controversy, lawsuits and infrastructure development.

The letter points out, “Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike have stood together to protect this unparalleled landscape. For decades, Congress has voted to prohibit oil and gas development in the Refuge, with the overwhelming support of the American people.”

Stefanik spokesman Tom Flanagin repeated a refrain the congresswoman has used many times before.

“She supports an all-of-the above approach to energy production in the United States that increases American-made energy, reduces our dependency on foreign oil, protects the environment, and brings down energy costs for New Yorkers,” Flanagin wrote. “Additionally, she is a strong advocate for unleashing the power of renewable energy across the United States.”