Senate Republicans Block Measure To Protect Arctic Wildlife Refuge From Oil Drilling

Almost every Senate Republican voted Thursday to block an amendment that would have protected a swath of the Alaskan Arctic from oil exploration, flouting attempts from Democrats and environmental groups to keep the region under government protection.

Democrats, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), were attempting to attach an amendment to the chamber’s budget plan that would bar drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers more than 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska. The region, described by the state’s tourism bureau as one of Alaska’s crown jewels, is home to polar bears, caribou, moose and hundreds of species of migratory birds.

“The notion that we, tonight, after 60-plus years, would give up what is a biologically important area, a critical habitat for polar bears, a breeding ground for caribou, migratory birds and over 200 species ― for what? For oil we don’t need?” Cantwell said on the Senate floor Thursday, according to The Hill.

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