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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Votes and Legislative Actions Since the 95th Congress

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Beth A. Roberts
Information Research Specialist

Current law forbids the federal government from offering energy leases or from allowing activities leading to energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska. For several decades, a major energy debate has been whether to approve energy development in ANWR, and if so, under what conditions; or whether to continue to prohibit development to protect the area’s biological resources. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and commercial oil potential. Its development has been debated for over 40 years, and the level of debate fluctuates with gasoline and natural gas prices, terrorist attacks, infrastructure damage from hurricanes, and turmoil in the Middle East.

This report provides a summary of legislative attempts to address issues of energy development and preservation in the Refuge from the 95th Congress (1977-1978) through March 2012 in the 112th Congress, with emphasis on the 108th through 112th Congresses. (The substance of the issue is covered in other CRS reports.) There were several periods of active congressional consideration, punctuated by periods of less activity and debate. In the 96th Congress (1979- 1980), multiple floor votes occurred in the House and Senate, leading ultimately to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (P.L. 96-487). In the 104th Congress (1995- 1996), there were also floor votes in both bodies; these related to ANWR development measures contained in budget reconciliation bills. These led, eventually, to a presidential veto. The 107th Congress (2001-2002) saw votes in both bodies in the context of measures to address energy resources. Ultimately, no ANWR provisions were approved. In the 108th and 109th Congresses (2003-2006), there were multiple floor votes in both the House and Senate, in some cases over amendments that were identical in each Congress. The ANWR development provisions were considered as parts of bills concerning energy programs, budget resolutions, and defense authorization.

While there were no floor votes in the House or the Senate on the Refuge during the 111th Congress, in the 112th Congress, the House approved H.R. 3408 on February 16, 2012. The measure includes a provision to open the 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain to energy development. On March 13, 2012, the Senate rejected S.Amdt. 1826 to S. 1813 that would have expanded drilling into areas including the ANWR Coastal Plain.

Date of Report: March 28, 2012
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RL32838
Price: $29.95

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